Friday, December 25, 2009

Cranberry & Caramelized Apple Chicken

Here's another fall/winter favorite. I came up with this recipe sometime last year when I was thinking about cranberry crunch and I decided it would be great to turn it into a chicken recipe (well, maybe minus the crunch).

This is a fairly easy recipe which packs HUGE amounts of flavor. There's something special about the combination of brown sugar, apples, cinnamon and cranberries. It's very important to make sure you get the cranberry sauce with whole cranberries - that give the necessary texture, to the final sauce; plus, it's already sweetened so you don't need to add anything extra to it.

Also, there are two ways you could go about caramelizing the apples: you can use white sugar and melt it, creating caramel, and then toss in the apples; or you can use brown sugar, which seems to dissolve a lot more readily (probably because it's got the moisture of molasses built-in) and then toss the apples in that. The first time I made this recipe I used white sugar, but this last time I was in a rush so I used brown.

The difference is the time and care that the caramelization takes with white sugar (it does take quite a few minutes for it to melt...using the oil was my shortcut to make this happen slightly quicker since oil is a good conductor), and the fact that you need to be careful to stop the cooking before it burns (accomplished by adding the apples to drop the temperature of the skillet). With the brown sugar, it seems you just don't need to wait as long and it doesn't seem to be as finicky a process. The end result though, in my opinion, is that the white sugar method tastes a lot richer and sweeter than the brown, but the brown works just as well if you're short on time.

Is it chicken? Is it dessert? I don't know but it's very addicting.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pumpkin Potato Kugel

Just in time for Thanksgiving! Still looking for that unique side dish that will make your guests go "Hm! Mm!"? You're in luck! This autumn take on a Shabbat classic will definitely bring a host of interesting flavors to the party.

Now, I'll admit, I did not use fresh pumpkin - and I should have since it's pumpkin season. Shame on me. But, I've had a lonely can of pumpkin puree sitting around for a long time and it's been begging me to use it in a fall-themed dish. If you have the time to cut open a pumpkin and scoop out its flesh (use the rest of it for other goodies - e.g. stuff it with fruits and nuts and bake it!), you should do that. If not, the canned stuff works just fine.

If you don't have a food processor, the classic way of grating by hand is the old standby (that's how I used to do it before I got my food processor). I like using the grating disk to fool people into thinking that I slaved over grating it by hand, therefore they must all enjoy. Also, I like the texture of grated potatoes over shredded.

This is actually a modification of my standard potato kugel recipe - which I will probably post at some later point when I have a picture to show for it. In the meantime though you can probably reverse engineer it. If you're into that sort of thing. I know I am.

A fall variation on a classic courtesy of your favorite gourd - pumpkin!

Pumpkin Potato Kugel

6 potatoes
1 large onion
1 can pureed pumpkin (fresh is good too)
4 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
1/4 tsp allspice
A few sprigs fresh thyme, optional
2 tbsp brown sugar, optional
Heavy pinch of salt
Ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Grate the potatoes and onion together, by hand or in a food processor. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

3. Dump potato and onion into a boil along with remaining ingredients (except 1 tbsp. brown sugar, if using). Mix very well until you can no longer see flour and everything is well-incorporated.

4. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray. Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth out the top. If using, sprinkle remaining brown sugar all over the top to add a deeper molasses color to the top.

5. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (normally I would say bake until brown but color is hard to tell with the pumpkin orange).

Serves 12-16, depending how big you cut it.

Asian Tuna Steak

Ever since I was young I've loved tuna steak. Something about it just tastes so unique - it doesn't quite taste like fish, it's not exactly a steak, and it's definitely worlds apart from the canned stuff. So, as I've been settling in to my "fish renaissance" in which I actually bother going out and buying good fish to cook with naturally I have reclaimed the tuna steak as my own.

The problem, I find, is finding the perfect recipe for tuna steak. It's got such a wonderfully complex flavor. Often it's grilled, since it can take the heat of the grill. I once read in Cook's Illustrated (though I can't seem to find the issue right now) an article with a guide to how certain fish can/should be cooked. Tuna was definitely up at the top with the more heat-intense applications.

Anyways, I often find that one of the most common things involving tuna steak you'll see on a menu is some sort of Asian-style tuna. Makes sense - Asian flavors blend a whole lot of savory and umami, which is exactly what tuna needs. So, building on that, I saw an Asian-style preparation as the entry point into my quest for tuna perfection.

This recipe reuses the marinade as a sauce - but you need to make sure to cook it to avoid cross-contamination! I only had one tuna steak on hand but I think the marinade can be enough for two.

Though I don't think this recipe has brought me to tuna nirvana yet, I think it's a good way there - and so you'll see me continue experimenting in the future, trying to find the ideal tuna steak recipe.

One step closer to tuna nirvana...

Asian Tuna Steak
1 or 2 tuna steaks
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mustard
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp honey 1
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
1/4 tsp dried basil
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp lemon juice

1. Combine all the ingredients (except tuna) in a bowl and mix together very well.

2. Place tuna steaks in a ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Let sit in the refrigerator for 30 min to 2 hours.

3. Heat your broiler to high. Remove tuna steaks from marinade and place on a baking sheet. Sprinkle extra sesame seeds on top of tuna and broil - 2 minutes each side for medium rare.

4. Pour leftover marinade into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat down to a simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened to the consistency you desire.

5. Serve sauce on top of the tuna steak.

Serves 1-2.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Vanilla-Pineapple or Blueberry Pudding Cake

This is part 2 of the suite of dessert recipes I created recently. As I mentioned in my previous post, I originally sought out to create a sugar-free, diabetic-friendly dessert without artificial sweetener. But I didn't think stopping at pudding was enough - I needed to go all out for this to prove that it's possible for a home cook to make a good dessert under those kinds of constraints.

I racked my brain trying to think of what I could do with pudding. And then I remembered I had seen some recipes for cakes using yogurt. So I figured, why not replace yogurt with pudding!

The problem was I couldn't really find anyone with a decent pudding cake recipe. So, I bravely decided to try my own - which was a big deal for me. I had never created my own cake recipe before, always sticking to the lore that baking must be precise, you must always stick to the recipe.

However, I entered my endeavor adequately prepared - I cross-referenced Alton Brown's I'm Just Here for More Food with Michael Ruhlman's Ratio and decided to use the muffin mixing method - my cake would essentially be an oversized muffin. Borrowing a little from the basic ratios/recipes in those books, as well as the technique I was able to come up with a recipe that turned out to be quite a hit.

The cake does in fact look like an overgrown muffin (it's even a little poofy in the center) and the crumb texture has uneven air pockets, also classic muffin texture. I reserved half the pudding mixture to create a delicious creamy topping for the cake as well. The cake is incredibly moist and addicting. Beware.

Also, note that if for some reason there are any leftovers of the blueberry cake for some odd reason, if you keep in in the fridge (you should do so) it seems like the color of the cake turns from a grayish-blue to a greenish color (I'm guessing because of the blueberries oxidizing or something). Fear not the color change - it still tastes just as good!

Vanilla Pineapple pudding cake, made with no sugar or splenda

Vanilla Pineapple Pudding Cake (sugar-free, no artificial sweetener)

1 batch sugar-free vanilla pudding
1/2 cup applesauce, divided
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil
1 20-oz can crushed pineapple, unsweetened
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp honey
pinch salt

1. Mix dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt

2. Mix wet ingredients: 1/2 of pudding (=1 cup), 1/4 c applesauce, oil, 1/4 c honey, eggs, 1/2 can of pineapple

3. Add wet to dry & mix. Do not overmix.

4. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 min or until a toothpick/knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

5. Combine remaining pineapple, pudding, applesauce & 1 tbsp honey in a bowl and mix - this will be the topping for the cake.

6. Let cake cool for 20 minutes. Prick cake with holes using a fork and spread topping. Let cake continue cooling. Store leftovers in the fridge.

Serves 12-16.

Blueberry pudding cake variation with blueberry topping

Blueberry Pudding Cake

Make cake as before, except use 1 batch of blueberry pudding. Leave out one egg and pineapple, and add an extra 3/4 cup applesauce to the cake batter.

This is what the cake actually looks like before the topping

Sugar-Free Variation, using Splenda

Make cake as directed except swap 8 packets Splenda for honey.

Pareve Vanilla or Blueberry Pudding (with Sugar-Free and Diabetic variants)

Okay. Here it comes. So I have this set of 4 recipes that kind of all belong grouped together and I've been meaning to post them for a while but haven't had time. Now I finally have the chance, so get excited!

So, the first recipe was for vanilla pudding. Let me give you some background on the genesis of this recipe first. I was going somewhere for Shabbat and I wanted to bring a dessert. The problem was, one of the people there was diabetic, so I couldn't bring anything with sugar. Another person was allergic to artificial sweeteners - so using splenda or such was out. So, I had to sweeten everything with honey (apparently some diabetics can have honey? who knew?). That's what led to the diabetic-friendly version of this recipe.

I later made this recipe again a few weeks later, but did not have the artificial sweeteners constraint, so I chose to use splenda since I wanted to minimize the sugar content anyway for calorific reasons. That's when the blueberry variation came about - I had a box of frozen blueberries I had been saving for a tasty dessert, and this seemed like the time to use it.

One big difference though was (kinda obviously) the flavor profile - the honey-sweetened one had a much more rich, full, even a little cloying (but not bad) taste than the splenda version. I kind of preferred it to the version with artificial sweetener.

I should note that these are actually just variations on the basic Joy of Cooking recipe for cornstarch pudding. I was surprised how easy it was - it's basically just a really simple custard. I hope that people will start realizing how simple it is to make a good pareve pudding and bring it more often to Shabbat meals! You can, of course, swap out the soymilk for regular milk for a dairy version.

Basic pareve vanilla pudding - can be made sugar-free or diabetic-friendly!

Regular Pareve Vanilla Pudding (not sugar-free)

1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
2 cups soymilk (divided into 1/4 cup and 1 3/4 cup)
1 large egg, well beaten
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt

1. Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt in a pot or saucepan.

2. Gradually mix in 1/4 cup soymilk into pot, whisking well so the mixture becomes a slurry (this will avoid lumps of cornstarch).

3. Whisk in remaining soymilk.

4. Turn on heat to medium and heat through until mixture comes to a simmer.

5. Extract about 1/2 cup of the mixture from the pot. Gradually stir this into the egg slowly, so you temper the egg (you want to raise the temperature of the egg without curdling it by sudden application of heat).

6. When egg mixture is sufficiently tempered, pour it back into the pot and bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute beyond the boil.

7. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.

8. Pour pudding into a glass bowl, serving cups or ramekins and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly touching the surface (actually, I'm not sure this is 100% necessary since this is meant to avoid forming the 'skin' on top, but that's formed by the casein proteins in regular milk, which aren't present in soymilk). Chill for at least 1-2 hours before serving.

Serves 2-4.

Blueberry pudding variation!

Pareve Blueberry Pudding

Follow recipe as above.

Combine 1 pint fresh or frozen blueberries with 1 tsp. lemon juice in a pot, along with a little bit of sugar/splenda/honey (maybe 1 tbsp - that's like 2 splenda packets I think) and a splash of water.

Cook over medium heat until blueberries are mostly dissolved (some can be intact - it adds texture to the pudding).

Mix blueberries with pudding well and chill as directed.

Cook the blueberries till they are about this texture

Sugar-Free Pudding Variation

Replace 1/4 cup sugar with 10 packets splenda. Follow directions as above.

Diabetic-Friendly Pudding Variation

Replace 1/4 cup sugar with 1/4 cup honey.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Onion Chicken

Well I've done it again. I've said I'd post soon and slacked off. But worry not! I've been collected recipes and photos this whole time and I have a whole bunch of stuff to post (including an exciting 4-for-1 pudding cake to come soon!). In the meantime, I think I'll start with my most recent creation that I made last week and was extremely pleased with: onion chicken.

Onions are a really fundamental part of my cooking but they're always the aromatic, they're always there to enhance the flavor, they're never the star of the dish - that ends today! This recipe is really easy, delicious and healthy, and I hope will become a favorite of yours too! I've been savoring the leftovers all week.

A lot of times I use chicken breasts because they are easier and quicker to deal with - but I decided to go for on-the-bone chicken this time. Though what I did do was remove all the skin and trim the fat. The way I see it is: so many people I know make such delicious chicken and they have some cool spices and flavorings or sauces but they always put it on top of the skin!

I know there's some sort of American ideal to have crispy skin with poultry but I don't buy it. I almost never eat the skin of chicken (except wings which just aren't worth the effort of taking it off), and so I always end up having to try to wipe some of the flavorings on the skin onto the pale, minimal-flavor chicken beneath it, never with much success.

So instead, I strongly prefer to take all the skin off usually when I make on-the-bone chicken. Not only is it healthier, but the flavor you worked so hard to create pervades the meat of the chicken, and doesn't just rest on top - and that's exactly what I did here.

The basic idea is your standard breaded chicken, with a layer of sauce/binder and a layer of coating (different from your standard frying dredge since there's no bottom layer of flour). The effect that occurs is kind of cool though - some of the sauce drips out, mixes with the little bit of melted fat left on the chicken, and the juice of the onions all mix together in the bottom of the dish to form a really tasty savory sauce which can (and should) be spooned on top at serving time (probably would also be good on top of rice).

Anyway, enough talking, on to the deliciousness!

Tasty chicken where onion is the star of the dish

Onion Chicken

4 thighs + 4 legs chicken (you can use any chicken pieces, I happen to like dark meat)
4 tbsp Smart Beat mayonnaise (or regular mayonnaise if you can't find the healthier one)
3 tbsp honey or dijon mustard
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 c bread crumbs
4 tbsp Osem onion soup mix
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp cardamom (optional, if you can find it)
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper
2 onions sliced crosswise into rings
2 tbsp canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 375. Pour oil into an empty pan/tin and let heat in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Make sure you have enough space in your dish to allow all the chicken pieces to lay flat in one layer - if not, use multiple dishes.

2. Remove skin from chicken and trim off excess fat.

3. Mix mayo, soy sauce and mustard in one bowl/plate, and crumbs, spices, soup mix, herbs, salt and pepper to taste in another.

4. Dip chicken pieces in to sauce mixture, then into crumb mixture, coating fully.

5. Remove the preheated pan, and place chicken pieces face-up in the pan (you should hear a little sizzle as you do since you preheated the oil). Make sure the chicken is only in one layer!

6. Place sliced onion rings on top of chicken, and bake uncovered for 20 minutes (to crisp up the crumbs)

7. Lower the temperature to 300 and bake covered for another 20 or so minutes (to get the onions caramelizing) until the chicken is fully cooked - use a meat thermometer! (180 for dark meat, 170 for white meat). If your chicken is too close to this after the first 20 minutes at 375, you may want to lower the temperature to 250 or 275 to slow down the cooking - remember, you don't want to overshoot your mark or you'll get dry chicken!

Serves 6-8 or however many pieces of chicken you prepare.

Nutritional info per serving: 300 calories, 11g fat [2.4g saturated], 17g carbs, 29g protein

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mango Carrot Chutney

A few weeks ago, a friend and I had a fun experimental cooking day, involving meat pies featuring delicious chile peppers (Serrano and yes, Habanero). Anyway, I was left with some of the leftover ingredients, including carrots and mango. Later in the week, I had a craving for fish - and yes, I admit, I did not make my own but rather just picked up a piece of fried flounder from Supersol (shame on me).

I stared down the store-bought, ready-made fish with some degree of embarrassment, and so I decided I would repent for my sin by creating some sort of sauce or topping for the fish (it looked pretty dry and like it could use some help in the flavor department). Luckily, I had those leftover mango and carrots, so I decided to do a Carribean-themed meal for myself (previous attempts with this theme were wildly successful; unfortunately I did not record my recipe for Jamaican Chicken Skewers which involved mangoes, onions and chicken in a delicious coconut jerk sauce. I will eventually try to recreate it though...).

I aimed for a pretty savory chutney, though I found I did need to add some brown sugar to really bring out the mango flavor. The carrots also provide a textural contrast to the mangos (which are nearly mushy by the time it's done) since they still have a little bite to them after4 minutes. If you want softer carrots, precook them (in the microwave or boiling them) for an extra minute or two.

I ate this on top of fish, but it would also be quite delicious on top of chicken, rice, couscous, or even just on the side by itself!

Quick and easy mango carrot chutney - no stove required!

This chutney was great on top of fish - but goes well on chicken, rice & couscous too!

Mango Carrot Chutney

1 mango, diced
1-2 big carrots, diced
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger (fresh if possible)
2 tsp brown sugar
pinch of salt

1. Combine ingredients in a microwaveable bowl and mix well.

2. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 2 minutes, mix again, then microwave another 2 minutes until carrots are mostly cooked through. Serve on top of fish or chicken.

3-4 servings

Monday, August 10, 2009

Beta Recipe: Coconut Lime Bars

I was asked to make a dessert recently and I had a very difficult time deciding what to make. I was torn between pies, cakes and other pastries. After much searching, someone suggested to me that I make lemon bars. Now there's a nice, simple dessert that's got a clean, refreshing taste and is always a crowd-pleaser.

Of course, I needed to figure out a way to make this dish mine. I started perusing the Joy of Cooking for its basic recipe for lemon bars (just to get a baseline) and then it hit me: swap the lemon for lime. It's unexpected, but will likely have just as much appeal. To sweeten the deal, I decided to add coconut to the crust for an extra tropical flavor. Also, to cut the pungent flavor of the lime, I chose to sweeten the curd with honey instead of regular sugar, which gave it a fuller, more rounded off taste.

I consider this to be a beta recipe because I'm not quite happy with the proportions just yet. The taste was quite good, but I may need to scale up the volume of the curd, or scale down the size of the pan. It's not quite perfect, but it's a good chunk of the way there!

You'll notice I call for egg substitute - this is my attempt to make up for the whole stick of margarine in the crust. Sorry, but there was just no way around it - oil just doesn't cut it (baking pun not intended). I used margarine simply because I wanted this dish to be pareve (non-dairy) - but you can easily make this in dairy form (which will likely be even tastier) by swapping the margarine for butter (I haven't tried this, but you may want to keep in mind that butter is 20% water, so the swap ratio may not be exactly 1-for-1 - but I would probably try that first anyway just as a test). I also think I might need to up the powdered sugar in the crust.

When you make the curd, you'll notice that it is in fact not lime green but yellow, from the eggs. You can leave it like that and watch as unsuspecting tasters sink their teeth in expecting lemon only to be fooled and surprised by the lime deception; or, you can beat them over the head with it by adding a few drops of green food coloring to turn it a bright neon green (admittedly, this was not the color I was looking for - but it sufficed).

Finally, one last note, you may notice that in a 9x13 pan (as in the picture), the curd does not quite completely cover the crust (my own underestimation). I would either use a smaller pan (such as an 8x8 - this may mean you will have a thicker crust, which you may like) or increase the volume of the curd recipe (though I can't quite tell by how much yet - this is an experiment for next time I make this).

I hope these few reservations won't deter you from making this on your own - and if you figure out a way to improve it, please let me know!

A tropical twist on your everyday lemon bars

Coconut Lime Bars

For crust:
1.5 c flour
1 stick margarine
Pinch salt
1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 - 3/4 cup flaked coconut

For curd:
1/4 c flour
1 c sugar
Less than 1/2 c honey
1/3 c lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
1 tbsp lime zest
1 egg
3/4 c egg substitute (equivalent of 3 eggs - you can use real eggs if you like)
3-4 drops green food coloring (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Combine crust ingredients, cutting margarine into flour, forming a dry dough.

2. Press dough into an ungreased pan. Bake for 15-20 min until the top is golden.

3. Whisk curd ingredients together.

4. Pour curd on top of crust and bake for another 25-30 minutes until semi-firm.

5. Dust with extra powdered sugar before serving.

Serves 12-16.

The Ultimate Sweet & Sour Meatloaf

Okay, so I must admit, after just having seen Julie & Julia last night (very good movie), I am re-inspired to continue my quest to post my collected recipes on my blog. Most notably, I'd like to finally share the Ultimate Meatloaf recipe that I came up with a couple weeks back.

So basically, I was kinda stuck for dinner one Friday night, and I decided I was going to just eat at home and try to invite whoever I could over (I ended up not finding anyone, so more meatloaf for me!). I was also in the mood for a ground beef dish, but I find meatballs very time-consuming (I am picky about the shape). So, I decided to try my hand at meatloaf (another first for me) - something that growing up I was never a huge fan of because it was often dry and flavorless.

I decided to construct the meatloaf in two layers: the first layer being the meat, which I wanted to be very savory and flavorful, yet moist and juicy. The second layer would be the glaze, which I had scribbled down in my cooking notebook over a year ago as an idea to try out - an applesauce-based glaze. I wanted to take this a step further and turn it into a bit of a sweet-and-sour glaze, so I added some cider vinegar and teriyaki sauce.

It came out ridiculously well, but I want to stress one thing. There was one flavor in the meat that absolutely made all the difference: the Chinese five-spice powder. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENT IN THE RECIPE (maybe besides the beef), DO NOT SKIP IT!!! I cannot stress this enough. In the past few months I have been learning the ways of Chinese five-spice, and I have concluded that it is amazing with ground beef (my meatballs on Purim were also a testament to that - but alas, I didn't write down the recipe!). If you don't have any, it is incredibly worth your while to go out and get some (sometimes hard to find - I only found Fairway carried it, but I am certain you can find it online easily). It gives this complex flavor of cumin and a hint of anise (licorice) that makes you go, "ooh, hmm!" on every bite.

Okay, okay, enough of plugging the spices. On to the recipe!

The best meatloaf I have ever tasted.

The Ultimate Sweet and Sour Meatloaf

For meatloaf:

2 lb. ground beef
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. parlsey
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
1/4 tsp ginger
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz finely chopped pecans or hazelnuts (you can add up to 8 oz. if you wish)
2 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 can diced tomatoes
Salt (at least 2-3 heavy pinches)

For glaze:

1/2 cup applesauce (preferably unsweetened)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. teriyaki sauce

1. Combine all meatloaf ingredients and mix very well.

2. Transfer to a loaf pan (or other baking vessel) and pack well. Smooth off the top.

3. Combine glaze ingredients well and spoon evenly onto top of meatloaf.

4. Bake at 350 for 1 hr 30 min or till meat reaches 160 F. Please, use a meat thermometer on this if you have one available.

5. After it's done, allow it to rest at least 10 minutes before serving. If desired, pour off excess fat (carefully please!)

Serves 10-12. Depends how you cut it really.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chili con Carne

So, I have a confession: I've made plenty of cholents but I have never made chili before. Well, at least, I hadn't until a couple of weeks ago. But when I did finally set out on the brave endeavor of making my first chili, I borrowed a few techniques from my cholent-making skills, namely: the crock pot.

I like using those crock pot liners (sometimes hard to find in some supermarkets) to make crock pot cooking a lot easier to clean up. Some people put water underneath the liner which I find does nothing and it makes it take longer for the heat to transfer into the food. Besides, these things are purposely made to withstand the kinds of temperatures crock pots can put out. Especially when you cook a cholent overnight and things have a tendency to stick to the sides or the bottom, these things really help. OK, end of product plug (no I am not paid for this. If you are a crock pot liner manufacturer and would like to pay me I will graciously accept. Let's do lunch).

Of course, you don't have to use a crock pot for this recipe - a Dutch oven will do just as well (or so I hear, since I don't happen to own one; again, if you would like to purchase one for me, I will graciously accept. Let's do lunch. Dinner if the crock pot liner guys call me first). If you don't have either, I suppose a large-ish pot will suffice on the stovetop for roughly the same time, but keep an eye on it (since the meat is already cooked by the time it goes into the pot, you're really looking to cook for the right consistency, i.e. when the liquid level is at your liking).

You'll notice this chili contains both beef and chicken. That was the result of buying beef and having additional guests added later on and needing to add some additional protein to make it a larger batch. This turned out to be an extremely good choice and I now am a big fan of polyproteinous chili (I think I just made that word up).

Anyhow, apparently the chili came out really well - I've still been getting compliments weeks afterwards. Hopefully you'll find this chili just as memorable. And if you don't, I hope you'll at least find it tasty. Cause that's all that matters in the kitchen in the end.

This is the chili only 2 hours into cooking (which is why it's liquidy still)

Chili con Carne

1 lb. chicken breasts, cubed
1 lb. ground beef
1 bunch scallions, chopped
3-4 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, mined
2 tsp chili powder
1 can corn
1 can pinto beans
1 can cannellini beans
1 green pepper, diced
2 jalapenos, diced (or canned diced jalapenos)
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp flour + 2 tbsp water
Salt & pepper

1. Saute scallions, garlic, carrots till soft in a cast iron skillet.

2. Add chili powder, salt, pepper, chicken and beef and cook through.

3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer skillet contents to a crock pot (discard the leftover fat, or use for something else).

4. Add corn, beans, pepper, jalapenos, spices, bay leaves to crock pot.

5. Mix flour and water together thoroughly to form a clumpless slurry. Add the slurry and stock to the crock pot.

6. Add salt & pepper to taste and mix well. Cook on low for 3-4 hours, or until it reaches the desired consistency.

Serves 10-12.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Spanish Rice

So, I have to admit - when I'm in a pinch and need to make a side dish, I will often fall back on good old Near East rice or couscous. The truth is, their mixes are really good, so why would anyone want to make anything but that? (some people don't...) Of them all though, their Spanish rice mix is the king. I've always wondered what's in the spice packet they include with them, but never bothered to really try and figure it out.

Well, until recently, that is. I was determined to either replicate Near East's mix or top it. When done right, Spanish rice is extremely flavorful and I often cannot stop myself from several more helpings. So, I set out to do it - but the challenge to myself was, I would not look at the ingredients or any other recipes for Spanish rice for this. This time, I was on my own.

You'll notice there aren't any particularly authentic Spanish ingredients (such as adobo, sofrito, etc.). That's mainly because I don't have them in my kitchen. But also, I was curious to see how close I could come with only basic kitchen supplies.

In the end, this rice does taste different from the Near East version - but I still think it's a great homemade version of Spanish rice, and it was definitely a delicious challenger to the classic standard. As expected, I could not keep myself from having several servings.

A homemade variation on the classically boxed dish

Spanish Rice

2 cups white basmati rice
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 can corn kernels, drained
3 tsp smoky Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp onion powder
1-2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp cumin
2 heavy pinches salt
Pepper to taste
2 cups water
1-2 tbsp. oil for sauteing.

1. Pour oil into a pot and coat the rice with it. Saute the rice for a couple of minutes.

2. Add tomatoes and corn to pot and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add spices, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly till well coated. Add water, and bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 20 min.

Serves 6-8. Unless you are serving me. Then it probably serves 2 or 3.

Skirt Steak with Asian-Whiskey Glaze

I'm baaack! I know, I've taken quite a long hiatus from my blog - I assure you, it has nothing to do with you! I've still been cooking, I just haven't had time to sit down and focus on writing entries for everything I've made. But fear not! I still have pictures and notes of what I've been up to. Hopefully, I'll be able to dump a slew of these recipes up here within the next few days.

Anyway, let's talk steak. I love steak. I haven't had it very much since being on Weight Watchers. In college, I discovered that my favorite steak cut is skirt steak. I had it grilled one time with NOTHING - no salt, no sauce, nothing - and it was quite possibly the most flavorful steak I had tasted up till that point. Well, why mess with perfection then you ask? Because I can.

I wanted to make a really nice main entree for a special Friday night dinner - just for two. I decided that steak was the best choice. A few months back, I went to Wolf & Lamb steakhouse for my birthday and ordered a Jack Daniels steak - a nice ribeye with a whiskey sauce. I combined this with an idea from Quick & Kosher for Asian-style steak and with Cook's Illustrated's May 2009 issue's recipe for Beef Teriyaki, along with their "Guide to Marinating" and voila! my skirt steak recipe was born.

Marinating is very good for skirt steak, because it is a thin cut. According to Cook's Illustrated, marinating only penetrates up to 1/2 inch through meat's surface - which is great, because skirt steak is usually not much more than an inch thick - so lots of flavor abound! Make sure you don't use up all the marinade! You will be sorely missing out if you don't have extra reserved for the glaze.

This is also great for summer barbecues - you can make the glaze on the side!

Skirt Steak with Asian-Whiskey Glaze

1 lb. skirt steak
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp whiskey
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp white wine
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 tsp dry mustard
1 tbsp. flour
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. water
Chopped scallions, for garnish

1. Combine all soy sauce, oil, wine, whiskey, shallot, garlic, brown sugar and dry mustard in a bowl or measuring cup and whisk well together - this should make about 3/4 cup.

2. Place skirt steak in a ziploc bag, and pour 1/3 to 1/2 of marinade into bag (depends how much you need to coat meat). Press the air out of the bag and seal it well. Refrigerate for at least half hour, but more is fine.

4. When ready, preheat a cast-iron skillet (strongly recommended - if not, use a pan without non-stick coating - or a grill!) to screaming hot. Sear meat for 3-4 min on both sides. Remove and let rest on a plate for 10 min.

5. In the meantime, lower the heat on the pan. Mix flour and 1 tbsp water together in a bowl to form a slurry (to prevent flour clumping). Pour slurry, and remaining water into the remaining marinade, and pour into skillet (careful - this will boil very fast in a hot skillet!). This will let you deglaze the pan and scrape up any of the fond (yummy brown bits) at the bottom of the pan. Mix very well (and fast) until sauce comes to a glaze consistency.

6. Spoon glaze over steak and serve. Garnish with scallions.

Serves 4 (or more, depending how you cut your steak).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Low-Fat Blueberry Cobbler

Okay, okay, so I know I haven't posted any recipes in a month. January was a bit hectic and I could never find time to just sit and write down my recipes. But that doesn't mean I haven't been cooking! Though some things I forgot the recipes for, or didn't take pictures. But I do have a few things up my sleeve to share with you!

The first is a recipe I made this past Shabbat, when I was asked to bring a dessert. I ended up pushing this off till Friday, at which point I decided I was in no mood to leave the house to buy ingredients. So, the name of the game was to find a recipe for something I could make with only what I already had in stock.

Now, it just so happens that I was at Fairway the week before and they had this amazing special - $5 for a 24 oz. package of blueberries!!! I bought two, thinking I would freeze one, but they didn't even last long enough to get into the freezer. I had one of them left in the fridge, and being a blueberry fanatic, I decided I had to make use of them.

After some research, I found a recipe for blueberry cobbler that was simple. I decided to spice it up a bit myself. The result was a very moist dessert which was very low-fat and highly tasty.

Mmmm, blueberries...

Low-Fat Blueberry Cobbler

1 1/3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 cup soy milk
4 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen & defrosted, drained)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. maple syrup

1. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, sugar together in one bowl. Combine milk, lemon juice, syrup together in another bowl.

2. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly till the batter is smooth with no lumps (a spatula is fine, no hand mixer required).

3. Pour batter into a greased baking dish (I used a 9x13). Note, batter will be shallow, but it will rise to about double or triple the volume. Scatter blueberries evenly over the batter.

4. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown & delicious, and the batter is set (toothpick/fork/knife/spaghetti comes out clean).

Serves around 12, depending how you cut it.