Goodbye 2010

December 31, 2010

Thanks everybody again your support throughout 2010. I had a great year and have been extremely happy with the outcome of all my recipes. I had just enough energy to finish the 100 recipes, and have been resting for the past two weeks. Fortunately friends have cooked for Christmas and New Years so that I could continue to rest.

My top 20 favorite recipes of 2010 were:

  1. Grilled Stuffed Flank Steak
  2. Boeuf Bourguignon
  3. 30-Minute Taco Salad
  4. Texas Shredded Barbecued Beef
  5. Pot Stickers with Scallion Dipping Sauce
  6. Korean Fried Chicken(Yang-nyum Tong Dak)
  7. Denouement Beef Stew
  8. Braised Beef Short Ribs
  9. Crunchy Potato Wedges
  10. Tandoori Chicken with Cilantro-Mint Chutney
  11. Caesar Salad
  12. Rosemary Focaccia
  13. Extra-Crunchy Fried Chicken
  14. Classic Egg Salad
  15. Ciabatta
  16. Homemade Pretzel
  17. Creole Fried Chicken
  18. Best Old-Fashioned Burgers
  19. Chocolate Ice Cream Cake
  20. 15-minute Fudge

I look forward to a the new year with a new goal. Stay tuned for more details.


Denouement Beef Stew

December 20, 2010

That impossibly distant day is today. In July, the outcome seemed so uncertain. Today is my 100th new recipe. The denouement. It has been a fun and rewarding journey, and I’ve eaten so much great food in 2010 (too much really, as I’ve gained 10 pounds). Of course, a special thanks to Christopher Kimball himself, who has spend 20-years creating and perfecting recipes, and without whom this year would not have been special. For all those who have supported my efforts throughout the year, I am grateful. To my friends who tried my chocolate donuts (hockey pucks) and feigned compliments for my tasteless carnitas; I apologize. My greatest joy in 2010 was to see my two sons try everything; all 100 recipes; to see them grow and appreciate my efforts. Over the weekend I invited friends to help mark my milestone of my 100th new recipe; this 5-star Beef Stew with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Pearl Onions.

My 100th new recipe in 2010.

This beef stew is very similar to the 11-hour slow-cooker Boeuf Bourguignon that I made in January, but this is ready in just 3 hours. The main difference is the lack of carrots and tomato paste, but also it uses flour as a thickener. The Boeuf Bourguignon uses minute tapioca (which is a CI favorite in their modern stews), so I substituted it here as a thickener. I served it over Fluffy Mashed Potatoes, which were steamed rather than boiled. After about 10 minutes of steaming, the potatoes are rinsed under cold water to remove any surface starch.  Finally, I served it with Rosemary Focaccia and a plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Overall, everyone gave everything 5-stars. The beef was very tender and the stew was just as rich as my other stews. It lacked a little complexity when compared to the Boeuf Bourguignon. The Fluffy Mashed Potatoes were a hit as well. In fact, one guest could talk about nothing else other than the potatoes.

Issues:

  1. The biggest issue was that I needed the dutch oven for both recipes. I made the stew, then put it in another pot while I made the potatoes. Because I was also making Pepperoni Pan Pizza for the kids (who ate before the adults) there was only a minor delay.
  2. Ouch. During the transfer from stew to potatoes I momentarily forgot that the lid to the dutch oven was 300-degrees. I grabbed it, and gave myself a second-degree burn.
  3. I used Eastern White potatoes rather than the Yukon Gold that CI recommends; the Yukon Gold have a slightly sweet taste that I don’t like. But I love their technique to yield such fluffy potatoes.

Rating: 5-star.
Cost: $27.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Here is the original Cook’s Illustrated link to the Beef Stew with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Pearl Onions recipe. The recipe was designed for 3 pounds of beef, so I altered the recipe and made it as follows:

6-oz bacon
4 pounds chuck roast
2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 medium onions
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons minute tapioca
2 cups red wine
2 cups chicken broth
3 bay leaves
1-1/3 teaspoon dried thyme
1-1/3 pound white mushrooms
10-oz frozen pearl onions (sauce discarded)
1/3 cup parsley

  1. Dice bacon into small pieces, then cook in dutch oven over medium heat until browned and crisp; about 7 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel lined plate, reserving bacon fat separately.
  2. Cut roast into 1-1/2-inch cubes and remove any hard pieces of fat, but don’t over trim the meat. The soft fat will break down and add flavor. Pat beef cubes dry and place in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat over medium-high heat in dutch oven; my four pounds of beef required browning beef in three separate batches. Brown meat on all sides, about 7 minutes per batch, adding a tablespoon of bacon fat as necessary. Remove meat and set aside on a plate.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees. Coarsely chopped onions, which should yield about 2 cups, then saute them in dutch oven over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic; continue to saute about 30 more seconds. The original recipe from 1996 told me to stir in 2 tablespoons of flour and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Instead, I used an equal amount of minute tapioca which works great as a thickener (see Texas Chili). Add wine and deglaze the bottom of the dutch oven. Add chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme, and bacon bits; then bring to a simmer. Add meat and return to simmer, then cover and place in 300-degree oven for a total of about 2 hours.
  4. If using frozen pearl onions prepare them according to package instructions. Unfortunately, I could only find Birds-eye which come in a cream sauce, so I separated and discarded the sauce. Brush the mushrooms clean and cut them into quarters. Heat 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in a 12-inch skillet over high heat. Saute mushrooms until browned; 6 minutes. Remove mushrooms from skillet, then add frozen pearl onions. Saute until lightly browned; about 3 minutes. Set mushrooms and onions aside.
  5. After 1-1/2 hours in the oven the meat will be almost tender, add the mushrooms and pearl onions to the stew. Cover the stew and return it to oven. Cook until meat and pearl onions are tender; another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, chop parsley.
  6. Remove from oven and stir in parsley. Add more salt and pepper according to taste.
  7. Serve over buttered egg noodles, boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes.

Here is the original Cook’s Illustrated link to the Fluffy Mashed Potatoes Recipe. I doubled the recipe. Here is the version as I made it:

4 lbs Eastern White potatoes (CI recommends Yukon Golds)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1 inch chunks. Rinse in colander to remove any surface starch.
  2. Add just enough water to Dutch oven so that water will reach the bottom of colander, but don’t add the colander just yet.
  3. Turn heat to high and bring water to boil. Then place metal colander (and potatoes) and reduce heat to medium-high.
  4. Cover and cook potatoes for 10 minutes. Transfer colander to sink and rinse potatoes under cold water until no longer hot; about 2 minutes. This will remove starch and prevent the potatoes from becoming gluey.
  5. Return colander and potatoes to pot, cover, and continue to cook until potatoes are soft; about 45 minutes longer (The original recipe says that will take only 10 to 15 minutes for a paring knife to meet little resistance; I’m not sure why there’s such a big discrepancy).
  6. Pour off water from Dutch oven, and add butter, which will melt with the residual heat. Run potatoes in batches through ricer set over Dutch oven.
  7. Add salt and stir in milk using rubber spatula.
  8. Season with salt and pepper according to your taste.

Thin Crust Pizza

December 19, 2010

For several years I’ve been making this thick-crust Pepperoni Pan Pizza, and my boys have love it every time. But the new new issue of Cook’s Illustrated (January/February 2011) had a thin-crust pizza. Also, the recipe includes a new no-cook pizza sauce.

Thin-Crust Pizza dough takes at least 24-hours.

Overall, the pizza dough is good, 4-stars, but is not worth the extra time; at least 24-hours. I would recommend that normal 90-minute pizza dough. The no-cook sauce was bright, but not as rich as my regular pre-cooked sauce. I give the sauce only 2-1/2 stars.

Issues:

  1. Because I didn’t have a pizza stone, I used an overturned baking sheet.
  2. Because I wanted both pizzas ready at the same time, I squeezed both pizzas onto the same overturned baking sheet. The pizzas were semi-rectangular.
  3. The cooked pizza was hardly thin; it measured a full 1-inch thick. I’m not sure what went wrong, but it was probably that I squeezed both pizzas into the oven at the same time.  Fortunately, I like thick-crust pizza.

Rating: 4-star for dough. 2-1/2-stars for sauce.
Cost: $3.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 4:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Here is the Cook’s Illustrated link to the Pizza Sauce Recipe. The recipe as I made it is below:

28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes,
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Drain and discard the liquid from the canned tomatoes, then process all ingredients in food processor for 30 seconds.
  2. Transfer to container and refrigerate until ready to use. The recipe will yield more than needed for two pizzas. The extra can be refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to a month.

Here is the Cook’s Illustrated link to the Pizza and Dough Recipe. The recipe as I made it is below:

16-1/2 ounces (about 3 cups) bread flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
1-1/3 cups ice water (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated. (about 1/2 cup)
8 ounces whole milk mozzarella, shredded (about 2 cups)

  1. Process flour, sugar, and yeast in food processor for 2 seconds. Then, while running, add water through feed tube. Continue processing until dough is just combined and no dry flour remains, about 10 seconds. Let dough stand 10 minutes.
  2. Prepare large bowl by spraying with cooking spray; set aside.
    Add oil and salt to dough and process until dough ball clears the sides; about 30 to 60 seconds. Remove dough from bowl and knead for about 1 minute on lightly oiled counter-top. Shape the dough into tight ball and place in prepared bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours; but up to 3 days.
  3. Adjust oven rack to be about 4 to 5 inches below broiler. Set pizza stone or overturned baking sheet onto oven rack, and pre-heat oven to 500 degrees.
  4. Remove the dough from refrigerator, and divide in half. Shape each into ball, and place on lightly oiled baking sheet (at least 3 inches apart). Spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray, cover and let stand for 1 hour.
  5. Working with one ball at a time, generously cover with flour and place on floured counter-top. Gently flatten into 8-inch disk with fingertips, leaving 1-inch of outer edge slightly thicker than center. Working along edges and giving disk quarter turns as you stretch, gently stretch until disk measures 12-inch. Place onto floured peel or another overturned baking sheet. Spread 1/2 cup of pizza sauce over dough, leaving 1/4-inch border. Sprinkle half the Parmesan evenly over sauce, then half the mozzarella. Carefully slide pizza onto pizza stone and bake until cheese and crust is browned, rotating pizza halfway through cooking; about 12 minutes. Let pizza cool on wire rack for 5 minutes before slicing. Finally, repeat for second pizza.

New Caesar Salad

December 16, 2010

Last February I held a Caesar Salad Shoot Out, in which I tasted three Caesar Salad recipes side-by-side. Chris Kimball’s 1997 recipe won. But now the new issue of Cook’s Illustrated (January/February 2011) has a new Caesar Salad Recipe. The most dramatic change were the croutons, which were prepared on the stovetop and mixed with 1/4 cup of water to keep them soft.  I prefer his 2011 recipe for the dressing, though it is only a slightly change from his 1997 recipe.

Brighter dressing; but controversial croutons.

Overall, I’d give the dressing 5-stars. It was brighter than his 1997 recipe, and omitted the egg white, which I believe was only diluting the flavor.  The extra lemon (optional in step 4 below) added better flavor.  The croutons were only 2-1/2 stars. Though I let them cook on the stovetop for 15 minutes (the recipe only called for 7 to 10), the outside were only lightly crisp. The croutons tasted soggy as I ate them.

Rating: 5-star for dressing. 2-1/2 stars for the croutons.
Cost: $3.
How much work? Medium; because of the croutons.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 5:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

Here is the Cook’s Illustrated link to the Crouton Recipe:

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium clove, pressed
5 cups 3/4-inch ciabatta cubes
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Combine 1 tablespoon oil and garlic paste in small bowl; let marinate.
    Place bread cubes in large bowl. Sprinkle with water and salt.
    Toss, squeezing gently so bread absorbs water.
  2. Place remaining 4 tablespoons oil and soaked bread cubes in 12-inch nonstick skillet.
  3. Stirring every few minutes, cook over medium-high heat, until browned and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Remove skillet from heat, push croutons to sides of skillet to clear center, add garlic/oil mixture to clearing and cook with residual heat of pan, 10 seconds.
  5. Sprinkle with Parmesan; toss until evenly distributed.  Transfer croutons to bowl; set aside.

Here is the Cook’s Illustrated link to the Caesar Salad Recipe:

1 large clove garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons Lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 anchovy fillets, minced and mashed into a paste with fork
2 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons canola oil
5 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup)
Ground black pepper
2-1/2 romaine hearts

  1. Cut romaine into 3/4-inch-thick slices; then rinse and dry.
  2. Whisk garlic and 2 tablespoons lemon juice together in large bowl; let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Whisk Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, and egg yolks into garlic/lemon juice mixture. While whisking constantly, drizzle canola oil and extra virgin olive oil into bowl. Whisk until fully emulsified. Finally, whisk in 1/2-cup Parmesan and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  4. Add cut romaine to bowl and toss until evenly coated. Add croutons and mix gently until evenly distributed. Add an additional 1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional). Serve immediately, adding  the final 1/4 cup Parmesan separately.

Soft Interior felt soggy as I ate them.

Here is the Cook’s Illustrated link to the

Velvet Devils Food Layer Cake

December 13, 2010

In July 1994 I was browsing the news stand at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco’s North Beach when I noticed a rich looking recipe for “Velvet Devils Food Layer Cake.” I bought my first ever issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. That was 16-1/2 years ago, and although I bought the magazine for one reason; the cake; as I read further I began to appreciate Chris Kimball’s tireless approach to cooking. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

Moist and chocolaty. Chris Kimball hasn't surpassed his 16-1/2 year old cake.

I have also tried many of Chris Kimball’s newer chocolate cakes. Still all these years later, I believe that Chris Kimball has not surpassed this moist, chocolaty masterpiece. I have made this cake 100 times since 1994, and it has never let me down. I have converted it into metric and made it in Argentina and Europe. In my household it has become as my “Very Chocolate Cake”.

The Cook’s Illustrated link to the original cake recipe is here. But my modified version is below:

1/3 cup (80 ml) non-alkalized cocoa, such as Hershey’s measured by spoon and sweep
2 cups all-purpose flour, by dip and sweep
1-7/8 cup sugar
18 tablespoons (300 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon instant espresso or instant coffee
1-1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

  1. I usually substitute two double espressos (4 ounces, 1/2 cup) and reduce boiling water to 1 cup. Whatever you use, be sure that the total liquid equal 1-1/2 cups.
  2. Bring a pan with water to a boil. In a small bowl, mix together the powdered cocoa and instant coffee; pour in boiling water (and espresso) and mix until smooth. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before stirring in the vanilla.
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 350°  and set an oven rack to the middle position.
  4. Cut two wax paper inserts to fit inside your two 8”x1-1/2” round cake pans.
  5. If the butter is not fully softened, microwave for 35 seconds.
  6. Beat butter in standing mixer equipped with paddle attachment at medium-high speed for 30 seconds; until it becomes smooth and shiny. With the mixer running, gradually sprinkle in sugar and mix for 3 minutes until it becomes fluffy and almost white in color. On at a time, add eggs and mix for 1 full minute after each addition.
  7. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. With mixer on lowest speed, add about 1/3 of dry ingredients to batter, and immediately add 1/3 of the liquid cocoa mixture. Mix just until the ingredients become nearly incorporated. Repeat flour/cocoa additions twice more.  Turn off mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula. Mix on low speed for 15 seconds more; the batter will become smooth like satin.
  8. Evenly pour the batter between the two pans. Use a rubber spatula to work the batter to the sides and to smooth the top. Bake cakes at 350° for 25 minutes; until a toothpick comes out with only one or two crumbs. Transfer pans too wire racks, cool for 10 minutes.
  9. Run plastic knife around perimeter of each pan to loosen. Invert cakes onto wire rack, and allow to cool completely before frosting. Remove the wax paper AFTER the cakes have cooled.
  10. Re-invert cake before frosting.

The chocolate butter icing recipe is here.

6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup light corn syrup
12 tablespoons unsalted butter

  1. Don’t start making icing until 15 minutes after cakes are removed from the oven.
  2. Melt chocolate and butter in a medium bowl over pan of almost-simmering water.
  3. Stir in cup light corn syrup. (or substitute is 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water, cooked for 2 minutes at full boil)
  4. Set bowl of chocolate mixture over a large bowl of ice water (or refrigerate for 20 to 25 minutes).
  5. Stirring occasionally until the frosting is just thick enough to spread.

I have made this cake so many times I know all the potential issues. Here they are:

  1. When melting sugar to substitute for corn syrup, be sure to let come to a full boil for 2 minutes. With a partial boil the sugar will appear liquefied, but a granular texture will persist after the icing  cools.
  2. Remove the wax paper after cooling. When the cake is hot, it is more likely to come apart and stick to the wax paper.
  3. If you have leftovers, to prevent the cake from drying out refrigerate after 24 hours.  The texture will change completely in the refrigerator because of all the butter, but it will still be delicious.

Rating: 5 stars.
Cost: $4
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 3:00pm. Ready at 5:00 PM.


Cucumber Raita & Tandoori Chicken

December 9, 2010

My friend Elena was not going to celebrate here Birthday, so I cooked her a nice birthday dinner. The meal had a Northern Indian theme, but I had to keep the spices mild because there were 4 kids eating as well. The main course was Tandoori Chicken with Cilantro-Mint Chutney (which I had made before in May) with a side dish of Cucumber Raita. The Raita is a new recipe that Chris Kimball uses to season his chicken, but more traditionally it is served as a side dish to cool down the palate when eating spicy Indian dishes.

Cucumber Raita. Opps, I was supposed to grate the cucumber.

The Raita  recipe is here. Simply combine 1 cup plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons minced cilantro, 1 pressed garlic clove, 1/4 teaspoon table salt and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper in small bowl, stir to combine and chill. This recipe is perfect for 2 cucumbers, however I sliced my cucumber. The next day an Indian co-worker told me that I should have grated the cucumber. In any case, it was simple and refreshing. 4-stars for the Raita.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $1.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time 4:00pm. Dinner time 4:15 PM.

I have made the Tandoori Chicken before, and it came out just as good today. When I first made the recipe in May I bloomed my spices in regular pan, but lost at least 25% of the spices due to sticking. Today I used a non-stick pan, which worked better.

Wonderful flavors, but patience is required.

The Tandoori Chicken recipe is here. I heated 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a small non-stick pan. Then sauteed the 6 cloves of minced garlic and 3/4-ounce of grated ginger for 30 seconds, then bloomed the spices in the same pan. I divided the mixture into two parts. First part was for a salt rub, in which the chicken sat for 30 minutes. Second part was mixed with yogurt and lime juice, which was used for the coating applied just before baking.  The chicken was supposed to be baked for 30 minutes at 325-degrees, then broiled for 15 minutes. Mine took longer to reach the correct internal temperatures.

The Cilantro-Mint Chutney was prepared in the food processor. The recipe uses an entire bunch of Cilantro, 1 cup of fresh mint, 1/4-cup minced onion, 1/3-cup plain yogurt, some cumin, salt, sugar and lime juice. Let run in food processor for 30 seconds. I made this two hours ahead of time.

Issues:

  1. For some reason my chicken was cooking slowly. It took 45 minutes
  2. When checking out at my Supermarket, the 18-year-old kid mistook my $3 bunch of mint for 79-cent cilantro.  That kept the cost of my double batch down to $8.

Rating: 5 stars.
Cost: $8 for 6-pounds of chicken. $2.85 for chutney.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 3:00pm. Dinner time 6:15 PM.


Homemade Pretzel

December 8, 2010

I came home one afternoon and wanted Pretzels; the only problem was that they took 3 hours to make. Because cravings seldom last so long, they turned out to be dessert. An important lesson I learned; when rolling out the dough into 20-inch long strings, mine only rolled out to about 12-inches. If that happens, let them rest while you roll out the other 11 pieces of dough. Finally, double back and re-roll your strands. You should get closer to 20-inches, though I have probably never surpassed 18-inches.

Afternoon snack took a long time to make.

Chris Kimball’s recipe for the Soft Pretzels. Start by making the dough as any other, using 1/4 cup of honey. This recipe kneads the dough in a food processor. Let the dough rise for an hour, punch it down, then let it rise for another 45 minutes. On a floured counter divide the dough into 12 equal parts. Roll each into a 20-inch long, 1/2-inch wide roll. After rolling to about  10 inches, let them rest while you roll the others. The resting time will let them loosen so you can finish rolling to the full length. Shape each into pretzel form. Join each seem by wetting the dough where it comes together. In batches of 4, boil for 30 seconds per side in a 12-inch skillet filled with 6 cups of water and 3 tablespoons of baking soda. Drain briefly on a wire rack, sprinkle with coarse sea salt (Kosher Salt would be a second choice). Bake at 450-degrees for about 14 minutes. Let cool for 8 minutes (no longer).

Comments:

  1. I only had enough honey for about half the honey, so I substituted some brown sugar.
  2. Because my kitchen is only about 60-degrees at this time of year, I let the dough rise in the oven. Unfortunately, I forgot and went to preheat the oven for baking and nearly ruined the dough. Fortunately I remembered before the batch was ruined.
  3. If you can’t t roll them to 20-inches, try dangling and stretching them vertically until they became long and thin.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $1.90 for 12 Pretzels.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 2:00 PM.  Ready:  5:00 PM.


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