Thursday, November 19, 2009

Things I ♥ :: Holiday Gift Guide!

Anywhere you go it feels like the Holidays are here, I love it!  It makes me crave pumpkin pies, and peppermint lattes, and big bowls of stuffing.  ...Yes, I actually like the stuffing a bit more than the turkey... but shhh! :-)

Sorry for the lack of posts (really!!!), but A. and I took a few weeks off and went on a small vacation to visit family for Thanksgiving.   So I've been staying clear of the kitchen.  In the meantime, and in the spirit of getting ready for the Holiday shopping madness...I thought I'd share a few of my favorite things:  a Holiday Gift Guide!  It starts get ready!!!

...all things food, kitchen, entertaining, related,  and a few of my random faves for everybody on your list:  you're mom the baker, you're friend the tea lover, your co-worker the chocolate fiend, or your husband the vanilla-syrup addict (...yes, A., that's you!)  or even for yourself (come on, shopping is hard work, everybody deserves a little reward!)

Hope you enjoy!  Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Farmer's Feast :: Apple & Beer Roasted Chicken w/sides

It's such a dreary day here in NYC:  grey, chilly, and rainy.  Oh...I'm not complaining... I actually love days like today, lazy Saturdays!  It made me remember that I had yet to post a delicious meal we had a couple of Sundays ago when the weather was very much like today.  Just one of those days when you don't want to leave the house.  So we stayed in.  

 The menu:
- Apple & Beer Baked Whole Chicken
- Roasted Asparagus
- Parmessean Polenta Bites
- Roasted Butternut Squash Puree

It reminded me of a rustic farmhouse meal... nothing too fussy.  Just simple, roasted food.  

I was feeling so lazy, I didn't tie the chicken, I simply used a skewer to hold the drumsticks together.  It actually worked very well!  The chicken is delicious with the sweetness of the apples and the bitterness of the beer.  And the roasted squash is so sweet from the oven roasting it tastes almost like sweet potatoes.  It all went perfectly with the crispy oven roasted polenta with Parmesan, and simple asparagus side.  


1 whole Chicken (about 2-3 lbs, preferably free range)
2 baking Apples, cored and sliced
1 bottle of beer
2 tablespoons Light Brown Sugar
3 tablespoons Butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon Cloves
Salt & Pepper

In a heavy duty baking oven (I used a 5qt Dutch Oven)  add the beer, apples, and cloves.. In a small owl, combine the herbs, butter, sugar, salt and pepper.  Rub the chicken with the mixture.  Go under the skin of the chicken with the rub as well.  Place the chicken in the baking oven with the liquids, and allow it to season in the fridge  for an hour.  

Preheat the oven to 375F.  You can place a skewer through the two drumsticks to keep them in place.  Place the baking dish in the oven.  Cook, covered, for about 45 minutes or until the temperature of the inner thigh reaches 170F.  (While the chicken is cooking, baste the chicken with the beer about every 15 minutes).  Uncover the dish, place oven on broil (500F) and cook for another 10 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven.  Allow the chicken to rest for 1o minutes, and carve.  Serve with the cooking liquids and apple slices.

1 Butternut Squash, peeled & cubed
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Toss the squash with a bit of olive oil (enough to coat) and salt.  Place on a baking sheet & cover with foil.  Cook for about 30 minutes or until softened.  Remove from the sheet and place in a bowl.  Add the cream and taste for salt.  With an immersion blender (or potato masher) puree the squash, but still keeping a bit of the chunks.  

BAKED POLENTA SQUARES (adapted from 101 cookbooks)
1 1/2 cups Polenta
1 cup Milk
2 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup Water
1/2 cup Parmesan
Melted Butter (about 3 tablespoons)

In a large saucepans, bring the liquids to a boil.  In a slow stream, add the polenta while stirring constantly to prevent lumps.  Lower the heat to low and add salt to taste (be careful - depending on the amount of salt in your stock you may not need additional salt).  Continue to stir while the polenta thickens.  Add the cheese.

Remove from heat and spread the mixture into a slightly buttered baking dish to about 1/2" thick.  Chill in the fridge for at least one hour.

Carefully flip the baking dish over onto a cutting board.  Using a sharp knife cut the polenta sheet into desired shapes.  I cut into squares, and then cut those into triangles.  Brush the pieces with the melted butter.

Bake the pieces in a 450F oven for 15-20 minutes until they start to brown.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

For Dinner :: Tarragon Mustard Chicken & Mushroom Crepes

We've been talking about going to Cafe Henri for months.  It's a little Parisian crepe cafe in the West Village on Bedford St.  We walk by it often, have heard great reviews.  But it's one of those things you always think about, but when trying to think of places to go for dinner - we always forget it!  Well, we were finally going to go Sunday but last minute we got lazy, ordered pizza, and watched movies.  Oh well... someday! :-)

But, last night, still craving crepes, I thought: why not just make them at home? 

For the crepe batter I used the recipe from the wonderful  'The Food of France" cookbook (one of my faves... really one of the only cookbooks I consistently pull out), and for the filling I decided to improvise using a delicious tarragon mustard I had gotten recently.  I have to admit that condiments are one of my little obsessions! (...if you can't get tarragon mustard, you can replace it with dijon mustard and chopped tarragon)  

Isn't tarragon delicious?  It's sweet, with a bit of a licorice taste and just enough spice.  I love it in bernaise sauce atop a steak frite, but it also goes so perfectly with chicken ...and mushrooms!  So that's what I came up with:  a tarragon mustard chicken in a creamy mushroom and shallot wine sauce.  All inside delicate french crepes and broiled with gruyere cheese!

Yum, yum, yum!!!  What's not to love about crepes, gruyere, and a creamy, spicy tarragon chicken?

It was delicious!  It's funny how sometimes dishes just come together on a whim and seem to work out perfectly.  A. officially named it one of his top 5 dishes (I'm still trying to find out what the other 4 are!  I think Soupy Dumplings are up there)

Anyway... enjoy! :-)

(serves 4)
4 chicken breasts
Juice of 1 lemon
Springs of Thyme, about 5
2 + 1 tablespoons Tarragon Mustard, divided (you can replace with 3 tablespoons Dijon Mustard, and 1 tablespoon chopped Tarragon)
1 Shallot, chopped
2 cups of mushrooms, slices
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons Butter
1/3 cup Gruyere, grated
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive Oil

2 cups All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Sugar
Pinch Salt
1 2/3 cups Milk
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon melted unsalted butter

Season the chicken with 1 tablespoon mustard, lemon juice, drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Allow the chicken to marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (or while you prepare the crepes).

To sautee the chicken do not use a non-stick pan, you want the chicken and vegetables to stick a bit so you can then deglaze.  Heat the pan over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil.  When the oil starts to bubble, add the chicken breasts.  Allow the chicken to cook almost completely.  Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.

In the same pan, add the chopped shallots and a dash of salt.  Sautee until they start to become clear.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and continue to cook.  Add more olive oil if needed.  When the mushrooms start to brown and soften, deglaze the pan with the wine and cream.  Add the remaining mustard and taste for salt and pepper.  Allow the sauce to come to a boil.

Cut the chicken into 1/2" pieces and add into the sauce.  Allow the sauce to continue to simmer until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove from heat.

Now you are ready to assemble the crepes!  Preheat the oven to broil (500F).  Lay one crepe flat on the oven pan you will be using.  Add the chicken and mushroom sauce to half of the crepe.  Fold the crepe over in half, and then once over itself again to create a cone shape.  Repeat with all crepes (you should have enough chicken for about 8 crepes) and arrange the crepes next to each other in the pan.  Pour any remaining sauce into the pan.  Sprinkle the crepes with the cheese.  Place in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the cheese browns and the crepes start to crisp.  Serve immediately with a green salad.

For the crepes:  
Sift the dry ingredients and mix together.  In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, milk and water.  Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and slowly add the liquids into the middle while whisking to prevent lumps.  Add the melted butter and continue to whisk until the batter is smooth. Let the batter rest for 20 minutes.  

When ready, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add a bit of butter to the pan and add about 1/2 of batter per crepe.  Move the pan around in a circular motion to create a thin uniform layer of batter in the pan.  Continue to cook for about 2 minutes.  Remove the crepe from the pan and place on a plate covered with a paper towel while you continue to cook the rest of the batter.

Oh...for dessert?  Crepes with Nutella, of course!  Just smear any leftover crepes with about 3 tablespoons of Nutella and serve with powdered sugar.  :-)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Morning :: Egg & Black Truffle 'Brouillade'

It's A.'s birthday next Sunday!  In celebration of the start of his b-day week I wanted to make a delicious breakfast this morning.  And what better way to start the day than with fresh black truffles?

I went on a bit of a truffle frenzy the other day when walking around Chelsea Market.  I walked out with a jar of truffle butter, truffle ricotta raviolis from Boun Italia, and my very own black truffle!  Isn't it lovely? I'm so in awe of where these little things come from and their rarity.

The price of truffle by the pound is pretty intimidating, but you can buy one truffle (roughly: 1 ounce) for around $20 - $25.  Or truffle butter for around $10 for a 4 ounce container.  There are also a great variety of affordable truffle flavored oils which are great for risottos or pastas.

Excited with my little truffle, I started doing some research on potential dishes.  I saw mention of a french dish called a "Brouillade" (which means 'scrambled') of eggs and black truffles.  So tempting... and you can't ask for more luxurious breakfast!  I ran out for a fresh baguette and started cooking. 

It's traditionally one of the first dishes served from the truffle harvest. You allow the eggs to sit overnight (up to 2 days) with the truffles so that the aroma starts seasoning the eggs.  Then the eggs are slowly cooked with the shaved truffle, heavy cream and butter over a 'bain marie' to create a a creamy, smooth, aromatic scramble.  

It's so delicious, and elegant!  The slowly cooked eggs are velvety smooth, and the truffle taste is delicate but distinctive.  Perfect!!!  ...I might start serving this as a dinner appetizer.  


(serves 2)
6 large Eggs
1 ounce Truffle
2 tablespoons of Heavy Cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (or Truffle Butter for a stronger taste!)
Salt & pepper to taste

This recipe is all about the few ingredients, so use good quality eggs.  I always buy free-roaming eggs.  

Clean the truffle by running it over a gentle stream of cold water to remove any dirt, pat dry.  Store the eggs in an airtight container with the cleaned truffle in the middle overnight or for up to 2 days.

When you are ready to prepare the eggs.  Crack the eggs open and whisk with salt.  Shave the truffle thinly, set aside a few whole shavings for garnish, and finely chop the others and add to the egg mixture.  Store the eggs and truffles in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 hours.

Bring the water in the 'bain marie' bottom pot to a boil. (Note: I do not have a 'bain marie' pot so instead I use a stainless steel mixing bowl that fits perfectly atop one of my sauce pots.  In a pinch, use a non-stick skillet over the lowest heat).  

In the top portion of the double boiler pour the egg mixture and the cream.  Whisk the eggs continuously as they start to cook and thicken.  Do not allow the eggs to scramble.  You want a creamy consistency instead of large lumps.   As the mixture starts to thicken, add the butter and more salt to taste.  Continue to whisk until cooked but remain creamy.  The total cooking time will be no longer than 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and serve immediately.  Garnish with truffle shavings and accompany with fresh baguette or country bread slices.

Perfect Topping :: Stewed Berries w/Creme de Cassis

Sorry for the lack of posts this week, I've been feeling a bit under the weather. :-(  But I'm feeling much better and am back to the kitchen... and computer! :-)  

It's been so chilly here in NYC that I've been craving anything warm.  Even warm fruit!  Stewed fruits are delicious, it brings out all of the fruits sweetness.  You can stew berries or pit fruit with your favorite spices or liquors and use as a topping for anything from oatmeal to ice cream or cakes.  It's the perfect Fall treat!  And the perfect use for any frozen fruits you might have leftover from the summer... or fresh ripe berries.  

I used frozen strawberries and blueberries, and fresh blackberries; and spiced it with cinnamon, lemon and Creme de Cassis.  Creme de Cassis is a French blackcurrant liquor which is used to make the delicious and beautifully colored Kir Royale champagne cocktail.  It's perfect to have around for the holidays (look for a Creme de Cassis 'de Dijon'). 

These berries are perfectly sweet and tart, with a delicate syrup.  A.'s been topping vanilla ice cream with every night.  :-)  Yum!


1 cup Blackberries (divided into 2)
1 cup Strawberries (divided into 2)
1/2 cup Blueberries
2 tablespoon Honey
1 Cinnamon Stick
1/3 cup water
Juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons Creme de Cassis

In a heave saucepan over medium heat add half the blackberries and strawberries, the blueberries, honey, cinnamon stick, lemon juice and peel, and water and bring to a boil.  Lower heat, and continue to cook uncovered while stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.

The liquid will become a syrup.  Taste the syrup fro sweetness and add more honey or lemon juice to taste.  Add the Creme de Cassis and let it come to a boil again.

Remove from heat and add the remaining berries.  Enjoy warm over ice cream or cake, or store in the fridge and keep for a week.

Monday, November 2, 2009

How To :: Poach Salmon

I ♥ fish, but I confess that I shy away from cooking it on a daily basis because of the strong smell.   And I'm not one to shy away from food smells, but when you are in a small, open loft apartment, it's something you think twice about.  A. and I spend hours devising ways to keep my many food experiments from spreading to the whole apartment! 

So, when I read recently that poaching fish is virtually odorless, I was sold.  Plus, I enjoy the moist texture of poached fish fillets, and it's delicate, aromatic taste.  It's delicious (and healthy!) served warm with roasted vegetables, or topped with a rich sauce (this recipe with a caper butter sauce sounds delicious), or as part of a french Nicoise salad (instead of canned tuna).  

Traditionally, the fish is poached in a pot called a 'poissonierre' which is elongated to fit a large whole fish.  It contains a liftable tray (almost like a pasta pot) that easily separates the fish from the liquid.  Although it is a wonderful pot, you can poach fish in any sort of heavy skillet or dutch oven.

I got the most wonderful surprise last Friday when I got home and had this beautiful, new 5 qt dutch oven sitting atop my stove.  Can you believe it? It's like the kitchen fairy snuck in and left me goodies!  Well, no, it wasn't a fairy,  it was a wonderful gift from my parents to whom I've been endlessly telling (and they've patiently listened) about all of my kitchen obsessions.  Well, since last week, I've used it in all my cooking.  It's the perfect size (not to mention color!).  ...And perfect for this recipe.

You can poach many different fish, but, thicker, more solid fish works best, such as: salmon, cod, tuna, or monkfish. I used wild salmon fillets.  Poached salmon is usually seasoned with dill, but I used cilantro which I think goes wonderfully with fish.  To serve, I drizzled it with a bit of olive oil and fresh lemon.  Very simple.  It's a perfect weeknight meal... the best part: the leftovers will be delicious tomorrow over a salad!


4 - 4oz fillets of Wild Salmon (about 1" thick)
2 cups dry white wine
3 cups water
1 Lemon
2 Carrots, chopped
Fresh Cilantro, chopped
Salt & Pepper
1 tablespoon Strong mustard (such as Colmans or a Dijon)

Season the salmon fillets with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, salt & pepper, and a smear of mustard.

In a heavy skillet or dutch oven, over high heat, add the wine, water, juice of 1/2 a lemon along with the lemon rind, a bunch of chopped cilantro, chopped carrots, and salt & pepper to taste.

When the liquid boils, carefully add the salmon fillets.  Make sure the fish is fully submerged in the liquid.  Lower to medium-high heat and allow the liquid to continue to simmer.  Cook the fish for 3 minutes on one side and then flip over the fillets for another 3 minutes.  Be careful, this will cook very quickly.

Remove the fillets from the liquid and serve warm with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh cilantro, or allow the fish to cool and store in the fridge for cold salads.

*The seasonings to the wine/water can be changed to your tastes.  Try dill and shallots, or even add beetroot for added color and a bit of earthiness.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween :: Gorgonzola & Sage Flatbreads

After a disastrous afternoon of cookie baking (so sad!), I was not too excited to go back to the kitchen.  But my second experiment of the day turned out much better! :-)

Our friends S. & N. were coming over to help greet the trick-or-treaters.  I wanted to have something easy to eat, something that we could munch before heading out.  So, I opened up the fridge and came up with these cheesy, roasted flatbreads, perfect!  I topped one with Gorgonzola and orange peppers, and one with brie and ham.  And added fresh sage leaves and honey to both.  Perfectly salty, savoury, and sweet!

Fresh Direct has a great pizza dough which I always have in the freezer, but feel free to make your own.  This is a perfect recipe to use up leftover cheeses.  I think the honey and sage bring it all together, especially when paired with the pungent Gorgonzola.  


1 Round of Pizza Dough
1/2 cup Gorgonzola
1 Orange Pepper (you can replace w/other vegetables: squash would be delicious!)
Fresh Sage Leaves
Olive Oil
Squeeze of Honey
Watercress or Rocket Lettuce for garnish

Preheat oven to 375F.  Place the defrosted pizza dough on a cookie sheet lightly greased with olive oil.  Spread the dough to create a flatbread but be careful to not stretch the dough too much so that it breaks.  It doesn't have to be a perfectly even shape.

Cook the bread for 15 minutes or until it starts to bubble up and crisp.  Remove from the oven.

Top the bread with the peppers, gorgonzola, and sage leaves (about 5 leaves).  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and honey.  Sprinkle with pepper.  

Turn oven to Broil (500F).  Place the flatbread back in the oven for 5-8 minutes or until the cheese melts and the crust starts to brown.

Allow the flatbread to cool for 5 minutes.  Garnish with a pile of watercress lettuce on top and slice and serve

Happy Halloween :: Scary Cookie Experiment

Happy Halloween!!!  Hope had a spooktacular day!

I was very excited to spend the day baking chocolaty owl cookies for all of our trick-or-treaters!  I had seen Thomas Keller's Oreo cookie recipe on The Kitchn.  It's Bouchon Bakery's recipe for their famous chocolate cookies sandwiched with a white chocolate frosting.  Doesn't that sound divine and look adorable? 

I'm not usually a decorated cookie baker.  I love rustic desserts: simple pastries, fresh fruit tarts, traditional cookies, and buttery pound cake... food coloring and frosting doesn't usually do it for me.  But it's halloween!  So I bought a scary owl cookie cutter and even a piping bag and was ready!

But it was a disaster.  :-(  

The cookies were too crumbly and fragile to be easily assembled, my tiny kitchen looked like a chocolate tornado had hit the West Village, and the dough was way too buttery and sticky for cut-out cookies.  They lost their shape once they were cooked, and even after I cooled them for hours, they broke when I tried to pipe them with frosting.

The picture above is the uncooked dough... it had great promise, all before it got into the oven!

I thought it was just me, but after reading some of the comments on their post this morning, it looks like other halloween bakers had similar issues with the recipe.   (Don't you love recipe comments?)  I think some of the measurements in the recipe are off. 

Oh well!  I went ahead and assembled the ones I could, and the kids didn't seem to mind too much.  I think it helped that I also had a giant bowl of candy bars.    Happy Halloween!

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