Pommes Anna

December 31, 2014

I made these decorative potatoes as part of my wonderful holiday meal. While they look beautiful, a quick glance at the ingredient list reveals that they are just a prettier version of plain, old potatoes. No surprises whatsoever. The slow-cooking in the skillet on the stove-top gives them a nice crust. The carmelization adds nice flavor. 3-1/2 stars, the texture of my top layer was a little over-done. Next time I will reduce the stove-top cooking to 25-minutes.

Beautiful dish, but really just regular potatoes.

Beautiful dish, but really just regular potatoes.

Chris Kimball warns against slicing the potatoes until you are ready to start assembling. I’m not sure what the consequences are, but thought that it was important to pass along. I had contemplating to peel and slice them ahead of time to save time on the day of my massive meal.

Rating: 3-1/2 stars.
Cost: $2.50.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Low/Medium.
Start time: 4:45 PM. End time: 5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

3-lbs russet potatoes (you can also use Yukon Gold or white potatoes)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil
Salt and ground black pepper

  1. Use a vegetable peeler to peel your potatoes. Also melt the 5 tablespoons of butter; either in the microwave or in a 10″ non-stick skillet (wipes and used again in Step 3). Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 450-degrees.
  2. Use the slicing attachment on your food processor to slice your potatoes into 1/16″-to-1/8″-thick slices. Empty into a large bowl with melted butter, and use your hands to toss until potatoes are evenly coated.
  3. Add 1/4 cup vegetable oil to a clean, 10″ heavy-bottomed, non-stick, oven-proof skillet. Swirl to evenly coat the skillet. Set a kitchen timer of 30 minutes, and put the skillet over medium-low burner.
  4. Use the nicest slices to form the bottom layer. Start arranging by placing one slice on center the skillet. Continue by overlapping more slices in a circle around the center slice. Continue to form the next outer circle of overlapping slices. Your first layer should consist of 3 or 4 rows of overlapping potatoes until the entire bottom of the skillet is covered with potatoes. Evenly sprinkle each layer with a scant 1/4 teaspoon salt and pinch of ground black pepper.
  5. Arrange the second layer of potatoes by working in the opposite direction of the first layer; evenly sprinkling each layer with a scant 1/4 teaspoon salt and pinch of ground black pepper. Continue repeating the layering of potatoes, switching directions with each layer, and sprinkling with salt and pepper, until you have used all the potato slices. You can piece together broken or uneven slices to form a single piece. When you are done, the potatoes will mound in the center of the skillet.
  6. Continue cooking until the 30-minute timer you set in Step 3 has beeped (if you are unsure about the correct setting of medium-low, check after 25 minutes. Use the bottom of a 9″ cake pan to press down firmly to compact the potatoes. Use a lid to cover the skillet and bake in oven for 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for 10 more minutes. Test the doneness of potatoes using a paring knife.
  7. Line a rimless cookie sheet (or the bottom side of a sheet pan) with aluminum foil, and lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray.
  8. Hold potatoes in place using the back of the cake pan, titling skillet, drain off and discard any excess oil.
  9. Put foil-lined sheet on top of skillet, wearing oven mitts, flip over and remove skillet. Carefully slide potatoes into serving platter. Serve by cutting into wedges.

French Apple Tart

December 29, 2014

For me, holiday meals usually involve pulling out all the stops. Usually a week’s worth of planning and cooking. And so it was that I came to make this beautiful Apple Tart for Christmas, one of the most visually stunning desserts that I have ever made. The crust had 10 tablespoons of butter (so it’s got to be good). The tart used 5-pounds of apples, so it was destined to be filled with apple flavor. Inexplicably, against everything my eyes were telling me, I simply didn’t like the tart. Just 2-stars.

Looks like a work of art.

Looks like a work of art.

At first, I thought that the desserts downfall primarily lay in the high visual expectations, coupled with the unpopular applesauce-like consistency of the puree used to hold the slices in place. All of my guests complained about the “applesauce”. But as I more closely examined the recipe I noticed a few ingredients were not part of the recipe. Most notably: sugar. While billed as a “tart”, its did not have any relief of the tartness of the green apples.

Rating: 2-star.
Cost: $12.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time: 10:00 AM. End time: 12 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

Crust Ingredients:
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour (6 2/3 ounces)
5 tablespoons sugar (2 1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  1. Put butter in a small sauce over low heat and allow to slowly melt; about 5 minutes. Also, set an oven rack to lowest position and another rack 5″-to-6″ from broiler element. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. Add melted butter and stir with stiff rubber spatula or wooden spoon until a dough forms.
  4. Using your hands, press two-thirds of dough into bottom of 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press remaining dough into fluted sides of pan.
  5. Press and smooth dough with your hands to even thickness.
  6. Place pan on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and bake on lowest rack, until crust is deep golden brown and firm to touch, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Set aside until ready to fill.

10 Golden Delicious apples (8 ounces each)
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Peel and core 5 apples (remaining 5 will be used later). Cut lengthwise into quarters and cut each quarter lengthwise into 4 slices.
  2. Set 12″ skillet over medium heat and melt 1 tablespoon butter.
  3. Add apple slices and 1 Tablespoon water and toss to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples begin to turn translucent and are slightly pliable, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, microwave apricot preserves for 30 seconds until they become fluid. Strain preserves through a fine-mesh strainer reserving the solids. Set aside 3 tablespoons of the strained preserves for brushing tart (most will be used for making the applesauce).
  5. Transfer apples to large plate, spread into single layer, and set aside to cool. Do not clean out the skillet.
  6. Peel and core the remaining 5 apples and slice into 1/2″-thick wedges. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium burner. Add the strained preserve, apricot solids, apple wedges and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover with lid and cook for 10 minutes; stirring a few times until the apples become very soft.
  7. Use a potato masher to mash into a puree and continue to cook for another 5 minutes until it has reduced to 2 cups.
  8. Put puree into baked tart shell and smooth. Select 5 or 6 of the thinnest sauteed apples to use in the center.
  9. Start at the outer edge of the tart, arrange slices in concentric circles, offsetting each circle so that the slices don’t line up. It will create the flower-like pattern. Use the thin, reserved slices to fit into the center.
  10. Bake at350 degrees for 30 minutes (still on the wire rack in sheet pan).
  11. Remove from oven and pre-heat broiler. Water the 3 tablespoons of preserve from Step 4 in microwave for 20 seconds. Evenly brust over the entire surfact of the apples, but avoiding the crust.
  12. Broil for 1 to 4 minutes until the apples are attractively browned. Allow tart to cool for 1-1/2 hours before removing from tart pan and serving.

Boeuf à la mode

December 27, 2014

Seldom does a big dinner work out so perfectly as did my luxurious Christmas diner (see the full menu here). Everything came together within 15 minutes of the estimated 5pm dinner time; a bit of a Christmas miracle given that there were 5 new recipes that I had never prepared before. The absolute star of the show was this french-style pot roast; Boeuf à la mode. It was just as delicious as a traditional French stew, but has the physical slices that I feel are an important element for a Christmas dinner; especially given that the menu already included onion soup. The flavors were deep and rich; but it was missing a slight something to brighten up the dish. 4-1/2 stars. A wonderfully unique Christmas dinner. A home run.

Beautifully beef roast with delicious sauce and vegetables

Beautifully beef roast with delicious sauce and vegetables

According to Chris Kimball, this recipe traditionally requires a 48-hour marinade, and boils pig and calf hooves to thicken the consistency of the sauce. This recipe breaks the chuck roast into two smaller roasts, so that some of the extra fat can be cut away. The two smaller roasts are then tied up to prevent them from disintegrating. And instead of hooves; unflavored powdered gelatin is an easy substitution.


  1. My roast had to come apart into 3 pieces; because of the natural fat lines. I folded and tied the roasts together to form two uniform roasts.
  2. The only frozen pearl onions I have found are made by Birds-eye; a 14.4 ounce bag. Do not confuse them for the smaller box, which includes a “cream sauce”.
  3. If you want to prepare the dish in advance, follow the recipe through step 14, skipping the step of softening and adding the gelatin. Place the meat back into the reduced sauce, allow it to cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To serve, slice the beef and arrange in a 13″x 9″ Pyrex baking dish. Bring the sauce up to a simmer and stir in the gelatin until completely dissolved. Pour the warm sauce over the meat, covering it with foil. Bake at 350-degree for 30 minutes until it’s warned through.
  4. Chris Kimball recommend serving with boiled potatoes, buttered noodles, or steamed rice. I served it with Pommes Anna.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $40.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time: 11:30 AM. End time: 5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

1 boneless beef chuck (4-to-5 lbs)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 bottle red wine (Côtes du Rhône or Pinot Noir)
10 sprigs fresh parsley leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
4 ounces thick cut bacon.
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups beef broth
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut on bias into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups frozen pearl onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup water, plus 1/4 cup cold water to bloom gelatin
10 ounces white mushrooms
Table salt
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin (powdered)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

  1. Pull apart the roast into 2 pieces and trim away fat. Season meat with 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Set on wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet, and allow to stand for 1 hour at room temperature.
  2. With 15 minutes to go, set a large sauce pan over medium-high burner and simmer the bottle of wine until it has reduced to 2 cups. Also tie your parsley sprigs and thyme sprigs together into a bundle using kitchen twine.
  3. Use paper towels to dry the beef and generously sprinkle with 1-1/2 teaspoons of ground pepper. Use 3 to 4 pieces of kitchen twine around each roast to prevent it from falling apart during the long cooking time.
  4. Set a rack to the lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 300-degrees.
  5. Cut bacon crosswise into 1/4″-wide match-sticks. Set a large Dutch oven over medium-high burner and cook bacon for 7 to 8 minutes until crispy. Remove bacon to a plate lines with paper-towels and reserve until Step 7.
  6. Empty and discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat; and return pot to medium-high burner. When the fat begins to smoke, brown the roasts on all four sides for a total of 8 to 10 minutes. While the beef browns, finely chop your onion. Remove beef to large plate and set aside.
  7. Turn down burner to medium, add chopped onions to pot and allow to soften for 2 to 4 minutes; using the moisture the onions give off to begin to de-glaze the pot. Add mined garlic, flour, and crispy bacon from Step 5. After 30 seconds add the reduced wine, 2 cups beef broth, the herb bundle and bay leaves. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  8. Add browned roasts (and any accumulated juices) back to the pot. Bring up to a simmer over high burner, then put a large piece of aluminum foil over the pot and cover with lid.
  9. Bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours until a fork easily slips into the meat. Use tongs to turn beef every hour, and add carrots to the pot after 2 hours.
  10. About the time you add the carrots, Put a large skillet over medium-high burner. Add pearl onions, butter, sugar, and 1/2 cup water, Bring up to a boil, then cover and reduce burner to medium. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes until the onions are tender, then uncover and increase burner to medium-high and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the liquid completely evaporates.
  11. While the pearl onions cook, wipe your mushrooms clean, trim away and discard the stems. Cut small mushrooms in half, and large mushrooms into quarters. After liquid evaporates and mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon table salt. Continue cooking for 8 to 12 minutes until everything becomes browned and glazed. As the beef is ready to come out of the pot (in step 13) use a little of the braising liquid to de-glaze the skillet.
  12. Separately, place 1/4 cup cold water in small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top to allow it to soften.
  13. Remove beef to cutting board, tent with aluminum foil. Allow braising liquid to settle for 5 minutes, then skim and fat off the surface. Fish out and discard herb bundle and bay leaves.
  14. Add in onion-mushroom and bring up to a simmer over medium-high burner. Reduce for 20 to 30 minutes until it measures 3-1/4 cups. Taste sauce and adjust salt and pepper according to your taste. Stir in softened gelatin.
  15. Remove and discard kitchen twice. Carve into 1/2″-thick slices, serve slices with vegetables along side, sprinkled with minced parsley and sauce poured on-top of meat.

Christmas Menu

December 25, 2014

Growing the main course of my Christmas dinners was always turkey, but later in life I felt that its was a repetitive waste; given Thanksgiving was less than a month ago. Since becoming a father I have tried to give my kids much richer culinary traditions. I hope whatever traditions you have in your home, that everyone has a very Merry Christmas, surrounded by people they love. The food is, after all, just icing on the cake.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

This year the Christmas menu has a bit of a French flair. As I publish the results in the upcoming week, I will update these links from Chris Kimball’s original recipes to point to my results.

Baguette. This simple requires a few things that I don’t have, like a special canvas, lame as diastatic malt powder. I will make do without.
Onion Soup. 5 hours in the making, but delicious and I was able to make it two days ago.
Blanched Green Beans with Rosemary-Thyme Aioli.
Pommes Anna. Beautifully decorative potato cake.
Boeuf à la mode. A French beef roast
Apple Tart. A beautiful rendition on an American Pie. A work of art.


Foolproof Single Crust Pie Dough

December 19, 2014

Pie dough is one of those things that seem so easy; throw a few ingredients together and your done. But getting it into a workable consistency often requires too much water (which will make the dough tough). This recipe uses vodka to solve that problem, as the alcohol will not form gluten and will evaporate during cooking. Of course it is also important to keep everything well chilled and to not overwork the dough. For me the most important this is to have a bench scraper; a chef’s knife just won’t do the job properly (in step 7). If you need two pie crusts see this recipe here. Overall, a very successful pie dough. 4-stars.

Final dough was looked and tasted beautiful

Final dough was looked and tasted beautiful


  1. My pie plate was extra large, so I didn’t get those classic fluted edges.
  2. Again, I would strongly recommend a bench scraper. My pie doughs were consistent failures until I bought a bench scraper.

Rating: 4-star.
Cost: $1.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time: 9:30 AM. End time: 12 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

6 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
2 Tablespoons vodka
2 Tablespoons cold water
1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (6-1/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 Tablespoon sugar

  1. Cut butter into 1/4″-slices, put butter and 1/4-cup solid vegetable shortening in freezer. Combine  2 tablespoons vodka and 2 tablespoons cold water; allow to chill for 20 minutes.
  2. Add 3/4 cups flour (3-3/4 ounces), 1/2 teaspoon salt, and sugar into food processor; give it 2 one-second pulses until combined.
  3. Cut vegetable shortening into 2 pieces. Add shortening and chilled butter to food processor. Process for 10 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds, and a few very small pieces of butter will remain. Just make sure that all the flour is coated.
  4. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides/bottom of the food processor (leaving dough evenly distributed in food processor). Add final 1/2-cup flour and quickly pulse 4 to 6 times.
  5. Empty into a medium bowl, and evenly sprinkle with chilled vodka/water from step 1. Using a rubber spatula, mix with a folding motion, pressing down on dough until it sticks together (and is slightly tacky). Flatten into a 4″-disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerator for a minimum of 45-minutes (or up to 2 days).
  6. Set a rack to the lowest position in your oven, and set a rimmed baking sheet on the rack. Pre-heat oven to 425-degrees.
  7. Generously flour a work surface with up to 1/4-cup of flour. Roll out dough into a 12″ circle (should be an even 1/8″-thick. As you roll out the dough, use a bench scraper to ensure that it isn’t sticking to the board, tossing some loose flour underneath as you roll out the dough.
  8. Lift up the dough by very loosely rolling it around your rolling pin, and unroll it into position into the pie plate; leaving a 1″-overhang all around. Ease the dough down into place by gently lifting the edge of the dough and setting/pressing into the bottom of the pie plate. Leave the overhanging dough in plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes until the dough becomes firm.
  9. Trim away any dough that is more than 1/2″ beyond the lip of the plate. Fold overhanging dough under itself (doubling the thickness of the top crust) so that it is flush with the edge of the pie plate. You can either flute the dough (which is prettier) or use the tines of a fork to flatten onto the rim of the pie plate. Refrigerate for another 15 minutes.
  10. Line the crust with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights (or pennies). Bake at 425-degrees on lowest shelf for 15 minutes.
  11. Remove foil and pie weights, rotate plate 180-degrees and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more until the crust is golden brown.
Chris Kimball says to use pennies when lacking pie weights.

Chris Kimball says to use pennies when lacking pie weights.

Slow-Cooked Whole Carrots with Pine Nut Relish

December 16, 2014

My kids usually prefer their carrots whole and raw, but they tried this recipe and didn’t like either the slow-cooked carrots or the Pine Nut Relish.  As an adult, the carrots were tender and evenly cooked. The relish was delicious, though something tasted slightly off. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was. 1-1/2 hours was a long time to dedicate to a side-dish, but it was more clock time than hands-on cooking time. Because of kids reaction and long cooking time, I doubt that I will make this recipe again. 3-1/2 stars.



  1. The preparation of the parchment lid was a bit difficult to understand, but Chris Kimball’s website had a detailed diagram. Also, I included a picture of the end result.
  2. I didn’t do a perfect job peeling the carrots, and small pieces of peel that remained turned dark and unattractive. I don’t think it affected the taste, but the presentation suffered.
  3. The original recipe calls for leaving the carrots whole, but I cut them in half length-wise just before serving.
  4. Chriss Kimball does have a few other relishes to try; Green Olive and Golden Raisin Relish, Onion-Balsamic Relish with Mint, Red Pepper and Almond Relish.

Rating: 3-1/2 star.
Cost: $6.50.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Low/Medium.
Start time: 4:30 PM. End time: 6 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here, and the relish recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

Slow-Cooked Carrots Ingredients:
3 cups water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 carrots (1-1/2 to 1-3/4 pounds)

  1. Prepare you parchment lid by folding 12″-square piece of parchment into quarters creating a 6″-square. Fold the bottom-right corner over to meet the top-left corner; creating a triangle. Fold one more time; right to left; creating a narrower triangle. Cut off 1/4″ of the tip of the triangle (opening a small hole in the center). Measure 5″ from the hole along both edges and cut straight across. (See photo below). Open up paper.
  2. Peel carrots. Put 12″-skillet over high burner; add 3 cups water, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring up to a simmer, then remove skillet from burner. Add carrots in a single layer, placing parchment round on top of carrots. Then put a regular skillet cover on top of everything; allowing to stand for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove the lid, but leave the parchment, place over high burner until simmering. Reduce burner to medium/low and simmer for 45-minutes until almost all the water has evaporated. The carrots will be very tender.
  4. Throw away the parchment. Increase burner to medium/high and continue cooking carrots for 2 to 4 minutes; shaking pan frequently; until they are lightly glazed and there is no more water.

Pine Nut Relish Ingredients:
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 shallot
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne pepper

  1. Toast the pine nuts in the 12″ skillet before starting the carrots. Pine nuts will burn easily, so shake the pan frequently during toasting process. After toasting, set them aside until the carrots are 5-minutes remaining in Step 3.
  2. Mince shallot, parsley and rosemary. Combine all ingredients in bowl. Serve on top of carrots.

Slow-Roasted Chicken Parts with Shallot-Garlic Pan Sauce

December 14, 2014

This new recipe (January/February 2015) looked promising; I’m always looking for new ways to make this staple of our menu new and interesting. The basic premise of the recipe of to quickly brown in a skillet, then to slow-roast in a low, 250-degree oven. The pan sear not only browns the skin, but the fond forms the basis of the sauce. Going against years of recipes, Chris Kimball instructs me not to pat the chicken dry. In this case, it is supposed to allow more flavor to develop for the pan sauce. Unfortunately, the chicken was lackluster. Completely edible, but just an average 3-stars.

Looks great, but only average

Looks great, but only average


  1. I only used leg quarters, which were on sale for $.89/lb. The recipe called for 5-pounds, but by the time I trimmed down the leg quarters I only had 4-pounds. The only real consequence is that I had extra sauce.

Rating: 3 star.
Cost: $9.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time: 3:45 PM. End time: 6 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

5 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (4 split breasts plus 4 leg quarters)
Kosher salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil

  1. Set a rack to the lowest position in your oven, and a second rack that measure 8″ from the broiler element. Pre-heat oven to 250-degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a wire rack in the sheet pan. Trim any excess skin and fat from the bone-in chicken pieces, sprinkle with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and pepper (but do not pat the chicken dry).
  3. Set a 12″ skillet over medium/high burner, add 1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil and pre-heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Put leg quarters with the skin-side-down and cook for a total of 5 to 7 minutes per batch; turning once. The chicken should be golden brown.
  4. Move chicken to prepared sheet pan and arrange so that the legs are all pointing to one side of the sheet.
  5. Pour off any fat from the skillet and add breasts with the skin-side-down and cook for a total of 4 to 6 minutes per batch; turning once. The chicken should be golden brown.
  6. Move chicken to prepared sheet pan and arrange so that the legs are all pointing to one side of the sheet.
  7. Pour off any fat from the skillet, but do not clean. Set chicken on lower rack so that the legs point to the back of the oven. Bake for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours until the breasts register 155-degrees and the legs register 170-degrees. (While the chicken roasts, begin making the sauce below). Remove from oven and allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes, and pre-heat broiler.
  8. After resting, move sheet pan to upper rack and broil chicken for 3 to 6 minutes until the skin is well browned and crispy. Serve, passing the sauce separately.

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
2-1/4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
4 shallots, sliced thin
6 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

  1. While the chicken roasts, add broth to a bowl and sprinkle 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin. Allow the gelatin to sit for 5 minutes.
  2. In a separate small bowl, which together the water and corn starch and set aside.
  3. In the skillet that you used to sear the chicken, melt the butter over medium/low burner. Add shallots and garlic, and cook for 6 to 9 minutes until the become brown and crispy.
  4. Add coriander and cook for 30 seconds, then stir in the gelatin mixture. Use the moisture to deglaze the pan, then bring up to a simmer over high burner and reduce for 5 to 7 minutes until you have 1-1/2 cups.
  5. Recombine corn starch mixture with a whisk, then whisk into sauce and simmer for 1 minute until it thickens.
  6. Remove from burner and mix in parsley and lemon juice. Adjust the salt and pepper according to your taste, and cover to keep warm.

Coffee Latin Flan

December 6, 2014

Flan is baked custard, usually served with caramel sauce. The first time I had ever heard of it was in 1995, when my neighbor asked a woman who I was dating at the time if she knew how to make Flan.  “Of course”, she said, “Flan Royal”. Wow, not mere flan for commoners, but Royal Flan. I thought she was a “keeper”. But it turned out that Royal was just a brand of Jell-O; most Latin Americans do not make flan from scratch, much in the way we (as a country) no longer make chocolate pudding. (Note to self: make chocolate pudding.)

Wow, easily impress your friends

Wow, easily impress your friends

The Flan was truly impressive, but I was a little nervous that it would release properly and the caramel would be thick and fluid. I could not have asked for anything more. I liked the addition of espresso powder as it made the flan more interesting. The flan is very potent and this yields enough to serve a large crowd. 4-1/2 stars.


  1. For me the caramel cooking times were all considerably longer than specified in the recipe. The most critical thing was that I continued until I saw the reddish-amber hues specified in Step 3.
  2. Because my cooking times were noticeably longer when making the caramel, I used 3 tablespoons of water instead of 2 tablespoons specified in the recipe. My fear was that more of the water had an opportunity to evaporate and that the caramel might completely seize up in my loaf pan. The final consistency was perfect.
  3. I would recommend making your caramel in a stainless steel clad pot. I made mine in a Calphalon (anodized aluminum) pan, and it was difficult to see the color of the caramel to judge its readiness. The good news is that the reddish-amber color was easily spotted.
  4. Chris Kimball also has a variation using almonds (which uses 1 teaspoon almond extract in lieu of espresso powder). Or for a regular flan just omit the espresso powder.

Rating: 4-1/2 star.
Cost: $3.50.
How much work? Medium/High.
How big of a mess?  Low.
Start time: 1 PM. End time: 4 PM. (for serving the following day)

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

Resulted in less caramel than I thought

Resulted in less caramel than I thought

2/3 cup sugar (4-2/3 ounces)
2 large eggs plus 5 large yolks
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
12-ounce can evaporated milk
1/2 cup whole milk
1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, add 2/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Mix until sugar is completely wet.
  2. Put pan over medium-high burner and bring up to a boil (4 to 5 minutes). Cook without stirring for 2 to 3 minutes until it becomes golden brown. Gently swirl pan and continue to cook for another 2 minutes until it becomes the color of peanut butter.
  3. Remove for burner and swirl the pan until the mixture turns red-amber, about 15 to 20 seconds. Carefully add 2 tablespoons warm tap water, which will bubble a steam, and swirl until it becomes incorporated.
  4. Empty caramel into an 8-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ loaf pan (mine was 9″x5″). Do not scrape out saucepan, only allow the liquid to pour by itself. Set loaf pan aside.
  5. Set a rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 300-degrees. Fold a dish towel so that it will evenly fit in a 13″x9″ Pyrex baking dish, and set aside. Bring two quarts of water to a boil.
  6. Meanwhile in a large bowl, whisk together eggs and yolks. Add  sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk, vanilla extract, espresso powder, and salt. Whisk until combined.
  7. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the loaf pan containing the caramel. Use aluminum foil to tightly cover loaf pan and set in baking dish ontop of dish towel. Put in oven and carefully add the two quarts of boiling water into Pyrex baking dish.
  8. Bake for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours until the custard reaches 180-degrees. The center of the custard will still jiggle slightly. Remove foil and allow to completely cool in the water bath; about 1 hour.
  9. Once cool, remove from water bath and tightly cover using plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight of from up to 4 days.
  10. When you are ready to unmold the flan, use a paring knife to slide around and loosed the edges. Invert serving plate ontop of loaf pan, flip over. After it releases, you can use a rubber spatula to scrape and remaining caramel onto the flan.
  11. Slice and serve, and any leftovers can be loosely covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.

No-Knead Artisan Dinner Rolls

December 4, 2014

I wanted to make delicious dinner rolls for Thanksgiving, but wanted a recipe that would work within the tight oven schedule of Thanksgiving day. So for this special dinner I combined recipes and techniques from a few different breads that I have made in the past (see here, here and here). I included a biga for great depth of flavor; which I started on Monday night. On Tuesday night, I made a wet dough so that I wouldn’t have to knead it by hand, since my KitchenAid mixer broke a few years ago (see “Autolyse”). After a few hours rising, I refrigerated the dough to stop the yeast from rising. When dealing with a wet doughs they are much easier to handle when chilled. Because dinner rolls take a bit of handling, the 36-hours in the refrigerator made the shaping process easy. Overall, the rolls were delicious. However, the subtitles added by the biga are largely overpowered by the small amount of rye and wheat flour. 4-stars.

Delicious dinner rolls without kneading

Delicious dinner rolls without kneading

Because I was pulling this recipe from a lot of different places, I tested out the recipe a week prior to Thanksgiving. But the rolls were too small; perhaps because of beer, which I have noticed tends to retard rising. I abandon that recipe, and came up the this recipe to solve the problems that I had encountered.


  1. Yay! I finally ordered a new KitchenAid standing mixer. It had gone on sale for $225 at Target.com. The difference between their Professional and Artisan series is the steel gears of the professional series are more durable when making a lot of dough.
  2. My test batch of dinner rolls from last week also reminded me how quickly they became hard; within just a few hours. Unless you are going to eat them right away, you must keep them wrapped in plastic.
  3. If using a separate container for rising, do not attempt to do the mixing and rising directly in the same container. It is impossible to properly mix the dough anyplace other than a regular bowl.
  4. The recipe yielded too much dough, so next time I will cut down on the recipe by about 15%.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $1.25 for 16 rolls.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 10:30AM pm Ready:  12:00.

The recipes from which I developed today’s bread are here, here and here. The final descriptions of how I prepared the bread are given below:

Biga Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/2 cup water (4 ounces)

  1. Make the biga the night before baking the bread; combine flour, yeast, and water in medium bowl. Use a wooden spoon to stir for 1 minute until the mix appears uniform.
  2. Use plastic wrap to cover and allow to stand overnight at room temperature. If you kitchen is much below 70-degrees, then you can use a slightly warmed oven (but turned off) which will ensure there is sufficient warmth.

Dough Ingredients:
2-cups water, preferably non-chlorinated spring water.
1 tablespoon granulated yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1-ounce rye flour
1-ounce whole wheat flour
3-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  1. Preheat 2-cups water to 100-degrees; about 45 seconds in the microwave. Add yeast and kosher salt to warm water, allowing it to hydrate while measuring out the flours.
  2. Add biga to a large bowl. Place bowl on a kitchen scale and zero out; you want to add a total of 22-3/4 ounces of flour. Add rye and whole wheat flour. Add all-purpose for a total of 22-3/4 ounces. Mix until combined, but without kneading. Empty the dough into a 4-quart container and let sit at room temperature until it has almost doubled in size; between 2 to 4 hours. Put container in refrigerator until ready to use. The dough is very wet, so allowing it to cool completely will make it easier to work with.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle evenly with a very thin coat of flour.
  4. Carefully remove dough from bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in half with a bench scrape or chef’s knife and carefully stretch each piece into a 24”-long cylinder. Cut each cylinder into quarters; then cut each piece into two (yielding a total of 16 evenly-sized pieces).
  5. If you slightly squished the cylinder as you made each cut, restore its roundness. Put 8 pieces of dough in each cake pan with the cut-side up; placing one piece of dough in the center and the other seven pieces like the spokes of a wheel.
  6. Set an oven rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 500-degrees. Cover pans with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to rise for about 30 minutes until they have double in size. You can also test it because the dough will spring back if you gently press with your finger.
  7. Discard plastic wrap and lightly spray the rolls with water. Bake for 10 minutes until the rolls are brown. Turn the oven down to 400-degrees. Remove rolls and turn them out onto a rimmed baking sheet. After 5 or 10 minutes the rolls will have cool enough to handle, pull them apart and place on baking sheet. Bake at 400-degrees for 10 to 15 minutes; rotating the pan half-way through baking. They should have a deeply golden crust, and sound hollow if you tap their bottoms.
  8. Allow to cook on a wire rack for 30 minutes to an hour before serving.

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