Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving Twofer Pie

The recipe for this weeks Tuesdays with Dorie was a Thanksgiving Twofer Pie, which is a pecan pumpkin pie. As I have previously stated, I am not a nut person. I was very skeptical about this recipe, but since I was going to a Thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother's house with all of my extended family, I figured I would bring something to share.


When it was time for pie, I was the first person to cut into mine and I took a tiny slice. I took my first bite, and my immediate thought was, "Dear god. This is horrible." Not willing to give in to my panicky instincts (I absolutely CANNOT let my family eat this - would anyone notice if I hid it in the trash?), I decided to try a second bite. Unfortunately, there was no improvement.


But by then, it was too late. The pie was already occupying space on a half dozen plates belonging to my family. And despite my hesitations, they loved it. I got rave reviews. In fact, one of my uncle's even asked if he could take the leftovers home. Except to my surprise, there weren't any.


I guess my personal tastes aren't necessarily an indicator of what everyone else will enjoy. If you are a lover of pecan pie, you should give it a try. Who knows, you might even like it (you can find the recipe on Vibi's web site here).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

Last summer I took a French cooking class at a local French restaurant. We were taught to make a mustard vinaigrette with the same recipe that the owner's family used in their cafe in Lyon, France. The problem was that the handouts distributed in class were only a partial ingredient list, not a true recipe. The whole time we were cooking, I was furiously scribbling notes. I was frantic not to miss out on any of the ingredients or steps.

After the class, I thought about about this recipe often. But I didn't feel like giving it the ol' college try until this week. And to my delight it turned out just as wonderful as I remembered. I'm really digging having it on my salads and sandwiches, though it would also be a great dipping sauce or dressing for chicken. You really can't go wrong with this simple, flexible dressing.

Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup Dijon mustard
½ tablespoon Herbs de Provence
2 tablespoons white wine
¼ to ¾ cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper

Whisk first 4 ingredients together in bowl until well mixed. Slowly add in oil (don’t add in all at once!), mixing well after each addition, until the vinaigrette reaches the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Amateur Gourmet's Ode to her Knife

Oh knife
Your glistening edge
Glorious foods
Into perfect shapes

A wedge
A sliver
A flawless julienne
All in the name

Oh knife
I thank thee
For working past the point
Where the wrist has been exhausted
And the hand hurts

The unsung hero
On the culinary battleground

Oh knife
Despite the bandaged fingers
And scarred cutting boards

You share in my tasty joys
Abject failures
And everything in between

You have been both friend
And sous chef

Oh knife
I thank thee
Noble companion
And humble assistant

*In case anyone was wondering – I LOVE my knife. It is a Victorinox Fibrox 8 inch Chef’s knife. Buy one. You too will be writing poetry about it in no time at all.

Picture Perfect Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

I think I’m in love.

No, not with my boyfriend, though he’s ok too. But I can already tell that this is going to be a little more serious than that relationship.

We’ve flirted for years, had the occasional one night stand and no matter what has happened over the years, in the end I have always gone back.

I am ready to take the plunge and announce that I LOVE this ice cream.

At the end of the summer, I finally gave in and bought myself an ice cream maker from the clearance isle. I neglected it for the past few months as I foolishly waited for the weather to turn chilly.

So, instead of continuing to bide my time until the weather changes, I decided to change my recipes to fit the weather. What a fabulously tasty decision!

This ice cream is creamy, rich and tastes just like a pumpkin pie. I don’t think I will ever eat anything but homemade ice cream again. Hell, I may never eat anything but this ice cream ever again.

Picture Perfect Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2/3 cup puréed cooked pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat 1 1/3 cups of the cream in the top of a double boiler above gently boiling water over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, corn syrup, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a metal mixing bowl. Gradually pour 1/4 cup of the hot cream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, then whisk egg mixture into remaining cream in top of double boiler. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture is thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 15 minutes.

Pour custard through a sieve set over a clean bowl. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and remaining 2/3 cup of cream, and whisk until blended. Refrigerate custard until cold, about 4 hours. Transfer custard to an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's directions.

(source Saveur magazine)

Monday, November 17, 2008


When I first saw the recipes that had been chosen for the month of November for Tuesdays with Dorie, I have to say I was disappointed. Not a single one of them was something that I ever would have chosen to make for myself. Well, there was one that I might have chosen, but I doubt it. Needless to say, because these recipes were for foods that were unfamiliar to me, they put me outside my comfort zone. And I really like being comfortable.

The prejudice I had toward these recipes is the main reason that I am two weeks behind on my Tuesdays with Dorie posts. But yesterday I decided to try out the first recipe, rugelach; a traditional German cookie. I used raspberry jam, chocolate, hazelnuts and currants for the filling.

And you know what? It’s pretty darn good. The dough turned out flakey, the filling was sweet, and the tiny two bite size was perfect. So thank you Grace of Piggy's Cooking Journal for forcing me out of my comfort zone and allowing me to discover something new and exciting.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Red Wine Sautéed Mushrooms


I have a small patio at my apartment that I continuously try to grow food on, which I never forget to water despite my bouts of plant specific amnesia. Some of my plants have survived the last few months better than others. One of the ones that has thrived through the under-watering and the 100 degree plus days is my luscious rosemary bush.

Unfortunately, due to rosemary's strong earthy flavor, I rarely find ways to use it during the warm months. Thus I have nurtured this plant for almost a year and used it for nary a dish seasoned. So today I decided to take advantage of the (not quite) winter weather, trim back the plant and rectify this injustice.

I ended up pairing the rosemary with mushrooms and red wine. The end result was a pleasant, hardy and healthy side dish for a chilly evening.

Red Wine Sautéed Mushrooms
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1/2 lbs mushrooms, washed and quartered or halved depending on size
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and minced
1/3 cup red wine
salt and pepper


Heat olive oil in large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until shallot begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook covered until the mushrooms have sweated out their liquid, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Uncover and raise the heat to high. Stir in the rosemary and cook the mushrooms until they are brown and the liquid has cooked off. Add the wine and cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Book, a Guy and a Restaurant or The Three Stooges

I have always been amazed at the way some people act. My life has been lived largely reserved, shy, and aloof. Call it what you will, the majority of the time, I manage not to make an ass out of myself. Mostly because, above all else, I strive to not look like an idiot. Maybe not the most noble of goals, but one that has generally served me well. And yet, throughout my adult life, I have been constantly surprised by the fact that not only do other people not mind acting like retarded monkeys, they seem to enjoy it. WTF?!?

Take my experience this weekend for instance. I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite Food Network chefs, Guy Fieri, at a cookbook signing at his new restaurant in town, Johnny Garlic’s. The pleasurable part being the 30 seconds that I spent with Diesel and Guy (who is just as laid back and outgoing as he seems on TV). The other hour and a half that I spent standing in line was an awkward mixture of being fascinated/horrified by the three women in line in front of me.

If I could sum up the morning in one sentence it would be, “Smell my book.” That’s right. One of the ladies spent a good 10 minutes trying to convince her companions to smell the book she had brought to be autographed. But, on second thought, maybe that’s not the strangest thing. After all, who hasn’t begun smelling inanimate objects as a result of boredom?

But the truly shocking part was not the lady with, according to Diesel, some'er teeth (some are there and some are not). It wasn't the instant that the three reached the door of the restaurant, could see Guy less than 15 feet away and began screaming and waving (keep in mind that this was in the middle of a crowded restaurant at the height of Saturday lunch hour). No, it was when the three of them went to take their picture with Guy, and the lady with the some'er teeth began making kissing noises an inch from Guy's ear.

Yea, that was weird. I have no idea why people do the things that they do.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Chicken! Apples! Brie!

Sometimes, I see recipes that interest me, cut them out, put them in my recipe book and don’t think about them again for months, or even years. And sometimes, I see a recipe, run to the store, buy what I need and make it immediately.

This was one of those recipes.

4 (4 oz each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
1/2 lb brie cheese, rind removed and sliced thin
1 cup corn flakes, crushed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper

Pound chicken breasts until they are evenly thin. Lightly season breasts with salt and pepper. Spread chicken on a flat surface and fill with sliced apples and Brie.

Wrap up the ends and then the sides of chicken to form bundles. Secure with toothpicks. Chicken can be prepared up to 1 hour ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to bake.

In a deep bowl, lightly beat egg with salt and pepper. Dip the bundles in egg wash and then roll in crushed corn flakes to fully coat. Arrange seam down in a baking dish.
Bake in a 375 F oven until cooked through, around 20 to 30 minutes. Let stand a few minutes before slicing.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tangy Orange Chicken Goodness

I love going to restaurants and I’m not afraid to say it. I know that people who pride themselves on their home cooking are supposed to have an aversion to restaurants, but I love to have other people cook for me. I enjoy the opportunity to see what other people have done with food, and gain inspiration about what new things I want to (and more importantly, don’t want to) try.

And as embarrassed as I am to admit it, one of my guilty pleasures is Panda Express. For years I have been a huge fan of their Orange Chicken and it has always been one of my favorite treats after a long, hard, cold winter day. Yet it had never occurred to me that I could actually make this dish for myself.

I was very skeptical about my ability to recreate this dish in a way that was reminiscent of the original dish – but the end result surpassed my every expectation! It may have even been – gasp – better than the original. The chicken was crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. The sauce was tangy and spicy. And aesthetically, the dish looked perfect.

I guess I won’t be going out anytime soon when I want to splurge on Chinese.

Tangy Orange Chicken Goodness
(adapted from Annie's Eats)
For the marinade and sauce:
1 ½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1 ½” pieces
¾ cup low sodium chicken broth
¾ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 ½ tsp. grated orange zest
8 thin strips orange peel (optional)
6 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup dark brown sugar
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. cold water

For coating and frying:
3 large egg whites
1 cup cornstarch
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups peanut oil (or canola oil)

For the marinade and sauce, place the chicken in a Ziploc bag; set aside. In a large saucepan, combine the chicken broth, orange juice, zest, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper; whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved. Measure out ¾ cup of the mixture and pour it into the bag with the chicken; press out as much air as possible and seal the bag, making sure that all pieces are coated with the marinade. Refrigerate 30-60 minutes, but no longer. Bring the remaining mixture in the saucepan to a boil over high heat. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and cold water; whisk the cornstarch mixture into the sauce. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and translucent, about 1 minute. Off the heat, stir in the orange peel (if using); set the sauce aside.

For the coating, place the egg whites in a pie plate and beat with a fork until frothy. In a second pie plate, whisk together the cornstarch, baking soda and cayenne until combined. Drain the chicken in a colander or large mesh strainer; thoroughly pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place half of the chicken pieces in the egg whites and turn to coat. Transfer the pieces to cornstarch mixture and coat thoroughly. Place the dredged chicken pieces on another plate or a baking sheet.

To fry the chicken, heat the oil in an 11- to 12-inch dutch oven or straight sided sauté pan with at least 3 qt. capacity over high heat until the oil reaches 350° on an instant read or deep fry thermometer. Carefully place half of the chicken in the oil; fry to golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning each piece with tongs halfway through cooking. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Return the oil to 350° and repeat with the remaining chicken.

To serve, reheat the sauce over medium heat until simmering, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken and gently toss until evenly coated and heated through. Serve immediately.
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