Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Foodie BlogRoll

I’m a lazy blogger this week. I’ve been meaning to do a long post with all the details of Sunday night’s Cora/Deen vs. Irvine/Florence Iron Chef episode, but I just can’t get in the mood. Really, it was pretty bland. The women won, just like everyone knew they would. The only memory I really have of it is watching Paula cut up a huge brick of Velveeta that she then used to make fudge. Gross.

But I suppose I should post at least one picture, so here you go. Enjoy.

The big news this week is that I’ve just joined the Foodie BlogRoll! On the right of my page there’s a list of a bunch of wonderful foodie blogs, which now includes yours truly. To join, click the first link of the list or visit the Queen herself at The Leftover Queen. Thanks Jenn!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving for Two

I've never made Thanksgiving dinner before. I want to, but I never get the chance. Thanksgiving is always at someone else's house, which means that I'm not doing the cooking. But it just seems wrong that, on perhaps the biggest food holiday of the year, I'm not in the kitchen whipping up something new (or repeating something new I saw on TV). That's why this year I decided I would have two Thanksgivings, and one would be all mine.

Now, there's sort of a problem with that, as well. It's just me and my fiance at my place, and we can't eat a whole turkey. I would love to have leftovers (turkey sandwiches, turkey tetrazzini, turkey potpie . . . . so many possibilities), but I already have our little freezer stuffed to capacity. So I decided to do a mini Thanksgiving with just enough food for one big meal.

After scouring around a while for the perfect recipes, I decided on turkey cutlets with cornbread, sage, and prosciutto stuffing and brussels sprouts with pancetta. As with most Thanksgiving meals, the turkey, while good, was sort of forgotten among the sides, which were better than good.

The cornbread stuffing had a much finer texture than usual stuffing. It was made with corn muffins, and my muffins broke down a lot during the cooking process. But that's okay. This was one of those rare and wonderful recipes where I wouldn't change a thing, although I imagine it would also be really good with a bit of sausage crumbled in.

The other side was brussels spouts with pancetta. This was the first time I've made brussels sprouts on the stovetop. Normally I roast them in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and the outside leaves begin to brown and crisp and they're just delicious. This recipe (Giada's) calls for cooking the brussels sprouts in a pan with pancetta and chicken stock. These were good, but I missed those outer crispy leaves that you get with roasted brussels sprouts. The fiance, in perpetual opposition to me, liked the softer texture of these sprouts. I'll have to play around with this one some more. Maybe if I left out or reduced the chicken stock, I could get them to be just a bit crisp but not as crisp as ones done in the oven.

For dessert? Leftover pumpkin butter gooey cakes, of course.

So, in short, it was a very satisfying mini Thanksgiving. I actually much prefer a small meal at home to a big elaborate affair at somebody else's house. Of course, I didn't have leftovers, which as everyone knows are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. Maybe I'll wait til next week and see if I can get a small turkey on sale and, if there's room in my freezer by then, I'll try again....

Monday, November 19, 2007


Rachael Ray’s latest invention is choup. If you haven’t yet heard, choup is a dish that’s thinner than chowder and thicker than soup.

Whatever you may think of the name, this stuff is pretty good. I love being able to make soup—er, choup—in 30 minutes. It was Rachael’s idea to garnish it with white cheddar popcorn, which I initially thought was sorta weird, but I’m glad I went with it. It actually works.

I made this even thicker by using half the amount of stock and the full amount of cream. I also threw in some garlic and celery, but you could toss in whatever you have around and it would probably work. It’s a very easy, very adaptable recipe. Yum-O!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes

I haven’t made a Paula Deen recipe for a very, very long time. There’s a reason for that.

It was a dark and stormy night, almost a year ago. I, unsuspectingly, thought I’d make some macaroni and cheese. The Lady’s Cheesy Mac, specifically. I, naively, followed the recipe exactly. I, foolishly, made a macaroni and cheese recipe that called for three eggs. Three. Eggs.

I won’t soon forget the horror of that night.

Seriously though, it was gross. The egg flavor was overwhelming. I understand from the reviews that plenty of people like this recipe, but it just wasn’t for me. Just thinking about it makes my upper lip curl in disgust.

So it was with great courage that I returned to Paula, willing to give her a second chance. I’d heard raves about her Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes, and I just couldn’t resist. Besides, I’m a sucker for pumpkin this time of year.

The raves were right. These gooey cakes are awesome. Go make them now. Then serve them still warm with whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkled on top. You won’t be sorry.

Just stay away from the cheesy mac.

There Is a Secret to Juicier Turkey...

And it’s called brining.

I suppose I should admit that I haven’t actually tried this yet. But logically, it just makes sense. I’ve always been confused by basting. I mean, sure, basting can do great things for the skin, but what about the meat? Plus, all that opening of the oven door just increases cooking time, which can result in a dry bird.

That’s why I love Alton Brown’s brining technique. I’ve seen him do two variations, the original brine and the honey brine, and Alton promises that either one will keep your turkey moist right through the leftovers.

Brining basically involves soaking the turkey in a salt water solution, with flavorings, for 6 to 12 hours. I guess you could consider the added prep time a drawback, but personally I think it would be worth it for the better bird that Alton promises. The brining solution penetrates the meat, not just the skin, and that results in a juicier turkey.

Or so I’ve heard. If it doesn’t work, blame it on Alton.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Chicken, Sausage, and White Beans

Another Emeril recipe tonight. This one I changed up a bit. I stuck close to the ingredients but used a different method. Emeril’s way required cooking dried beans, and I couldn’t be bothered with that so I just used canned. It wasn’t exactly a stew when I was done, but that’s okay. It went great with garlic mashed potatoes.

I’m posting the recipe here along with a warning: In addition to not bothering with dried beans, I also couldn’t be bothered to measure. Adjust the seasonings to your own taste, because the “amounts” I’m giving here are very rough.

Chicken, Sausage, and White Beans
adapted from Emeril’s Chicken, Sausage, and White Bean Stew

2 tablespoons olive oil
5 chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound andouille sausage, casings removed
1 chopped yellow onion
1 bay leaf

1 chopped green bell pepper
2 stalks chopped celery
5 cloves minced garlic
1 can white beans, drained
1/4 cup chicken stock, plus more if needed
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

kosher salt
black pepper

garlic powder
onion powder
cayenne pepper
dried oregano
dried thyme

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and sprinkle with seasonings. Just add a thin layer of each seasoning on top of the chicken pieces, using more or less of each depending on which flavors you like most.

After about 8 minutes, crumble sausage into pan and give everything a stir. Add onions and bay leaf. Cook until onions begin to soften and sausage is mostly done, about 10 minutes.

Add peppers and celery and cook for 5 more minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock (how much you need will depend on how much is stuck to your pan), scrape up any bits stuck to the pan, and add beans and fresh thyme. Stir, taste, and adjust seasonings as desired.

Reduce heat to low and cook for about more 10 minutes or until any extra stock is absorbed. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Barefoot Potatoes

A while ago, I caught an episode of Barefoot Contessa in which Ina made scallion and parsley potatoes. I've been making them regularly ever since. Ina's were part of a big elaborate breakfast, but I usually just serve mine on the side with sausage and cheese sammies on toasted mini bagels. This recipe is so easy that I do it without really measuring anything, but here it is, roughly.

Scallion and Parsley Breakfast Potatoes*
serves 2
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
extra virgin olive oil
3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
handful of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
kosher salt and black pepper

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet along with a couple drizzles of extra virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add onion and potatoes. Leave alone for 5 minutes so that potatoes can begin to brown. Season well with salt and pepper.

After 5 minutes, turn potatoes, check for doneness, and cook 5 to 10 minutes more, depending on how soft you like them. When potatoes are at the desired doneness, check for seasoning and add extra salt and pepper, if needed. Turn off heat and add scallions and parsley. Serve warm.

*I don't think Ina's original recipe is any longer available on the FN website. It's probably moved on to one of her cookbooks by now.

Simple, simple, simple. You can use red-skin potatoes if you prefer and adjust the amount of scallion and parsley to whatever suits you. As Ray Ray would say, it's really more of a method than a recipe.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

I’ve been making a lot of Emeril recipes lately. I wish I enjoyed watching his show more, because I really like his food. Oddly, I find that there’s often an inverse relationship between the shows I most enjoy watching and the food I most enjoy making. For instance, I love watching Semi-Homemade—nothing else on the FN comes close for sheer entertainment—but I’ve never wanted to make anything Sandra Lee has heated up—I mean, cooked.

Anyway, today I made Emeril’s Pumpkin Muffins. I omitted the chocolate glaze and instead added semisweet chocolate chips to the batter. I’m sure the glaze would have been good, but I’m lazy. Plus I didn’t have enough chips for that.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins
recipe adapted from Emeril’s Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Glaze

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus an extra pinch

1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375ยบ. Spray a 12-muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine chocolate chips with a generous pinch of flour, just enough to give chips a fine, even coating. This will help keep the chocolate from settling to the bottom of the batter as the muffins bake.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat together sugar, milk, pumpkin, melted butter, and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips, reserving some to sprinkle on top of muffins. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, and drop a few chocolate chips in each cup. Bake until golden brown, about 18 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the tin for 10 minutes.

These were pretty tasty. I recommend eating them warm with a cold glass of milk. The pumpkin flavor is fairly subtle, so if you want to bring it out more you could use fewer chocolate chips. Or you could omit them entirely and replace them with walnuts or pecans. Emeril used dried cranberries, which would probably be good, too.

Potato Pizza

Every time I go to Pizzeria Uno, I get the same thing: Pizza Skins and a Caesar salad. I suppose “pizza skins” is a play on “potato skins,” but the name is a bit misleading. It’s really a pizza crust filled with mashed potatoes and topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Delicious.

Recently, I was searching for a copycat recipe, not really expecting to find one, and was surprised to come across Emeril’s Loaded Potato Pizza. This recipe actually is from a viewer who won Emeril’s potato recipe contest, and so I guess isn’t technically Emeril’s, but whatever. I was just excited to find the recipe.

I modified it just a bit—left out the tomatoes, changed the cheese, added some chives—and it was awesome.

Loaded Potato Pizza
adapted from Emeril’s Loaded Potato Pizza

Pizza Dough
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup warm water*

*I found that the proportions for the dough were a bit off. If needed, add a bit more warm water, a tablespoon at a time, just until your mixture comes together and forms a nice ball of dough.

13 medium red skin potatoes, peeled
7 cloves of garlic, crushed and peeled
4 tablespoons butter
¾ cup of heavy whipping cream
Kosher salt
black pepper

6 strips of bacon
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup of shredded cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried chives

Make the dough first. Combine flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. Mix in water and oil until dough ball forms. Cover bowl and set aside to rise, at least 30 minutes, while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Preheat oven to 450°.

Put potatoes and garlic in a large pot and fill pot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. When water is boiling, add a generous pinch of salt and lower heat just enough so that potatoes continue cooking at a gentle boil for 20 minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, fry the bacon until just crisp (it’ll crisp up a bit more in the oven). Remove bacon, place on paper towels to drain, and add onions to the same pan while the bacon grease is still hot. Cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until onions are lightly caramelized. Remove from pan and set on a paper towel to drain off grease.

After boiling for 20 minutes, drain potatoes and garlic, return to pot, and mash. Add butter, cream, a teaspoon of salt, and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Whip with a hand-held mixer until potatoes are smooth and creamy.

Roll out pizza dough on a generously floured surface. Work into a 12-inch round and place on a pizza pan. Don’t be afraid to man-handle the dough a bit—it can take it. Once dough is nicely shaped on the pan, sprinkle with onions and spread potatoes on top to within 1-inch of the edge of the dough. Top with onion powder, cheeses, crumbled bacon, and chives. Sprinkle with extra salt and pepper if desired.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Serving with a side Caesar salad is optional but highly recommended.

Before making this recipe I thought I’d end up serving the pizza with sour cream dolloped on top or on the side, because, in my opinion, a loaded potato is not a loaded potato without sour cream, but this really didn’t need it. It was delicious as is. I had a hard time keeping myself from just eating the whipped potatoes straight out of the pot. This is the first time I’ve made mine with heavy cream, and I now see that I’ve been missing out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Barefoot Paella

Last night I made the BC's Easy Lobster Paella. Only mine was far less fancy, because I left out the lobster and just added extra kielbasa. True to its name, this was very easy to make. I made it even easier by cooking it entirely on the stove, instead of transferring it back and forth from the stove to the oven to the stove again, as in the original recipe. It seemed to work just fine.

Easy Kielbasa Paella
recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa's Easy Lobster Paella
1/4 cup olive oil
2 chopped yellow onions
2 red bell peppers, sliced into 1/2-inch strips
6 cloves garlic
2 cups white basmati rice
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1.5 pounds kielbasa, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2-inch thick
10 oz. frozen peas
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Heat oil in a 5-quart pot or pan. Add the onions and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the rice, chicken stock, saffron, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and allow to cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, uncover pot and stir gently. Check that rice is not sticking to the bottom of the pot, and lower heat if necessary. Cook uncovered for 10 more minutes, or until the rice is fully cooked.

Turn off the heat and stir in the kielbasa and peas. Cover the pot and allow paella to steam for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

In the original recipe, 1/3 cup of Pernod is added right before the kielbasa and peas (and lobster). I skipped this step (not crazy about the licorice flavor). I wanted to substitute some white wine, but all I had open was a bottle of Zeller Schwarze Katz, which I thought would be a bit too sweet. Next time I make this, I'll be sure to have a bottle of Pino Grigio around.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

New Shows: Nigella and Amy

I’ll be honest. I rolled my eyes when I first heard about Nigella Express, indignant and offended that apparently I, a Food Network viewer, had yet again been deemed unfit for cooking that was not easy, simple, fast, or semi-out-of-a-box. The name “Nigella Express” made me think, for some reason, that I’d be getting a sort of express version of Nigella’s previous show. After seeing a couple episodes, however, I realize that the cooking really hasn’t changed much since Nigella Feasts. Nigella’s never been one for fussy, labor-intensive ordeals, and Nigella Express simply adheres to that approach. I do suspect that the Food Network must have had something to do with choosing the new title though. I think their shows are becoming more and more geared toward people (women) who want to throw together a quick meal at the end of the day. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that—I happen to be such a woman, in fact. But I do also want to learn something from watching these shows and making the meals, and I don’t really expect that to happen when everything can be done in thirty minutes or less.

Anyway, back to Nigella Express.

I like the show. I haven’t made any of the recipes yet, but I do enjoy watching Nigella. I like her accent, her vocabulary, and her easy approach to cooking and obvious love of indulgence. My favorite part of each episode is the very end when she opens the fridge in the middle of the night and snacks on whatever leftovers she finds.

This, for me, is a nice change from the one-bite helpings that other Food Network women usually serve themselves.

I also love the set.

Those lights are a great touch. I love the layout in general, especially the shelving. And if this is actually an apartment, I want to move into it. I want those pink bowls and that pink couch.

And then, there’s Amy’s new show, The Gourmet Next Door:

This has to be the ugliest set/kitchen I’ve ever seen. Those blue tiles should not be seen outside of a bathroom, and if there’s anything that actually is complemented by brown blinds, it is not this kitchen. The misguided brown/blue combo here is similar to that of the green/orange combo on Rachel Ray’s show, and both just make me want to look away.

I do hope they’ll do something about that kitchen, because I think this show has a lot of potential. Amy wasn’t my personal pick for the next Food Network star, but I’ve been impressed by her knowledge and her recipes. She’s bringing new dishes and new style to the network, both of which are much appreciated, and her recipes are more about great food than they are fast food. Fast food has its place, and it certainly can be good, but the Food Network already has enough of those shows. A touch of gourmet is most welcome.