Homemade Granola with Almonds and Raisins

February 29, 2012

I’ve never really given much though to granola, and certainly never thought about making it at home. But thanks to Chris Kimball I see that it’s mostly just oats; plain old Quaker. Most ready-made granola binds the oats together using honey, this recipe uses maple syrup. While more expensive, maple syrup has bolder and more interesting flavor; a definite upgrade. Also most ready-made granola skimps on the nuts and raisins, because they cost 10-times more than the oats. This recipe uses lots of nuts and raisins, and achieves a much tastier balance. 4-stars

Best granola ever; I guarantee it.

This will undoubtedly be the best granola you will have ever tasted in your life; I guarantee it. The flavor of the almonds intensify and the oats cook. While my main complaint about granola still stands; that it is too dry; it is still delicious.  I’d recommend eating with something moist; adding milk and eating as a cereal or as an American-style parfait (yogurt, fresh fruit and granola).

Comments:

  1. When walking down the oatmeal section in your supermarket, you will see two type of oats. Quick oat are ready in 1 minutes, but this recipe calls for regular old-fashioned rolled oats. They are always labelled as ready in 5 minutes.
  2. While maple syrup is very expensive it imparts great flavor. If it is too expensive for you, then substitute honey. It goes without saying that pancake syrup should never be substituted.
  3. Be sure to buy raw almonds, because you will be roasting them yourself. I found slivered raw almonds at Trader Joe’s. Avoid blanched and pre-roasted almonds.

Rating: 4-stars
Cost: $6.50 (2-lbs 10-oz granola)
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Started: 1:00 PM.  Ready:  2:45 PM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

1/3 cup maple syrup
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/3 ounces light brown sugar (1/3 cup packed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
17-1/2 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats (5-3/4 cups)
10 ounces raw almonds (2 cups)
2 cups raisins (12-1/2 oz)

  1. Set an oven rack in upper-middle of oven, and pre-heat to 325-degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine maple syrup, vanilla, brown sugar and salt, then use whisk to combine vegetable oil.
  3. Use spatula to fold oats and chopped almonds until evenly coated with syrup mixture.
  4. Line a rimmed-baking sheet with parchment paper. Evenly spread oats onto baking sheet. Use a stiff metal spatula to tightly compress the oats.
  5. Bake at 325-degrees for between 40 and 45 minutes, or until slightly brown. Rotate the baking sheet half way through baking to ensure that it cooks evenly.
  6. Place baking sheet on wire rack and allow to cool for 1 hour. Break granola into whatever sized pieces you like. Chop raisins and stir into granola peices.
  7. You can store the granola in an air-tight container for 2 weeks.

Comparing pale lifeless store-bought to homemade.


Fan Correction

February 28, 2012

Yesterday while introducing Peruvian Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lime (Latin Celebration, Season 12), I heard Chris Kimball make a blunder. He claimed that Macchu Pichu was the highest city in the world. Certainly, the infamous vantage point of Machu Picchu is impressive, but the lost city sits at only 7,970 feet above sea level. To reach Machu Picchu visitors travel downward towards the Amazon basin by train (or by foot on the Inca Trail) from Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Empire (altitude 11,100 feet). In fact, the entire Altiplano averages 12,300 feet. To make his statement less-informed, the Andes mountain range isn’t even the highest mountain range. Most of the highest cities in the world are in the Himalayas.

Chris Kimball claiming Machu Picchu to be highest city in the world

The complete context of Chris Kimball’s statement was that “everybody knows three things about Peru.” First, that potatoes come from Peru. This turns out to be true, but I don’t think it’s common knowledge. Second, that Quinoa is from Peru, which has also been cultivated in Bolivia for 5,000 years.

But all nitpicking aside, I made this chicken last year and happily gave it 4-stars. It is delicious, don’t let his lack of South American knowledge deter you from giving it a try.


Home Fries

February 26, 2012

I know that potatoes are scorned and avoided, and it’s always the same half-word offered as justification: “Carbs”. Personally, I love potatoes. They are my favorite side dish and Russets are my favorite variety, so right away I knew I was going to love this recipe. Pre-heating the baking sheet to 500-degrees did a great job at browning the potatoes’ crust, but without over cooking the interior. The interiors were creamy, but without being too mushy. Perfect mini-spuds; 4-stars.

Perfectly cooked; crisp and browned on the outside. Tender on the inside.

This is the last recipe from the January / February 2012 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. I left this for last not because I wasn’t excited to make them, but rather because I am not usually home for breakfast on the weekends. I naturally wake up by 6AM, and go to a cafe to blog and drink coffee while my family sleeps in until 9 or 10AM.

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball’s original recipe made a huge amount of home fries. After all, the article was entitles “home fries for a crowd”.  I cut the recipe down by one-third, and still ended up with leftovers. The recipe as I have described it below will easily serve 4 to 6 people as a side dish, but if you need to feed 6 to 8 people, then you can follow his original recipe.
  2. Chris Kimball almost never lines his baking sheet with aluminum foil, but I always do. Use heavy-duty foil for this recipe because of the scraping necessary in step 8 and 10.
  3. No matter how heavy-duty of a baking sheet you have, 500-degrees will make it warp with 100% certitude. Mine returned to its normal state within an hours after removing from the oven. I wouldn’t recommend this recipe if you only have a thin baking sheet.
  4. My supermarket was out of chives, so I substituted an equal amount of finely minced scallion greens. With this warm weather my own chives should be sprouting soon.

Rating: 4-stars
Cost: $2.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 8:00 AM.  Ready:  9:00 AM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

2-1/3 pounds russet potatoes
1/3 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt and pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1-1/2 yellow onions
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

  1. Peel your potatoes and dice into 3/4″ pieces, and cut your 2 tablespoons of butter into 8 equal-sized pieces.
  2. Set an oven rack to the lowest position, and place a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack. Pre-heat the oven and baking sheet to 500-degrees.
  3. Set a dutch oven over a high burner and boil 8 cups of water. Add diced potatoes and 1/3 teaspoon baking soda. Return water to a boil and cook for just 1 minute.
  4. Drain potatoes in a colander and immediately return potatoes to the dry Dutch oven; reduce burner to low heat. Cook for 2 minutes until all moisture has dried from the surface of the potatoes, shake the pot occasionally to ensure complete drying. Remove Dutch oven from burner, and add the pieces of butter, 1 teaspoons salt, and pinch of cayenne.
  5. Use a rubber spatula to mix for 30 seconds; the potatoes will become coated with a thick paste.
  6. Drizzle foil-lines rimmed baking sheet with 1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, then evenly spread potatoes onto baking sheet.
  7. Bake at 500-degrees for 15 minutes. Meanwhile dice your onions into 1/2″ pieces and place in bowl. Add 3/4 tablespoon vegetable oil, and 1/3 teaspoon kosher salt. Toss to combine.
  8. Remove potatoes from oven after 15 minutes, then use a thin metal spatula to scrape and turn potatoes.
  9. Clear a 8″x5″ area in center of the baking sheet in which you should place your onion mixture. Bake for another 15 minutes at 500-degrees.
  10. Using the metal spatula to scrape and turn potatoes again, but this time mixing the onions and potatoes together.
  11. Bake for another 5 or 10 minutes until the potatoes become browned and the onions become soft and are beginning to brown.
  12. Mix in minced chives and adjust with salt and pepper according to taste. Serve immediately.

Beer-Battered Onion Rings

February 24, 2012

In the past, I have made these oven-fried onion ring. They use crushed saltines and potato chip to substitute for deep frying. While tasty, they just aren’t the same as genuine onion rings. So when I saw these onion rings on a new episode of Cook’s Country, I was excited to give them a try. The recipe solves some of my biggest complaints, when I take a small bite the entire onion comes out leaving just the hollowed ring of batter. Chris Kimball solves this by soaked the raw onions in a mixture of beer, malt vinegar, and salt. Not only are the rings are softened, but this technique also enhances their flavor.

Delicious battered onion rings; but a big mess

But these onion rings are not without their own set of problems. Without breading they stick too each other too easily, stripping away the batter in places. In the end, the results were mixed; some rings were 4-1/2 stars while others were barely 3-stars.

Issues:

  1. The batter is extremely runny, and without breading they stick very easily to one another while frying.
  2. While Chris Kimball says to fry them in small batches, his recommended size is still too big. The onion rings still stuck together. I think it is better to add the rings one at a time, and do not treat them as “batches” at all. Rather treat each ring individually, though it will take more vigilance. There will always be a ring going in or out.
  3. I made this recipe with 2 large onions and ended up with way more onions rings than we could possible eat. I’ve scaled back the recipe below to use only one large onion. If you are making for a crowd, the you can follow his original ingredient list.

Rating: 3-stars
Cost: $2.50.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 1:00 PM.  Ready:  2:45 PM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

1 large sweet onions (but can use regular yellow onions)
1-1/2 cups beer
1 teaspoons malt vinegar (or cider vinegar is unavailable)
Salt and pepper
2 quarts peanut or vegetable oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cups cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  1. Peel your onion and slice 1/2″ thick. Place the onion slices (without separating into individual rounds) in a zip-lock bag with 1 cup beer, 1 teaspoons malt vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour.
  2. Pour oil into a Dutch oven set over medium-high burner. While oil is heating to 350-degrees, prepare mixture in a large bowl by whisking together flour, cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. Add 1/3 cup beer and continue whisking until there are just a few lumps remaining; adding a tablespoon of beer at a time until your obtain the proper consistency. You know you have the proper consistency when the batter that drips from the whisk leaves a bit of a trail as it falls back into the batter.
  3. Set an oven rack to the middle position, and pre-heat to 200-degrees.
  4. Drain onions and use paper towels to pat them dry. Separate onions into individual rounds, discarding any that are too small.
  5. Put 1/2 of rings in batter, and place them one-at-a-time into the hot oil. Do not treat them as “batches”, but rather you should try to fry each ring for 2-1/2 minutes per side.
  6. As you remove the rings, place them in a baking sheet lined with paper towels, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and keep them warm in the 200-dergee oven.  Repeat with second set of onion rings, but wait until the oil reaches 350-degrees before you begin to fry again.

Garlicky Shrimp with Bread Crumbs

February 21, 2012
I haven’t made this recipe in a few years, since before I started this blog, and wanted to see if it was as good as I remember. While the bread crumbs make the dish appear somewhat disheveled, they add a lot more flavor when compared to a simple shrimp scampi. The bread crumbs are so delicious that I always eat any unused crumbs by themselves with a spoon (I hope that confession isn’t too embarrassing). Quick and easy to make, perfect for a nice weekday meal; 4-stars.

Presentation is not so great; but shrimp and very tasty

Comments:
  1. I recommend buying a baguette to eat along side your meal, and using a portion to make your homemade bread crumbs. But today I was serving along side a bit of fresh pasta, so I used panko (Japanese bread crumbs).  The Panko is almost as good as homemade, but under no circumstances should you use regular store-bought, pre-made bread crumbs. I make this declaration not only in terms of this recipe, but in terms of all recipes ever created.
  2. Chris Kimball recommends serving this with rice and broccoli.
  3. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of clam juice. Instead of buying a jar of clam juice, I cook the shrimp shells in 1/2 cup water while I am preparing the rest of the recipe. I always use this substitution because not only does it save $2.50, but space in my 17-cubic-foot refrigerator is at a huge premium.

Rating: 4.stars
Cost: $9.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 5:30 PM.  Ready:  6:15 PM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

1 pound large shrimp (31-40 per pound)
1-1/2″ piece baguette (or 3/4 cup Panko)
1/2 shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
3 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 medium cloves garlic
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup vermouth or white wine
1/3 cup clam juice
1 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 lemon, cut into wedges

  1. Defrost your shrimp by placing in cold tap water for an hour, replacing water every 15 minutes. Peel (and devein) your shrimp, placing the shrimp in a colander and shells in a pot.
  2. Dice your shallot and chop the parsley.  Cut baguette into 1″ cubes and pulse in a food processor about 10 pulses. You should have 1/2 cup coarsely ground bread crumbs.
  3. Place a 12″ non-stick skillet over medium burner, and melt 1 tablespoon butter. After the foaming has subsided, saute bread crumbs, minced shallot, plus 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper for 7 to 10 minutes; until the bread crumbs become golden brown. Mix in 1 tablespoon of minced parsley. Empty bread crumbs to a plate and clean your skillet using paper towels.
  4. Drain your defrosted shrimp in a colander and pat them dry using paper towels. Put in bowl with 1/8 sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Toss to combine.
  5. Add 1-1/2 teaspoons oil to your non-stick skillet. Increase burner to high and pre-heat oil until it begins to shimmer.
  6. Cook your shrimp in two batches, adding half the shrimp in a single layer. Partially cook for 3-1/2 minutes without moving or flipping. Empty partially-cooked shrimp to clean plate; wipe out skillet using paper towels; and repeat with another 1-1/2 teaspoons oil and remaining shrimp.
  7. Decrease burner to medium heat and melt 1 tablespoon butter. Press garlic cloves directly into skillet and add pepper flakes; cooking for only 30 seconds. Add flour and continue cook for 1 additional minute.
  8. Increase burner to medium-high and whisk in sherry and clam juice. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then whisk in 1-1/2 tablespoons butter. Once melted, stir in lemon juice and 1 tablespoon parsley.
  9. Reduce burner to medium-low. Empty place with shrimp and any accumulated juiced to skillet. Toss to cover shrimp with sauce, covered with lid, and  cook for 3 minutes.
  10. Put on serving dish and sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs. Slice a lemon into wedges and serve.

Green Olive, Almond, and Orange Pesto for Cheese Ravioli

February 19, 2012

Cook’s Illustrated’s January article about pesto excited me into trying some non-basil pesto. Of the four variations (the main recipe was red roasted peppers with pistachio), I made the Green Olive, Almond, and Orange Pesto for Cheese Ravioli because I though my kids would prefer the almonds and oranges. Unfortunately, I could barely taste anything other than strong sharpness of the parsley and olives. The subtleties of the orange and almonds were lost in a sea of bitter saltiness; a complete disappointment. The kids ate just one ravioli each, and, despite my earlier excitement, I can only give these ravioli 2-1/2 stars. They were edible is the best thing that I can say about them. A standard basil-based pesto, highlighting the basil’s natural sweetness, would have greatly outshone this bitter dud.

The parsley and olives made the ravioli too bitter

Comments:

  1. While my opening paragraph may seem too harsh for a 2-1/2 star recipe, I re-read it and cannot soften my disappointment. The 1-1/2 cups of parsley dominated the sauce, but it wasn’t until half way into making the recipe that I realized what a huge amount of parsley was being used. Of course, I have nothing against parsley per se; I love a good tabbouleh salad. But in the case of tabbouleh, the acid of the lemons and sweetness of the mint work well against the bitterness of the parsley. But today’s recipe seems ill-conceived. Really, the only other flavor you thought to add to bitter parsley was saltiness from olives?
  2. Sorry Chris, I normally love your recipes. I never would have guessed that my harshest review in 2 years would be for cheese ravioli. I think 2 of the 2-1/2 stars are because cheese ravioli are inherently delectable.
  3. I couldn’t find the Rosetto Cheese Ravioli that Chris Kimball recommends, so I ended up using his second choice Celentano Cheese Ravioli. Fortunately, Celentano products were on sale for 50% off this week, so the 1-1/2 pound bag only cost $3.75. My regular grocery store only sells the bottom of the barrel; Gina Italian Village and Mama Rosie’s Ravioli ; which were panned quite harshly in the CI taste test.
  4. Slivered almonds are generally blanched, but I was able to find some that were not. The recipe as published didn’t really make clear if I should use blanched or un-blanched, pre-toasted or if I was supposed to toast them myself. I bought un-blanched, but did not toast them myself. I think that they would have had more flavor has I toasted them.
  5. Chris Kimball says that my 1-1/2 ounces of grated Parmesan cheese would yield 3/4-cup. In fact, using his recommended microplane I got twice that; 1-1/2 cups.

Rating: 2-1/2 stars.
Cost: $9.75.
How much work? Very Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 5:30pm. Ready: 6:00pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  In case I have not scared everybody off with such a harsh review, the descriptions of how I prepared them today are given below:

2 garlic cloves, do not peel.
1-1/2 pounds cheese ravioli
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup pitted green olives
1-1/2cups fresh parsley
1-1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Add 4 quarts of cold water to a large pot. Bring to boil over high heat; about 15 minutes. Boil un-peeled garlic cloves for 1 minute. Remove using a slotted spoon and rinse under a cold tap to stop the cooking. Peel and roughly mince the garlic.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to boiling water. Add ravioli and cook for 5 to 7 minutes al dente according to the instructions on your ravioli package, stirring frequently. Set aside 1/2 cup the cooking water, then drain ravioli in a colander and return the pasta to the pot (off the burner).
  3. While the pasta cooks, add garlic, olives, parsley, Parmesan cheese, slivered almonds, orange zest, and orange juice to a food processor. Pulse 25 times until finely ground, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula after every 10 pulses. Then slowly add the olive oil with the food processor running, and process until it becomes incorporated. Season with salt (I didn’t feel any was needed because of the olives) and pepper according to your taste.
  4. Combine 1 cup pesto and the cooked ravioli. Carefully toss toss to combine, and adjust the sauce’s consistency as desired by adding 1 tablespoon of the reserved cooking water at a time. Serve, passing the remaining 1/2 cup of pesto separately.

“Foolproof” Chicken Cordon Bleu

February 13, 2012

The only other time I’ve made Chicken Cordon Bleu Chris Kimball didn’t yet have a published recipe. At the time, I made a pretty standard recipe; butterflied chicken, rolled ham and Swiss cheese, and coated with bread crumbs. Today’s recipe cuts 4″ pockets into boneless chicken breasts and stuffs rolls of ham/cheese, which is then rolled in a combination of crushed Ritz crackers and bread crumbs. The flavor was good, but the chicken was dry because I over-cooked the chicken waiting for the outer coating to brown, and there was no sauce to save the day. 3-1/2 stars, but toasting the crumbs longer could improve the flavor and keep the chicken moister.

Chicken Cordon Bleu made with Ritz crackers

This is not the first time I’ve messed up a supposedly “fool-proof” recipe; the fool-proof pie dough (for lack of a bench scraper) and the fool-proof croissants (which took 4 batches to get the cooking time/temperature right).

Issues:

  1. While Chris Kimball says to use thinly sliced ham, the truth is that the ham must be cut thick according to deli-standards. True, if he was talking about a ham steak then it would be considered thin, but my deli counter had to cut the ham at twice the regular thickness to get the desired 1 ounce per slice.
  2. The 4″pockets I cut into the chicken breasts were not big enough to hold two 6″ ham/cheese packets. I squeezed them as much as I could, but the pockets didn’t close and there were places where the bread crumbs were attached to ham instead of chicken. But the thick ham still managed to keep 99% of the cheese from leaking out.
  3. The bread crumbs were too pale, and pale bread crumbs have less flavor that well toasted ones. I toasted them for 6 minutes; well beyond the 3 to 5 called for in the recipe. But they toasted only very slowly when I baked the chicken, so the chicken was overcooked. Next time I’ll Next time I’ll toast the crumbs in step 1 for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they become almost as dark as I want the final crust.
  4. There was so much wasted flour, so next time I’ll cut it down to 1/2 cup.
  5. I will also cut the eggs down from 3 to 2, and reduced the Dijon to 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon in order to maintain the appropriate concentration.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars. (with potential to go higher)
Cost: $10
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 4:00 PM.  Ready:  6:30 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds total)
25 Ritz crackers (about 3/4 sleeve)
4 slices hearty white sandwich bread
6 tablespoons butter
8 thin slices deli ham (about 8 ounces)
5 ounces shredded Swiss cheese (2 cups )
Salt and pepper
2 large eggs
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  1. Set an oven racks to both the lowest and middle positions. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Melt butter either in microwave or one stovetop. Tear bread slices into pieces and crumble crackers directly into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 10 times until coarsely ground. Sprinkle melted butter evenly over bread crumbs and pulse 3 times to incorporate. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake on the middle oven rack until golden brown; about 6 to 8 minutes; stirring occasionally so that the bread crumbs brown evenly. Set aside in a pie plate (or leave on baking sheet if the bread crumbs aren’t overdone in order to save cleaning another dish). Keep your oven on at 450-dergrees.
  2. Grate your Swiss cheese. Lay out a slice of deli ham and arrange 1/4-cup of cheese in a 4″ line (about the length of the pockets you cut into the chicken). Roll tightly and set aside.
  3. Dry your chicken breast using paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use a paring knife to cut a 3-to-4″ pocket into the thickest part of the chicken; being careful not to cut all the way through. Put two ham/cheese rolls inside each pocket. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  4. Use a fork to beat the eggs and mustard together in a pie plate. Measure 1/2-cup flour onto another plate. Working like an assembly line, coat chicken lightly with flour, dredge in egg wash and allow excess to fall back into pie plate, coat in bread crumbs and press lightly so that they adhere. Plate coated chicken on a clean baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  5. Bake on lowest rack for 10 minutes, then move the chicken to the middle rack. Reduce oven to 400-degrees and continue baking for 20 to 25 minutes longer. The chicken will be done when the chicken registers 165-degrees. Ten with aluminum foil and allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes on a clean cutting board.

More Ice Cream Flavors: Cappuccino, Vanilla Bean and Cookies ‘n Cream.

February 9, 2012

First, I just discovered some big news in Ice Cream on the Cook’s Illustrated website. While I discovered these ideas too late to incorporate them into these recipes below, they seemed so helpful that I wanted to mention them even before trying them. First, to speed the freezing of the ice cream (thereby reducing ice crystals) freeze 1 cup of custard mixture until frozen, then just before churning add the frozen custard into rest of the refrigerator custard. This trick can knock up to 10 minutes off the churning time. Second, replace 1/3 of granulated sugar with corn syrup, which will deter ice crystals at a molecular level.  Third, allow the final ice cream to freeze for an hour in a pre-chilled, metal, flat cake pan, before transferring to its final storage container. The higher surface area will allow the ice cream to freeze faster.

Recipes for layers 1 and 2

Last week, I made this ice cream cake consisting of three flavors of ice cream for my son’s 11th Birthday. As promised, I am now posting the remaining recipes; cappuccino and vanilla bean ice cream. Also, I wanted to mention some delicious variations. My favorite variation for the cappuccino ice cream is to swirl in a layer of home-made dulce de leche. My youngest son’s favorite variation of vanilla bean is to mix in 12 broken Oreo cookies; the best Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream in the world.

Rating: 4-1/2 to 5-star.
Cost: $2 per quart.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 2pm. Ready: 6:30pm.

Chris Kimball does have a version of coffee ice cream; he mixes the coffee grounds directly into the milk/cream, effectively steeping the grounds while the milk comes up to temperature. Chris Kimball also has two vanilla ice cream recipes, the newest one from July 2011 is here.

Cappuccino Ice Cream:
6 shots espresso (total of 8 oz).
3/4 cup sugar (or 1/2 cups if using Dulce de Leche)
4 egg yolks
1-3/4 Cup heavy cream
2 teaspoon vanilla.
1/2 tablespoon ground espresso beans.
Optional: Swirl in a layer of Dulce de Leche

  1. Prepare a large bowl of ice water; to be used as an ice bath after removing cream from stove-top.
  2. Make espresso directly into measuring cup with at least 1 cup capacity.
  3. Add heavy cream, espresso and 1/2 cup granulated sugar to medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat for 5 minutes until the mixture reaches 160°; stir occasionally to ensure that the sugar completely dissolves. Temporarily remove pan from heat to prevent the milk from boiling.
  4. Meanwhile in a small bowl, beat the yolks together with 1/4 cup sugar. Temper the yolks by whisking in 1/2 cup of the 160° cream. Then whisk in a second 1/2 cup to further temper.
  5. Add the yolk mixture back in with the cream/espresso in the saucepan. Cook over medium burner until the mixture reaches180°; stir constantly with heat-proof spatula. Cooking too long will scramble your eggs.
  6. While the mixture heats up, wash your medium bowl and place it in ice batch, and get your strainer handy.
  7. When the mixture reaches 180°, immediately strain your mixture into the medium bowl. The ice batch will allow the mixture to cool to room temperature quickly; stirring occasionally will help it cool. Add vanilla extract, cover, refrigerate for 3 hours. Alternatively freeze for 1 hour; just be sure it’s below 40°.
  8. Add mix into the ice cream machine’s canister. Churn for 35 minutes, adding ground beans in last 5 minutes. While ice cream churns; pre-freeze the ice creams final container/bowl.
  9. Put finished ice cream in airtight container, or press plastic wrap against the ice cream’s surface. Freeze for at least 2 hours before serving. (after 1 hour coat with dulce de leche on wax paper; roll up wax paper)
  10. Makes 1 quart. Start at least 4 1/2 hours before eating.

Old-Fashioned Vanilla Ice Cream
1-1/4 cups of 2% milk.
1-1/2 cup heavy cream.
3/4 cup sugar.
4 egg yolks.
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean

  1. Prepare a large bowl of ice water; to be used as an ice bath after removing milk from stove-top.
  2. Add milk, heavy cream and 1/2 cup granulated sugar to medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat for 5 minutes until the mixture reaches 160°; stir occasionally to ensure that the sugar completely dissolves. Temporarily remove pan from heat to prevent the milk from boiling.
  3. Meanwhile in a small bowl, beat the yolks together with 1/4 cup sugar. Temper the yolks by whisking in 1/2 cup of the 160° milk/cream. Then whisk in a second 1/2 cup to further temper.
  4. Add the milk/yolk mixture back in with the milk in the saucepan. Cook over medium burner until the mixture reaches180°; stir constantly with heat-proof spatula. Cooking too long will scramble your eggs.
  5. While the mixture heats up, wash your medium bowl and place it in ice batch, and get your strainer handy.
  6. When the mixture reaches 180°, immediately strain your mixture into the medium bowl. The ice batch will allow the mixture to cool to room temperature quickly; stirring occasionally will help it cool. Slice your vanilla bean length-wise and scrape out the caviar with the back of a paring knife. Add vanilla caviar and vanilla extract, cover, refrigerate for 3 hours. Alternatively freeze for 1 hour; just be sure it’s below 40°.
  7. Add mix into the ice cream machine’s canister. Churn for 35 minutes, or per manufacturer’s instruction. While ice cream churns; pre-freeze the ice creams final container/bowl.
  8. Put finished ice cream in airtight container, or press plastic wrap against the ice cream’s surface. Freeze for at least 2 hours before serving. Makes 1 quart. Start at least 4 1/2 hours before eating.
  9. For a delicious variation, roughly chop 12 Oreo cookies.

Mushroom and Leek Galette with Gorgonzola

February 6, 2012

There was a point while making this recipe that I was 100% sure that I had failed; that my $20 had been wasted. I re-check the recipe and was sure I had faithfully followed all the instructions. But the dough more closely resembled mildly damp flour than a “shaggy mass”; there was absolutely no cohesion whatsoever. Just when I was ready to add more water and was explaining my failure to my son, he read to me the most important part of the recipe. It was written in bold (how could I miss it?) “Don’t doubt the dough,” said my son. These turned out to be the most important 4 words of the recipe.

Nice weekend meal of French Galette

In the end, the rolling/folding process worked the butter into layers which held the dough together. I was afraid the gorgonzola would be too strong for my boys, so I made their half using mozzarella. But the gorgonzola offered flavor without overpowering the dish. I should have used gorgonzola all the way around. The Galette turned out fantastic; deep flavors, but a light meal. The dough was fantastic. I’ll definitely remember this recipe for my vegetarian friends. Expensive because of the mushrooms and crème fraîche. 4-1/2 stars.

Comments:

  1. “Don’t doubt the dough,” were the words of the day. It won’t be until well into the rolling/folding (step 6) that you will actually have confidence in the dough. The photo at the bottom of this post is from step 4, but it only partially conveys the dryness of the dough; dry like the Sahara.
  2. Buying 1-1/4 pounds of Shiitaki mushrooms is a difficult thing to do in my town. My local supermarket sells 3-1/2-oz pre-packaged shiitakes for $4; which multiples out to $24 in mushrooms alone. Instead, I drove 10 miles away and was able to cherry-pick my shiitakes for just $10.
  3. I wasn’t completely sure how to slice the leeks, so I sliced them in 1/2″ rounds. After they were softened, I separated the rings using my fingers while mixing with the mushrooms. Next time I will slice the leek in half lengthwise and then cut the 1/2″ slices.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $22.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 2:00 pm. Dinner Time:  6:00.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

Dough:
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (6-1/4 oz)
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour (2-3/4 oz)
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 tablespoons ice water (3-1/2 oz)
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Filling:
1-1/4 pounds shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound leeks, white and light green part only
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
3-oz Gorgonzola cheese
1 large egg
Sprinkling of Kosher salt
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

  1. Add both types of flour, sugar, and table salt to the bowl of a food processor. Give 3 short pulses.
  2. Cut your well-chilled butter into 1/2″ pieces and add to food processor. Given 10 one-second pulses, which should leave you with pea-sized butter. Empty mixture into a medium bowl.
  3. Evenly drizzle water and vinegar over flour/butter. Use a rubber spatula and folding motions to combine. Chris Kimball says that you will get a “shaggy mass with some dry flour remaining”, but it can better be described as an incoherent bowl of slightly damp flour. Be careful not to overwork the dough or the final crust will be tough.
  4. Lay a large (15″ x 12″) piece of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the mixture in the center. Lightly press together to form a 4″ square. Tightly wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
  5. Very lightly flour a work surface and roll your dough out into a 11″ x 8″ rectangle. Use a bench scraper to fold up in three parts just like a business letter; leaving an 8″ x 4″ rectangle.
  6. Rotate dough 90-degrees, and again roll your dough out into a 11″ x 8″ rectangle. Use a bench scraper to fold up in three parts just like a business letter; leaving an 8″ x 4″ rectangle.
  7. Again rotate your dough 90-degrees. For the third and final time, roll your dough out into a 11″ x 8″ rectangle. Use a bench scraper to fold up in three parts just like a business letter; leaving an 8″ x 4″ rectangle. Fold your dough in half to for a 4″ x4″ square and press down on the top to fuse the layers together. Refrigerator for 45 minutes, but this can also be done 2 days ahead of time.
  8. To prepare the filling, remove the stems and slice the mushrooms thin.  Place in a medium bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 4 or 5 minutes. Drain away any juices in a colander and return to the bowl.
  9. Allow dough to sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.
  10. Remove the dark-green part of the leeks and reserve for another use (or discard). Slice the white and light-green part of the leeks into 1/2″ rounds and wash thoroughly to remove any dirt. Also, mince your thyme.
  11. Place a 12″ skillet over medium burner. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and pre-heat until the begins to shimmer. Cook leeks and thyme covered for 6 or 7 minutes; they should just be beginning to brown. Add to bowl with mushrooms. Add crème fraîche, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper according to taste. Stir together until combined.
  12. Set an oven rack to low-middle on which you can put a pizza stone (if you have one). Pre-heat oven to 400-degrees.
  13. Heavily flour your work surface and roll dough into a 14″ circle. Use a paring knife to trim away any rough edges and to improve your circle.
  14. Use a drinking straw (or paring knife) and place a 1/4″ hole in the center of the dough. Then make four more evenly-spaced 1/4″ holes half way between center and edge. You should have a total of 5 holes.
  15. Move your dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and use a pastry brush and paint with 1 teaspoon olive oil.
  16. Crumble your gorgonzola. Spread half the vegetable mixture over the dough, leaving a 2″-wide border all around the edge. Spread half the gorgonzola. Spread the remaining vegetable mixture, and then the remaining gorgonzola. Evenly sprinkle 1 teaspoon olive oil over filling.
  17. In one spot along the edge, fold the 2-inches edge up and over the filling. Then make another fold every 3″ so that the folds slightly overlap and form pleats. Pinch the dough at the pleats without pressing the dough down into the filling.
  18. Lightly beat an egg in small bowl and use a pastry brush to coat the exposed dough. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt.
  19. Reduce oven to 375-degrees, place the baking sheet directly on the baking stone, and bake for about 40 minutes; the filling should be beginning to brown and the crust is not overdone. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile finely chop your parsley and sprinkle evenly. Cut and serve in pizza-like wedges.

After 45-minutes in the refrigerator, dough still lacks cohesion.


Chicken Marbella

February 3, 2012

I have never had Chicken Marbella, but when I mentioned it to a friend she said that she eats it regularly and strongly encouraged me to make it. I made this “quick version” of Chicken Marbella for Thursday’s dinner. It took about 1-1/2 hours to prepare, which is the absolute upper maximum that I can possibly make on a weekday for a 6PM dinner. Traditionally a whole chicken is marinated overnight, but Chris Kimball had me use pre-cut, un-marinated chicken pieces. Chris Kimball says that the traditional marination results in flabby skin. While the skin here was well browned, the tenting in step 7 steams the skin so that it is no longer crispy. The chicken is flavorful, but the flavors are only skin deep. Fortunately there is plenty of thick sauce for dipping, but you’ll have to dip every bite. 4-stars.

Made in 1-1/2 hours with flavorful sauce.

Comments / Issues:

  1. This recipe is from the current issue of Cook’s Illustrated. It definitely falls into the category of recipes that I would not normally cook; olives, prunes and anchovies. But because I’ve pledged to make every recipe in every issue I had no choice, and am glad that I gave it a try. Both my kids liked it; even the picky eater.
  2. Chris Kimball says not to move chicken while browning the skin, but the skin stuck to the skillet and ripped as I removed the chicken from the skillet. I think it is better to move the chicken once or twice to ensure that it doesn’t stick, even if that means it’ll take an extra few minutes to brown the skin.
  3. Instead of pouring sauce on serving platter, I served the sauce on the side. Anyone with children know that sauce should always be served on the side, or you risk a hungry kid.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $13.50.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Started: 4:30 pm  Ready:  6:00 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

Paste:
1/3 cup pitted green olives
2 tablespoons capers
1/3 cup pitted prunes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves
3 anchovies
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch red pepper flakes

Chicken Ingredients:
3-lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
Kosher salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup pitted green olives
1 tablespoon capers
2 bay leaves
1/3 cup pitted prunes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

  1. To make the paste, rinse olives and capers, and peel garlic cloves. Place all paste ingredients in your food processor, and process for ten 1-second pulses. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then continue to pulse for another 1 to 2 minutes until the paste becomes mostly smooth.
  2. Set an oven rack to the middle position and pre-heat your oven to 400-degrees. Use paper towels to pat your chicken dry, and season both sides with 1-1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and a sprinkling of pepper.
  3. Begin heating 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a 12″ skillet on a medium-high burner. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the chicken (with skin-side down) and cook until the skin becomes nicely browned; 5 to 8 minutes depending on size of the chicken pieces. Meanwhile rinse olives and capers, and slice your olives in half. Coarsely chop your prunes, and finely chop 2 tablespoons of parsley (which will be added in two steps).
  4. Set chicken aside on a plate, and drain off most of fat from skillet, and reduce burner to medium-low. Put 1/3-cup of paste in skillet and saute for 2 minutes. Use the wine and broth to deglaze the bottom of the pan, then mix in rinsed olive halves, capers and bay leaves.
  5. Add the chicken (skin-side up) and any accumulated juices back to the skillet. Try to keep the skin above the liquid. Bake in oven for 15 minutes.
  6. Carefully remove skillet from oven and spread the remaining paste on tops ans sides of chicken. Evenly distribute chopped prunes around the chicken. Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes more until the breasts reach 165-degrees (leg quarters should be cooked to 175-degrees).
  7. Remove chicken to a clean serving platter and loosely tent with foil. Fish out the bay leaves and add butter, vinegar, 1 tablespoon minced parsley. Adjust salt and pepper according to taste, and pour sauce around chicken or in a gravy boat. Sprinkle the chicken with final 1 tablespoon of minced parsley.

Ready to go into the oven for a second time


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