Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lamb Shank and Potato Tangine

This is comfort food of the highest measure.  Stewy, tomatoey and heavy in a good way.  Perfect for a brisk Autumn or Winter evening served with a good lager and corn bread muffins.

This recipe came with my Martha Stewart Brand Dutch oven, and I naively thought that the prep time would be easy.  Little did I know that it would take me 45 minutes to trim the meat off of 4 lamb shanks. If you've never done this before, see my rag-tag instructions below.  Find your sharpest knife and pretend you are a surgeon.

Once everything is in the oven, curl up with someone you love and watch a movie while your house fills with the most delicious aroma.

1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes in puree
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons apricot jam
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 strips orange zest
3/4 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
coarse salt and ground pepper
3 1/2 pounds lamb shanks, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 1/2 pounds small new potatoes, scrubbed well and halved (or quartered, if large)

1/ Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In 5.5 Quart Casserole Pot, stir together tomatoes and puree, tomato paste, jam, garlic, orange zest, rosemary, ginger, cinnamon and 2 cups water.  Season with salt and pepper. Add lamb and potatoes, stirring to combine.

2/ Transfer to oven; cook until lamb and potatoes are tender, about 2-2 1/2 hours.  Season again with salt and pepper, if desired.  Serve.

How to Trim Lamb Shanks:
1/ Locate a think slivery piece of connective tissue on the shank (called a fell).  With your fingers, pull this tissue back until completely separated from the shank and cut it off.

2/ Hold the narrow, bone end of the lamb vertically with the fat-side down, facing away from you.  Place the knife directly against the bone at the top of the shank and point the blade edge inward touching the bone.

3/ Slide downward and inward, separating as much meat and fat from the bone as possible.  

4/ Continue to work your way around the bottom of the shank, trimming meat completely away (this is not easy; just find your inner butcher and go for it!)

I saved the bones and boiled them in a stock to make lentil soup.  I will post once it's done!!

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins

I was sick last week, and whenever I'm under the weather I crave comfort foods - namely a bowl of tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich.  But this past Saturday morning all I wanted in life was a chocolate muffin and a cappuccino (this is how I knew I was getting better).

I found the following recipe on the food network website.  It's not as chocolately as I usually like, but these were still sweet and delcious.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons best quality cocoa powder
3/4 cup superfine sugar
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, plus 1/4 for sprinkling
1 cup milk
1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons raw sugar (optional; I always top my muffins with a sprinkling of raw sugar for extra crunch)

1/ Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a 12-cup baking pan with paper liners.

2/ Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and sugar in a large bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Add 3/4 cup chocolate chips.

3/ Combine milk, vegetable oil, egg and vanilla.  Mix wet and dry ingredients together, remembering that a lumpy batter makes the best muffins.  Spoon into prepared muffin cases.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 chocolate chips and a light sprinkling of raw sugar on top and then bake for 20 minutes or until the muffins are dark, risen and springy.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lemon Curd Mousse Cake

I consider this post a slight cheat, because if fact, I did not make this recipe myself.  My mom and dad found it in the April 2005 Bon Appetit magazine, and made this fluffly, lemony, angel-sent cake for Mike's birthday.  This dessert is hands-down, one of the best cake recipes I have ever tasted and I don't know when I will have have a proper chance to make it myself...and you, my readership, need to get this recipe now.  You come first, you really do.

This one is not for beginners, busy people, or the faint of heart:


To make the shortbread cookie crumbs for the curst, seal the cookies in a heavy plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crush them into fine crumbs.

10-12 servings

2 1/3 cups sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups shortbread cookie crumbs (about 7 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

5 tablespoons water
4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

6 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream

Lemon slices, cut into quarters (garnish)

FOR CURD: Mix sugar and cornstarch in heavy large saucepan.  Gradually add lemon juice, whisking until all cornstarch dissolves.  Whisk in eggs and yolks.  Add butter.  Stir over medium heat until curd thickens and boils, about 12 minutes.  Transfer to medium bowl.  Chill until cold, at least 6 hours. (Can be made 1 week ahead.  Press plastic wrap onto surface of curd and keep chilled.)
FOR CRUST: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray bottom of 8-inch-diameter springform pan with nonstick spray.  Blend cookie crumbs and butter in small bowl.  Press onto bottom of pan.  Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.  Cool.

FOR MOUSSE:  Pour 5 tablespoons water into small saucepan.  Sprinkle gelatin evenly over.  Let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place 1 3/4 cups lemon curd in large bowl.  Stir 3/4 cup curd in another small saucepan over medium-low heat until very warm.

Stir gelatin mixture over medium low heat until dissolved and liquid is clear (do not boil).  Whisk warm gelatin mixture into 3/4 cup warm curd.

Gradually whisk gelatin-curd mixture into curd in large bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form.  Gradually add sugar, beating until whites are thick and glossy.  Fold whites into curd mixture in 3 additions.  Using same beaters, beat cream in another medium bowl until peaks form.  Fold into egg white-curd mixture in 3 additions.  Pour enough mousse over cooled crust to fill pan completely.  Pour remaining mousse into small bowl and reserve.  Cover and chill mousse cake, reserved mousse, and remaining curd overnight.

Using long thin knife, cut around cake to loose.  Remove pan sides.  Gently spread 3/4 cup of remaining curd over cake.  Transfer reserved mousse to a pastry bag fitted with small star tip.  Pipe rosettes of mousse around top edge of cake.  Chill cake until ready to serve. (Can be made up to 8 hours ahead.)

Arrange lemon slices between rosettes.  Cut cake into wedges.

Two Recipes for Healthy "Fried" Chicken - Diablo Chicken & Cat Cora's Crispy "Fried" Chicken

Shown with Mashed Potatoes and Steamed Veggies

To save money, we'll get chicken breasts in bulk at Costco and freeze them; so I'm always looking for quick, delicious chicken recipes.  The Diablo Chicken recipe below came from the same cookbook as the recipe for Pan-Seared Scallop 365 20-Minute Recipes by Beverly Cox.

The constancy turned out perfect (crispy breaded exterior with a moist, perfectly-cooked chicken breast on the interior). However, I would recommend marinating the chicken in the Dijon sauce for several hours before breading and baking, to intensify the flavor.  Also, I substitute Panko Bread Crumbs for almost every recipe that calls for bread crumbs.

PS Don't let the title fool you, this isn't spicy at all.  The flavor is more like deviled eggs, hence the name "Diablo"

Prep: 4 minutes  Cook: 12 to 15 minutes  Serves: 4

Grind two or three slices of firm white bread in a food processor to make the bread crumbs for this particularly delicious deviled chicken (or go to Trader Joe's and buy some Panko Bread crumbs; you can also find these in the Asian foods section of almost any supermarket).

3 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 5 ounces each)

Whenever possible, I will substitute with fresh herbs from my balcony garden

1/ Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.  In a shallow dish, whisk mustard with oil, scallions, and thyme.  In another dish, toss bread crumbs with cayenne until combined.

2/ Use heel of your hand or a mallet to pound thicker part of chicen breasts slightly to flatten to even thickness.  Dip both sides of chicken in mustard mixture, then roll in crumbs to coat completely.  Place 1" apart on a greased, shallow baking sheet. (Spray the chicken with a little spray olive oil for added a better crispy texture and golden brown finish.)

3/ Bake until crumbs are golden brown and chicken is white but still moist in center, 12 to 14 minutes.  If crumbs are not brown enough, run under broiler for 1 minute to crisp.


I cheated and pulled this photo off the internet - as I have not made Cat's recipe recently.  Mine looks even better, if you can imagine. :)

Another variation on this recipe, which is equally (and I'd argue almost more) delicious is a recipe I grabbed from The Nest Magazine - Summer 2008 Issue:

1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lb. bone-in chicken pieces with skin (your choice of breasts, thighs, legs or wings)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I substitute whole wheat flour)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cornflakes (I recommend using 2 cups, to make it extra crispy; you can also substitute Panko Breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup light buttermilk (I substitute 1 8oz container of Greek Yogurt)
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh sage (or 1/4 tsp. dried sage)


1/ Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2/ Pour olive oil into a a baking dish large enough to hold chicken pieces in a single layer without crowding.  With your fingers, rub oil over dish so it's completely, but lightly coated.

3/ Rinse chicken in cold water and pat dry.  In a wide bowl or on a large plate, combine flour, salt, and pepper.  Dredge each chicken piece in flour until it's completely coated.

4/ Tap chicken against the side of the bowl to loosen any excess flour, and set chicken pieces aside.  Discard flour.

5/ Crush cornflakes by placing them in a large resealable plastic bag, carefully pressing out as much air as possible.  Seal bag and crush flakes with a rolling pin.  Pour crushed flakes into a wide bowl or onto a large plate.

6/ In a bowl large enough to dip the chicken pieces, mix buttermilk (or yogurt), mustard, spices, and sage.  Give each floured chicken piece a buttermilk bath; then roll it in the crushed flakes.

7/ Arrange chicken pieces in prepared baking pan.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, lower the heat to 375 degrees F, and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes, until cooked through and crispy.  (The juices should run clear when the meat is pierced with a knife).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Japanese Chicken-Scallion Bowl

August has been a month of fun and celebration.  Mike's birthday, last weekend, put a cap on all of our rich eating.  For the next month, I will focus mostly on healthy and light dishes, starting with this one.

Yesterday, I did a google search for "healthy chicken recipes" and stumbled upon this one on the Eating Well website, and although a touch sweet, it was quite good and surprisingly filling.

I'd recommend the proportions below as an appetizer for 4 or an entree for 2:

4 Servings, 1 1/2 cups each
Total Prep/Cooking time: 20 minutes

1 1/2 cups instant brown rice
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp Mirin (see ingredient note)
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" pieces
6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

1/ Prepare instant brown rice according to package directions.

2/ Pour broth into a heavy medium saucepan, along with sugar, soy sauce and mirin.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low.

3/ Stir egg whites and whole egg in a small bowl until just mixed.  Add chicken to the simmering broth.  Gently pour in the egg mixture, without stirring.  Sprinkle scallions on top.  When the egg starts to firm up, after about 3 minutes, stir it with chopsticks or a knife.  (The chicken will be cooked by now.)  Divide the rice among 4 deep soup bowls and top with the chicken mixture.

Ingredient Note:  
Mirin is a low-alcohol rice wine essential to Japanese cooking.  Look for it in your super market with the Asian or gourmet ingredients.  An equal portion of sherry or white wine with a pinch of sugar may be substituted for mirin.

Per Serving: 262 calories; 3g fat (1g sat, 1g mono); 87mg cholesterol; 47g carbohydrates; 22g protein; 3g fiber; 387mg sodium; 370mg potassium

Homemade Granola

Parfait made w/ greek yogurt, mixed berries and homemade granola 
(recipe below)

On Sunday morning I was craving a fruit & yogurt parfait with homemade granola.  I did a quick search online and found a great article in USA Weekend Magazine with a basic granola recipe and multiple variations (aka "tropical granola",  "cherry almond granola", etc.)  

I used the article's Traditional Granola recipe as a template, and worked with what we had in the house to create the recipe below; it turned out absolutely delicious (and dangerously addictive!):

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup wheat germ (I substituted 1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill Wheat Bran)
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp flaxseed powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Penzy's Baking Spice (optional)
1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 Tbsp flavorless oil, such as vegetable or canola 
1 Tbsp water
3/4 tsp vanilla extract (I always use about 1 Tbsp - I love the warm flavor of vanilla)
1/3 cup golden raisins

1/ Adjust oven rack to middle position, and heat oven to 275 degrees F.  Coat a 9 x 13" metal pan with cooking spray, then set aside.  Mix oats, wheat germ (or bran), brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking spice, pepitas and walnuts in a bowl.  

2/ Bring syrup, oil, water and vanilla extract to a simmer in a saucepan over low heat.  Drizzle over oat mixture, and stir to combine.  

3/ Pour mixture onto prepared pan.  Working a handful at a time, squeeze cereal to form small clumps.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Stir in raisins.  Continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.  Let cool.  (Granola can be stored in an airtight ton for up to two weeks.)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mike's FAVORITE Carmelized Balsamic Potatoes & Mushrooms

Shown here with seared steak and steamed broccoli

I've made this dish for so many years now, that I don't honestly remember where it came from.  I believe this was an invented side-dish that I pulled together one night in college.  Originally, I just chopped up potatoes and onions and fried them in a pan with olive oil until the onions were caramelized and the potatoes were cooked through and crispy (usually this would take approximately 15-20 minutes).

The recipe has evolved to include mushrooms and balsamic vinegar and can be done stove top in or the oven or broiler.  The most important detail is to caramelize the onions and to make sure your potatoes are cooked properly.  You can experiment with different types of potatoes and onions (i.e. fingerling potatoes with shallots or russet potatoes with yellow onions), and use the seasonings you prefer most.  My favorite combo are small, red potatoes with red onion, kosher salt, ground pepper and either fresh parsley or dried oregano.

2-3 garlic cloves, diced or smashed (I LOVE garlic, so I typically use 4-5)
1/2 large red onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2-2 cups sliced mushrooms
5-6 small red potatoes, cubed (this time I sliced them for a change of pace)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
coarse salt
ground pepper
2 teaspoons ground oregano

1/ Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat.  Add garlic and sate for 1-2 minutes.  Add onion and sate an addition 1-2 minutes, until onions start to brown.  Add a dash of salt and pepper, then add mushrooms and cook for another 1-2 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2/ Add potatoes to skilled and an additional dash of salt and pepper.  Stir ingredients to combine and continue cooking on medium heat for an additional 10-15 minutes; stirring regularly.  You want the potatoes to be browned well on the outside, but cooked almost all the way through.

3/ Add a touch more olive oil, all of the balsamic vinegar, and one more round of salt and pepper (seasoning lightly as you go adds levels and dimensions to the final flavor; salt is your friend if used correctly.)  Place pan in the oven and cook an additional 10 minutes, or until potatoes are fully cooked.
Top with oregano, or parsley.
Bon appetite!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Easy Cocoa Brownies

Fudgy and moist, these are surprisingly easy

I am now getting requests at work for baked good.  I had a presentation to make and wanted to bring cookies, but I was too tired to be bothered with rolling out individual dough balls.  Instead I opted for brownies and wanted to find the simplest recipe I could.  The one below comes from my all-time favorite cookbook.  If you are learning to cook with no training, I recommend getting The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book.

Prep: 10 minutes  Bake: 25 minutes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts, coarsley chopped (optional) (I substitute 1 cup chocolate chips)

1/ Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 9-inch square baking pan.  In bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

2/ In 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Remove from heat and stir in sugar.  Stir in eggs, one at a time, until well blended; add vanilla.  Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture until well blended; add vanilla.  Stir in nuts (or in my case, chocolate chips...mmmmmmm). Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.

3/ Bake until toothpick inserted 2 inches from center comes out almost clean, about 25 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

4/ When cool, cut into 4 strips, thencut each strip crosswise into 4 pieces.  Makes 16 brownies.

Share with friends!

Pan-Fried Sea Scallops and Whole Wheat Angel Hair in Butter Wine Sauce

These scallops also taste terrific served over risotto (I recommend Trader Joe's brand Mushroom Risotto) or even served over greens with olive oil and fresh lemon juice for dressing.

This recipe is quick and delicious.  If you have always wanted to try cooking seafood, but were intimidated, here is an easy introduction.

The original scallop recipe came from a cookbook my parents gave me called 365 Great 20-Minute Recipes, by Beverly Cox.  I've made a few amendments from the original recipe by combining olive oil with the butter and adding white wine to the sauce (see the original recipe and amendments below; anything underlined is one of my additions to the original recipe):

The larger, meatier sea scallops are wonderful cooked this way.  If using smaller bay scallops in the recipe, reduce the cooking time by a minute or two.

(For the Scallops:)
Prep: 3 minutes  Cook: 4 to 5 Minutes  Serves: 2

Pasta of your choice - enough for 2  (I used Barilla Plus Thin Spaghetti)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons butter (I used approx 2 Tbsp Butter + 1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil)
8 to 10 ounces sea scallops
1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh is best, but I often used bottled)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon corn starch (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley (I substituted dried Oregano)
4 lemon wedges (optional - I never use these)

1/ Cook pasta according to directions on box.  (I recommend using my mom's technique to check if the pasta is done - throw a piece against the wall and if it sticks it's ready.  This was my favorite way to help in the kitchen when I was a kid.)

2/ In a bowl, combine flour, salt, and pepper.  Dredge scallops in flour mixture; shake off excess.

3/ In a large, heavy skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter (or 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil) over medium-high heat.  Add scallops and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown outside and opaque inside, 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove with tongs to plate.

4/ Reduce heat to low.  Add remaining butter (and olive oil) to pan and cook, stirring up browned bits.  Whisk in lemon juice and white wine; reduce to a simmer.  Allow sauce to simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Add cornstarch and continue whisking until sauce thickens slightly.  Add parsley and spoon over scallops and pasta.  Garnish with lemon wedges if you so desire.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Snickerdoodle - The cookie that's fun to say!

These are simple, fun and delicious.  The recipe below comes from my friend, Daisie (or as Mike calls her - Chez De zee').

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups suger (divided)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (divided)
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt


In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 1/4 cups of sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs & vanilla; beat until smooth.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.  Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture; stir until a soft dough forms.  In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture.  

Scrape the size of the bowl w/ your scooper to ensure each cookie is the same size.

Please ignore the manicure...lightly shape the cookie dough into balls..

Shake, shake, shake!

Action shot!

Place balls 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheets (or use parchment paper).  Bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned.  Do not over bake or cookies will not be soft and chewy.  Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool
Fresh from the oven!

Yields about 7 dozen cookies