Cooking the Books: Smothered Cauliflower with Yellow Tomatoes

Guess what, Nerds! I am starting something new around here…let me introduce Cooking the Books, a new feature? series? (what am I, fancy?) on this here blog. I have a bit of a cookbook collection. I also get food mags, A LOT of food mags. I tend to read my cookbooks like novels for inspiration, and I dutifully read through my magazines every month and tear out the recipes that I think look delicious. (Except for Fine Cooking, I don’t tear anything out of my Fine Cookings, they stay intact and go right into my bookshelf.) But then I rarely actually USE them. I will go back through the cookbooks for more inspiration, and I will look for recipes for things I am craving on the interwebs, and then promptly modify it to my tastes. I thought it might be fun at least once a month or so, to find a recipe that looks good and cook it EXACTLY as presented (to the best of my ability) and report back to you all. There you have it, Cooking the Books (my other job is in finance, “cooking the books”, GET IT?!?!)

I knew immediately what my first one would be, because this is one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen. I mean look at it.

Photo courtesy of Food & Wine

Photo courtesy of Food & Wine, August 2013

Gorgeous. And it sounded intriguing. Cauliflower dredged in flour and caramelized and then cooked with yellow tomatoes? OK! Topped with runny eggs? Heck yes.

The plan for these is to cook them exactly as directed. I will set a timer if an estimated time is given, and I will try to follow the directions and cooking times exactly as they are presented. Here goes…

Recipe: Smothered Cauliflower with Eggs (recipe here)

Source: Heidi Swanson in the Food & Wine Magazine August 2013 issue

Time required: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

Right off the bat, I do not have marjoram leaves or herb flowers for the optional garnish. Good thing it’s optional. I DO have chervil. I do not think this is the most appropriate substitution, but it’s green, so it will look pretty! Additionally, I suspect the one pound of yellow tomatoes they call for were intended to be the size and heft of your standard field tomatoes, but my little farmers’ market didn’t have those. They had these:

Yellow

Yellow

They apparently ALSO had a faulty scale, because they told me that I had just over a pound, and my scale told a different story. Luckily, I had little yellow cherry tomatoes in the house, so I could supplement. I ended up with EXACTLY a pound.

See? Exact.

See? Exact.

Also, oddly enough, this recipe called for a 10 ounce head of cauliflower. That would be a really tiny head of cauliflower. I got one of the smaller ones (at Whole Foods, none of the stalls at my little farmers’ market had cauliflower either, I am going to have to start going to the bigger market) and it was THIRTY ounces. Easy enough to fix I guess, but none the less, not exact.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s do this.

First, I set the timer for 40 minutes.

I then started a medium sized saucepan of water with a good dose of salt to boil.

As the water boiled I sliced the cauliflower and chopped the tomatoes. They referred to cutting the cauliflower in slabs. I took that to mean cutting it vertically into steaks. I got two good steaks and the rest of it kind of fell apart. No matter, I just used the smaller pieces. I also chopped the tomatoes. It calls for 1 pound with 3 cups in parentheses.  I did not get three cups, maybe 2 and a quarter?

Not three cups

Not three cups

Once the water boiled I added the cauliflower and timed it for three minutes. I drained it and patted it dry and tossed with the flour. I heated the olive oil over medium high heat in my 12-inch frying pan, and browned the cauliflower. It didn’t recommend a length of time, but it was probably eight or ten minutes total to get it browned on both sides, like so:

browned

browned

While the cauliflower was browning I grated the lemon peel on my microplane grater. When the cauliflower was browned and caramelized, I added the tomatoes, red pepper, lemon peel and a good pinch of salt, turned the heat down to medium and cooked for five minutes as directed. It was pretty clear at this point that I did not have enough tomatoes. I get the impression the tomatoes were supposed to completely cover the cauliflower, and when the cooked down a bit, they were supposed to be really saucy with a fair amount of liquid in the pan. There were definitely not enough tomatoes to do that.

I toasted two tablespoons of sliced almonds over low heat while the tomatoes were cooking down. I kept the heat low and it took about five minutes.

After the tomatoes cooked down, I cracked four eggs over the tomatoes and cauliflower. The instructions said to make four wells in the tomatoes to crack the eggs into, but there was not enough tomato sauce to make wells in, so I just cracked them over the top, turned the heat down to medium low and covered to cook until the eggs set. Instructions said it would take about 3 minutes, but it probably took closer to six or eight before the eggs set completely. Once they had, I took the pan off the heat, sprinkled on the almonds and chopped chervil for garnish, and voila.

my version

my version

Verdict: The timing was right on, the 40 minute timer went off just as I finished photographing the final dish, which was great. This dish grew on me, actually. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t sure about the first bite. By the end, I was sad it was gone. And I had it for breakfast the other day and it actually reheated pretty well, even with the runny egg, and it was delicious. It absolutely needed more tomatoes. I think I will double the amount next time, because it would have been really really great with more “sauce.” Yellow tomatoes are really sweet and not as acidic as red tomatoes. The cauliflower had really good flavor. The lemon seemed kind of random but was actually really nice. I couldn’t really taste the red pepper, so I may add a touch more next time. And a runny egg makes everything amazing. The almonds added some good texture. It was really nice. Not as pretty, but delicious. I will make this again, I suspect.

In other news…

What I am reading: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

What I am listening to: El Camino by The Black Keys. I somehow missed out on The Black Keys being a thing until recently. A friend reminded me of them this weekend and I put the album on my phone and have been listening to it quite a bit. (That and Neko Case, which is good for headphones at my desk listening. The Black Keys are great for walking to work or cooking listening.)

Things that have captured my attention this week:

The Quotable Jane Austen for Evil People from The Toast made me laugh a lot.

That Zillow commercial where the woman and man are looking for a house and chatting via Skype and then she  and the kid walk into their new home and he is there in uniform to surprise them? AH MAH GAHD, I cry EVERY time. And it’s on a lot.

Do you guys watch Scandal? You should totally be watching Scandal. I cannot wait until it comes back. First season is streaming on Netflix, Season Two is streaming on Hulu. Watch Scandal.

“Guess what day it is?!” This commercial best be on every Wednesday for the rest of the time that I am on this earth.

I had a fried chicken throwdown at my house the other night. And by throwdown I just mean that I used two different methods to prep the chicken and then a couple of my besties and I tried to decide which one we liked better. I used a recipe that Bon Appetit called the best fried chicken ever about 18 months ago, which is tossed with spices the night before, then dipped in buttermilk and egg and dredged in flour and cornstarch the day of, and then a more basic, chicken in buttermilk overnight and then dredged in flour the day of. We actually came out somewhere in between. I liked the extra flavor that the spices gave the chicken but it was a lot of extra kick, and there is something to be said for the simplicity and purity of your basic buttermilk brine. I think maybe next time I will try to split the difference. Use the spice combo from Bon Appetit and temper it by combining that with buttermilk to marinate overnight. I guess I’ll just have to make it again soon, so I can tell you about it. The thing that I don’t have to try again, but will definitely be making again??? A corn salad based on the very famous and VERY delicious Mexican street corn from Toro. Not to worry, I will be telling you about that soon. Very soon.

Football is back in our lives. Football has its issues for sure, but there is just something about Sundays in the fall and winter, football on the tv, people in my house and something delicious on the stove that is absolute perfection.

Grown ass classy lady moment of the week: I gave myself a stomach ache twice because I ate too many fried chicken leftovers for lunch. Congratulations Meghan, you are a puppy.

Cleaning Out the Fridge: Quinoa Zucchini Cakes with Feta and Red Onion

A happy accident

A happy accident

This was a fluke. It was my first day back from vacation and my grocery situation was bleak. A few things had unexpectedly survived in the crisper drawer, including a zucchini and a red onion, and I randomly had some feta cheese in the cheese drawer. I don’t generally care for feta cheese all that much, so I rarely buy it. I have no idea how or when it got in there, but I went with it.

I have made these thrice since.

You guys. These were so good. Stupid good. There was so much flavor here. They were way more than the sum of their parts. They tasted rich, like it took a long time for the flavors to develop. They were filling but still light. They were really really good leftover. Remember how I like to say I could NEVER be a vegetarian? These could sway me. (Though, full disclosure, the first time I made these I did cook the quinoa in chicken stock. It was goooood.) I pretty much ate these three or four times a week for three weeks AND I WOULD MAKE THEM AGAIN RIGHT NOW. I don’t know, I really don’t. It’s inexplicable.

Basically, make these as soon as possible. Next time you have leftover cooked quinoa? Make them. Next time you have a zucchini hanging out in your fridge without purpose? Make them. Next time you just feel like it? Make them. Just make them, basically. Don’t be alarmed if they don’t hold together quite as well as you were expecting when you form the cakes. The crispiness from the frying is what ultimately keeps them together. And the crispy crust is the best part.

In other news…

1. I have purchased EIGHT BOOKS in the last month. EIGHT. I have read two, and they are not even two of the eight that I bought. But I can not say no to a Kindle Daily Deal. Actually, that’s not true. I can say no, UNLESS it is a book that is already on my list, or one by an author whose name I recognize. My purchases: People Who Eat Darkness, The Sisters Brothers, The Fifties (this was super random but got good reviews? I don’t know.) Bring Up the Bodies, Furious Love, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, A Clash of Kings, and Beautiful Ruins. There’s a job somewhere that entails reading books and cooking all day right? Because I want it. I am IMMENSELY qualified. I will always be on time and I will read faster and cook more than you can possibly imagine. Salary negotiable. Thank you for your consideration.

2. I read A Game of Thrones. I held out a long time. I haven’t gotten into the show because I know it is really violent and I have a really hard time with violence and scary stuff. I am a wimp. I was (still am??) afraid of Large Marge in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Remember when he is in the truck and the driver turns around and says “Tell ‘em Large Marge sent ya” and turns into a scary cartoon…zombie face? Ghost? Ghoul? I don’t actually know BECAUSE I’VE NEVER ACTUALLY SEEN IT. I close my eyes. IT’S A CARTOON. I told you. I will be avoiding Game of Thrones the show thankyouverymuch. BUT, I was feeling left out, and I was assured that even though fantasy is not really my bag, so I thought, that I would really enjoy it. So I bought it. I read 800 pages in EIGHT DAYS. Eight work days. I couldn’t stop. It was awesome. (I actually hated the end. Just like the last paragraph, so literally, just the end. But I am sure it will redeem itself in the next book. Which I just bought.) It was great. It made me realize a couple of things: 1.) I would be a terrible fiction writer because I HATE bad guys. Mean people? Get rid of them. If I was a writer my protagonists would have literally no enemies. I can do life obstacles, I can totally get behind a good life obstacle story, but mean, evil people? No thanks, not into it.  My books would be Lannister-free. It would be all rainbows and friendship and happiness. 2.) I missed reading. Like really reading, and getting into a book and wanting to do nothing but that, and actually letting myself do nothing but that. I have to read more. It’s the best.

3. Neko Case’s new album is streaming on NPR prior to its September 3rd release. And that is what I will be listening to for the next couple of weeks. I just bought tickets for my mom and I to see her in November. I am very excited.

4. I just spoke to some of my favorite West Coast people, whom I miss terribly, and found out I will be heading to Nantucket with them at the end of September. Yay!

Ok, that’s all for tonight. I have to get up early and run. There are not enough hours in my day. Blerg.

White quinoa, round two.

White quinoa, round two.

Quinoa Zucchini Cakes (serves 4 for lunch or a light dinner)

2 cups cooked quinoa (I’ve used red or white, doesn’t matter a bit.)

1 medium zucchini, shredded in the food processor or with a cheese grater (about two cups)

Generous 1/2 cup red onion, sliced into 1 inch pieces (to mimic the size of the zucchini shreds)

Generous 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 cup panko bread crumbs

2-3 large eggs

Salt and pepper to taste (don’t be stingy with either)

Oil (of your choice) for frying

Place the shredded zucchini in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and salt generously. Let sit for 20 minute or so and then press on the zucchini to extract excess liquid.

Combine quinoa, zucchini, red onion and feta cheese in a large bowl and salt and pepper generously. Stir to combine well. Add the panko and two of the eggs and stir to combine again. Test the mixture to see how well it holds together. It should not hold together firmly, but if it doesn’t stick together at all, add the third egg and stir well to combine.

Heat a bit of oil, enough to nicely cover the bottom of the pan, in a frying pan over medium heat until hot. Form the mixture into cakes (About a third of a cup for each works nicely) and fry until deep golden brown and then flip and repeat on the second side. (About five minutes a side? The crispier and browner the better.) Repeat with remaining mixture. Serve with a salad or wilted spinach or just by themselves. THEY DON’T EVEN NEED A SAUCE.

Get ready for your mind to be blown.

Pressed Sandwiches are the best sandwiches…

Perfect picnic food

Perfect picnic food

Sandwiches are perfect.

They are portable, they include bread, the filling can be anything you want, they are usually pretty easy to put together, and in this case, they are made ahead of time, so they are great for adventures or weeknight dinners or bag lunches or picnics. And they are really great for summer.

Sandwiches are perfect. These sandwiches are even perfecter.

I have made these a couple different times, most recently for a fundraising meeting at my house on a Tuesday night. I work later than most of the rest of the ladies, and needed something that I could do ahead of time so I wouldn’t spend the whole meeting cooking instead of, you know, meeting. Plus it was hot as blazes that week, and we needed to be able to stay in the living room with the AC.

These can be done with mostly meat or mostly vegetables. They could be completely vegetarian and would be delicious, and I suppose they could be all meat and cheese, though I think they might be a bit one note done that way. I recently did them with various cured meats, some pesto, some provolone and roasted peppers, and they were great. This version included grilled eggplant and squash, pesto, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, and sweet capicola on a really good ciabatta that I can get at a bakery in my neighborhood. Next time I might try tapenade or olive spread of some sort. Maybe another meat or cheese or both. You can really do anything your heart desires, but don’t leave out the pesto, because that might be the best part. All the work is done the day or night before, and then the sandwiches get wrapped up and pressed under bricks in the fridge. All you have to do the day you eat them is slice them up.

Plan a picnic, or a boat ride, or a night a roof deck or even a meeting. Invite your friends. Make these sandwiches. Bask in their thanks and awe. Pack them leftovers if you have them. Bask in their thanks once more. And do it in August. It’s national sandwich month!

What I am thinking about when I am not thinking about food:

1. ALL THE BOOKS. I just finished Canada by Richard Ford. It was beautifully written. I have about eleventy hundred still on my list. The problem is they keep publishing more. Someday I am going to find a job that involves copious reading, cooking food, and writing about stuff. And then I will be happy.

2. I, like the rest of humanity, can’t stop listening to Blurred Lines. This is my new favorite version.

3.  I just spent a week with 50 of the loveliest humans I know. They are fun, funny, smart, musical, kind and generous, and I am lucky that they are also my family. We have good times.

Pressed Sandwiches (makes 8 big sandwiches)

One large loaf ciabatta (two smaller would work just fine too. The ones I get are 16 or 18 inches long and about 8 inches wide. You may not be able to find them that big. Two smaller ones would work just fine!)

three large red peppers

two medium summer squash, sliced lengthwise in 1/4 inch slices

two medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise in 1/4 inch slices

one large globe eggplant, sliced lengthwise in 1/4 inch slices

1 cup of your favorite pesto

12 oz fresh mozzarella sliced in 1/4 inch slices

1/2 lb thinly sliced sweet capicola or prosciutto

olive oil for grilling

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Roast the peppers in a 400 degree oven for about an hour, turning every 15 minutes or so, until the skins are charred and the peppers are soft. Remove the peppers to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap to steam. Set aside for 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, salt the eggplant slices and let sit on paper towels for 20 minutes or so to remove the bitter liquid. At the same time, heat a grill pan over medium high heat (or an actual grill is even better!) and rub lightly with olive oil. Grill the squash, zucchini, and eggplant when they are finished salting, in batches until cooked through and soft. Set aside.

Remove the roasted peppers from the bowl and peel, stem and seed them. Slice them into wide slices and set aside.

Slice the bread in half lengthwise, and spread the pesto on the bottom half. Layer the cheese over the pesto, followed by a layer of meat. Follow that with the grilled vegetables, then the peppers, then another layer of meat. Put the second piece of bread on top and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Find a spot in the fridge and use bricks, cans or cast iron pans to press the sandwich down overnight.

Slice the day you plan to eat it and enjoy!

layers of goodness

layers of goodness

Olive Oil Cake: On Weddings and Wonderful Weekends

Olive Oil Cake for a backyard wedding

Olive Oil Cake for a backyard wedding

This past weekend I was back in CT with (most of – we missed you Oop!) my fam for the wedding reception of one of our nearest and dearest. We have known the family for more than 30 years, when the moms met on the Guilford Green because their similarly aged children were being similarly age-appropriately annoying, I think. They have a beautiful house on gorgeous property just one town over from where I grew up, so we all, except for the littlest, all the way out there in Denver, converged on the homestead for the weekend. It was really lovely. The party was gorgeous, the food was delicious and the dancing was most excellent. The fam represented on the dance floor, it was a very impressive performance, actually. They can really cut a rug. It was really lovely to be home.

A couple months ago, the bride asked if I would be willing to make an olive oil cake for the reception. The menu was tapas and paella, and it fit nicely, plus they are particularly fond of them. I said I would love to. I was thrilled to be able to do something for them, and I figured it definitely had to be easier than the fondant craziness I have made for other weddings. I tested a couple of options, this one was really delicious, but I wasn’t sure how it would work in larger format. So I found another one and it is a winner. It is really great, and even better, it is a dream to put together.

Olive Oil Cake sounds a little confusing perhaps. Like maybe it’s savory instead of sweet, or a side dish like cornbread, rather than dessert. It looks like cornbread too, so that doesn’t help clarify things. But make no mistake, this is definitely cake. It’s sweet – quite sweet, actually. It doesn’t need any kind of glaze or frosting, though I could probably get behind a nice glaze. It’s dense, but not heavy. It’s really moist, but not at all greasy, and the olive oil gives the edges a really nice crispness. It has a really great olive oil flavor. It is a perfect dessert, but isn’t too sweet for breakfast (I know, cuz I tried it) or for a tea time snack. Best of all, it comes together like a dream and there is a really good chance you have everything right in your kitchen already. It is so very easy. Two bowls, some measuring cups and spoons and a whisk. No electricity needed. Also, ALSO, it multiplied really easily and well with no negative effects. Delightful! (It calls for a 10″ round pan. For a 16″ square pan, I multiplied times three and it was just right. A 16″ pan cut in wedding cake slices easily served  the 80 guests. I had made two. Luckily I think it is going to freeze really well.)

Basically, if I haven’t been clear, MAKE THIS. Fo realz. It is perfect. For a party or for brunch or for a shower or for your office or just because you’re bored.

Just make it.

For tea

For tea

Of note…

Today, on THIS day, SCOTUS, I am happy and proud and thankful. Love Is Love. Keep Calm and Marry On.

Aaron Hernandez, you are the worst. Tim Tebow, how good are you at catching stuff?

It’s the summer, which means 4th of the July, which means the best holiday ever. Hot weather? Check. Lots of outdoor picnic foods? Check. Beer? Check. FIREWORKS? Yesssssssssss.

Still reading Strong Poison. I have not had lots of time for reading.

Olive Oil Cake (makes one 10″ cake)

From Food & Wine

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 cup olive oil (I used extra-virgin, the Whole Foods brand)

1 cup whole milk

3 large eggs

1/4 cup Grand Marnier

zest of one orange

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10″ cake pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and kosher salt. In a second bowl, whisk together olive oil, milk, eggs, Grand Marnier and orange zest. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for one hour, until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar if you want. Or don’t! Serve with your choice of accoutrements, whipped cream, sweetened mascarpone, berries, ice cream. Enjoy!

Indian Butter Chicken

A lot of my earliest memories are food related. I remember sitting down at the dinner table with my dad and my little brother after my dad got home from work. My mom worked at a Hospice at the end of our street a couple evenings a week, and before she left for work in the afternoon, she would make dinner that my dad could put in the oven when he got home. She would make Chicken Tetrazzini or Mac and Cheese or Chicken Divan and we would sit down at the table and instead of saying grace, we would count to three and scream “Good Dinner Mom!” at the top of our lungs, because my brother and I were SURE she could hear us down the street. And the next morning when we would ask if she heard us, she always said yes.

I remember my dad making us Cream of Wheat in the mornings. It was my favorite. He would skip stirring it just enough, so that it would be the perfect amount of lumpy, because I loved it lumpy. On St. Patrick’s Day he would put a drop of food coloring in the bottom of the bowl, so when we stirred it up it would turn green.

I remember my brother burning his top lip on a cookie sheet of hot homemade pretzels, and he had to wear this green vitamin e paste on his top lip for days, so the burn wouldn’t scar.

I remember special chicken, the most delicious, perfect birthday dinner of fried Chinese chicken wings you could ever imagine, which I have never been able to recreate correctly.

I remember lobsters every July for the joint birthday celebration for my mom and dad and their friends. My middle sister and I would get to have a lobster of our own because we would eat anything and everything. The other two would have chicken or hot dogs or something, because they were not very adventurous eaters and had no interest in lobster, which was fine with my parents because two kids with expensive tastes were plenty.

I remember the school lunches my dad always made. Always. Like every day of my life until I graduated from high school. The lunches were epic, the brown bags were always overflowing. He started making me two sandwiches because the boys in high school would hound me for mine until I shared. Bulkie roll, mayo on the bottom, then lettuce, then ham, then American cheese, then tomato then more mayo on the top – the tomato juice and the mayo made the most delicious combo.

I remember my grandparents’ 50th anniversary dinner at their beach club. My dad and my aunt cooked for my grandparents and all their friends. I suspect my mom made dessert. That’s always been her wheelhouse. My cousin and brother and I were the servers. I have a picture of my dad from that night over the sink in my kitchen. Just looking like he’s always looked, and like I picture him. With an apron on, prepping something and smiling.

I don’t remember when my dad took over primary cheffing responsibilities, it was probably gradual, but now when I think of him, it’s always in front of the stove or the cutting board. It might be for that night’s dinner, it might be for the next day’s brunch and it might be for something a week down the road, but that’s where he likes to be. It’s a very good thing. We eat well at my parents’ house.

I also don’t remember when I really started cooking, though I would imagine it was in college. I used to bake in high school, lots and lots and lots of chocolate chip cookies, but cooking came later. My first major event was a sit down, plated engagement lunch for my college roommate junior year. Which was totally insane, if I think about it. I made pork tenderloin, and fried chicken and greens for the people that didn’t eat pork. It was for about 30 people I think. That was the start…I never really looked back. There were epic law school dinners, and lessons for my roommate who would eat anything, and wanted to learn to cook herself. And then I had a big kitchen all to myself, and so there have been Christmas parties for 40 with food for 90, and football Sundays, and lots of brunches and a few catering gigs.

I am never happier than when I am in a kitchen, preferably my own, cooking for people I love. I love the feeling of providing for people, for nourishing them, for making them happy and, if we’re being honest, the kick in the ego I get when people enjoy it. I feel good when I am cooking, in part because I think I am pretty good at it, but mostly because it is the surest way I know how to tell people I love them. And this, more than anything, is the part of my cooking that I got from my dad. It is how we are most alike and it what I am most thankful to share with him. (If you are wondering, this does NOT translate into us cooking well together, which is mostly on me, because if he’s the sous chef he can’t help futzing and adjusting and perfecting whatever is in the works – as all good sous do – AND I DON’T LIKE PEOPLE TOUCHING MY STUFF. And I’m nobody’s sous-chef. So you see how this is a problem. (That kind of obnoxious behavior is how I’m LEAST like my dad, BTDubs…))

All of this is basically just to say Happy Father’s Day, a couple of days late and plenty of dollars short, of course, to a dad who continues to teach me and my sibs what it means to love and be loved. And who makes one hell of a frittata…

Killer 'stache.

The Man, the Myth, the Legend

———-

And now, a confession. I am losing my mind. I posted the last installment, and promptly realized I ALREADY HAVE A CARBONARA RECIPE ON HERE. I am THE WORST. And then I took eleventy months off. So I am making it up to you by posting THIS recipe. Because it is delicious. It should make up for all manner of sins, it is that good. I actually made it a couple of months back, and have been meaning to share it with you since, but then time got away from me (have you heard that before?)

Don't mind the fabric cutting mat...that's just how I roll

Murgh Makhani

I have wanted to make Butter Chicken since the first time I heard the words. It has butter in the name – I’m an easy sell. When I found out it is kind of  a buttery version of Chicken Tikka Masala, my need to make it got more urgent. I looked around and found a recipe by Floyd Cardoz, who I really enjoyed on Top Chef Masters. The recipe looked like it had perhaps a few more steps than some of the others, but still wasn’t particularly difficult. The extra step is straining, and while it may also be delicious without that step, the sauce that results from it is so silky and creamy, I can’t imagine not doing it.

This Butter Chicken is cumbersome only in that you need to start a day or two before you plan to eat it. I marinate the chicken on day one, cook it on day two, and make the sauce and eat on day three. Each day requires about a half hour’s worth of work, if that, and day two and three could easily just be done the same day. It can be a weeknight meal for sure.

The first step is marinating the chicken, and it should be done a day before you cook it. The marinade is garlic, ginger, jalepeno, lime juice and yogurt with garam masala and paprika. I used skinless boneless chicken thighs because I like the flavor of the dark meat. Marinate the chicken overnight.

Step two is broiling or grilling the chicken until it is cooked through and slightly charred. This can be done the day before or the day of dinner.

Step three is the sauce. Onion, tomato, more garlic and ginger, another jalepeno and butter. This gets simmered down for about a half hour, then pureed and strained. It’s finished with cinnamon, honey, fenugreek leaves and cream. Apparently fenugreek is THE thing that makes Butter Chicken, Butter Chicken, but I have a secret…I can’t find it, so I haven’t used it either time. This was still delicious. Someday I am going to find it and add it, and I suspect my mind will be blown.

It sounds like a lot, or like it might be time consuming, but it really isn’t, it just needs a little foresight. And the results are amazing. The sauce is so smooth and flavorful and great.

Thanks Floyd!

Heaven

Just because I haven’t been around here doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking and eating – I wouldn’t want you to worry that I have been hungry for four months.

I have had pizza

pizzapizzapizzapizza

mushroom, onion, black olive…doesn’t get better.

Softshell Crabs

getinmybelly

with Israeli couscous, garlic scape pesto and tomatoes

Chicken Stir-fry

quick and easy quick and easy

Chicken with Black Bean Sauce

More chicken of the sticky soy variety

Honey Soy Chicken Legs

Honey Soy Chicken Legs

Somen noodle bowls

Tofu, what?

healthy AND delicious

and lobsters, among other things…

You were delicious

Hello little buddy!

I have also been cooking for others quite a bit. I’ve had a couple of catering jobs, a personal chef gig, and LOTS of baking for office birthdays. Exciting stuff!

In other thoughts:

1.) I needed a distraction this past weekend. I decided on CandyCrush, which may have been a huge mistake. I mean, it was a GREAT distraction, incredibly effective, but now I JUST. CAN’T. STOP. I am really concerned for my future. I thought level 33 was going to kill me dead.

2.) Netflix and Hulu Plus are the greatest and the worst. I am SO EASILY DISTRACTED.

3.) It seems to finally be summer here. It took forever to get here, but the weather has been glorious for the past week. Thank goodness.

4.) It is very nice to live in a place where there is almost always a team in contention, it makes things fun. GO B’s!!

5.) What I am listening to: Josh Ritter’s The Beast in Its Tracks. This album is great. I was listening to it for the second or third time, and bopping along and started actually listening to the words…yikes. Dark. JRitt went through a divorce a couple of years ago, and clearly it sparked his creative juices. All is well though, because I saw him in concert about a month ago, and it was the happiest, giddiest most joyful I have ever seen a performer on stage, so it seems like he’s bounced back.

6.) What I am reading: Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

7.) I am making an Olive Oil Cake for the wedding reception of one of my oldest friends this weekend. I can’t wait to celebrate with her and then tell you about the cake, because it is pretty tasty.

And now, for the main event. Hopefully I will see you all back here again soon!!!

Indian Butter Chicken (serves 4-6)

From Floyd Cardoz and Serious Eats

4 medium cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbls minced fresh ginger
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
3 tbls juice from 3 limes
3 tbls neutral oil (such as vegetable or canola)
1 tbl kosher salt
3 tbls paprika
1 tbl garam masala
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups yogurt
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
 
2 (28 oz.) cans roasted tomatoes
2 cups water
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 tbls fresh minced ginger
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
8 tbls (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Kosher salt
3 tbls honey
3 tbls fenugreek leaves, toasted and crushed
1 tbl black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream, to taste
 

For Chicken: In a food processor, combine garlic, ginger, chili, lime juice, oil, salt, and spices. Process to a paste, then add yogurt and process until smooth. Transfer to a large zip top bag or tupperware and add chicken. Marinate 4 to 6 hours, or overnight.

Set broiler rack 4 inches from heat source and preheat broiler to high (or feel free to grill these!). Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Remove chicken from zipper lock bag and wipe off excess marinade. Lay out in a single layer on baking sheet and broil until color darkens and some dark blisters form, about 5 minutes. Flip chicken, rotate sheet pan, and broil until color darkens on other side, about 5 minutes. Repeat once or twice until chicken is cooked through, and there is some dark char on each piece. This takes me 12-15 minutes.

For sauce: In a large, heavy pot, combine tomatoes, water, onion, garlic, ginger, chili, butter, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered at a hard simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens to about 2 1/2 quarts, about 30 minutes.

Transfer 1/3 of sauce to jar of a blender. Starting with low speed, gradually increase to high. Blend until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean large saucepan. Repeat with remaining two batches sauce. Keep sauce warm over low heat and stir in fenugreek, black pepper, honey, and cream to taste. Season with salt to taste, then chop chicken  into bite-size pieces and add to sauce. Serve with rice and a garnish of julienned ginger.

I did it! – Pasta Carbonara

Oh nads you guys…I made Carbonara for like the fourth time in two weeks because I figured out how to do it practically just right every time, but I hadn’t be able to get a good photo, and of course exactly when I tried to make it again explicitly to take photos, I stopped paying attention and messed it up. So then I had to make it two nights in a row and five times in two weeks so I can talk to you about it. Lesson learned, I guess, is that you can make it practically just right every time you actually pay attention when you make it, and don’t let yourself get distracted by the shenanigans on stage at the Grammys.

like mac and cheese, but grown-up...

like mac and cheese, but grown-up…

Man, is this good. This is also pretty much the quickest pasta dish around. I am guessing if you cook somewhat regularly, you will already have most of these things in the fridge, and if you don’t, they can all be procured very easily. Bacon, egg, decent parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper. I think spaghetti might be the traditional pasta for this, but I actually like something shorter, like my new favorite, gemelli, which I used this time with great results. The shorter pasta makes it a bit more comforting somehow.

The tricky part about Carbonara is the egg. Done the right way, the egg creates a creamy, rich sauce with amazing flavor. Done the wrong way, the egg scrambles, and it’s not right. I’ve eaten it…it’s not revolting or anything, but it’s not a sauce. Unfortunately, scrambling is very easy to do when you are adding a cold egg to a hot pan SO, I have come up with a trick that seems to work delightfully well. I mix the egg with the cheese and black pepper, and then make a quick sauce with some of the pasta water to temper the egg before I add it to the hot pan. If you do this, and then stir like crazy when you add it to the pasta, you should have amazing, creamy, adult macaroni and cheese that is so quick and delicious you won’t believe it. And you’ll end up eating it two or three times a week like I did. And then you will probably realize that two or three times a week is probably too many times, like I did.

This really couldn’t be easier…

Carbonara.

Carbonara.

And now…All of the things…

I made saag paneer tonight because I decided I need more roughage in my diet and…I still need more roughage in my diet. It wasn’t very good. But dipping the Naan in the liquid was insanely delicious, so I just did that instead. Oh, Paneer? If you are going to call yourself cheese, pleased to be tasting like cheese. If I wanted weird, bland texture, I would have just made tofu. BOOM. Roasted. (jk jk, love u tofu!) So, I’m pretty sure I did saag paneer wrong. I will try again and get back to you.

I just finished reading Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James. It was very cute, but I like her other stuff better.

I gave up tv and takeout for Lent. In theory, this means I will be hanging around here quite a bit more. In practice, this might mean I don’t survive Lent.

I am a very, very lucky girl…I have some of the greatest girlfriends in the world and you should all be jealous of me, because they are the freakin best.

Just a few more days until IGNITE the NITE 2013! If you are here you should come next Thursday the 28th, it is going to be great!!

Lastly, a shout out to Shannon. For fighting like a girl and winning. I am so glad to know you, and so very happy to call you my forever friend. To so many more years of Cheetos, sing-a-longs, Wegman’s trips and How to Lose a Guy…You are amazing. xo

Pasta Carbonara (serves 2)

1/2 lb pasta of your choice (spaghetti is traditional, I think, but I prefer a shorter noodle.)

4 oz bacon, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces (guanciale is traditional, but bacon will absolutely work. Use thick cut if you have it.)

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 – 2/3 cups FRESHLY GRATED parmesan cheese (I measure this by holding a microplane grater over a measuring cup. A regular cheese grater would work. If you are using pre-grated parmesan, use the stuff from the deli section that looks shredded, not the stuff in the can or that looks almost powdered. Trust.)

1 Egg

Plenty of black pepper and salt to taste.

Chopped italian parsley for garnish

Boil some salted water for the pasta. (While the water is coming to a boil, do all of your chopping, grating and ingredient prep, once you start the sauce, things move quickly.)

Mix together the grated cheese, the egg, and a generous pinch of black pepper, and whisk to combine.

Add the pasta to the salted water and cook until al dente. (This will take about 8 minutes. It depends on the kind of pasta you use, but 8 minutes is a safe bet…)

After you add the pasta to the water, start cooking the bacon in a frying pan over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is cooked. You still want it to look fatty, not cooked through and crispy. When the bacon is cooked, reduce the heat to low and add the garlic. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly, so the garlic doesn’t burn. If the pasta is not yet al dente, turn off the heat and remove the frying pan from the burner until it is.

When the pasta is al dente, use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked pasta to the frying pan (no need to drain first, the water helps create the sauce AND you need to reserve some more pasta water for the sauce) and stir into the bacon and garlic to combine. Cook for 30 seconds to a minute and then turn off the heat. Quickly drizzle a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water into the egg and cheese mixture stirring constantly to create a sauce. Immediately add the cheese, egg and pasta water mixture to the pasta and bacon, again stirring constantly to create a creamy sauce and so as not to scramble the eggs. Pro-tip: if you drizzle the egg and cheese over the pasta, as opposed to directly onto the hot pan, you are less likely to scramble the eggs! (This sounds complicated, but I promise, it’s not. You’ll do it a couple of times and you’ll feel like a pro!)

Sprinkle with salt, pepper and parsley and serve! Once you’ve made this a couple of times, I suspect you will be serving it to guests, and they will be very impressed. The recipe can easily be doubled, just make sure you are using a big enough frying pan.

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Involtini

So good you’ll forget it’s meatless

I spent most of last year saying “I can’t believe it’s [fill in the blank] already” and now I am saying it again. It’s February 2013 already. Remember when you were little and the school year dragged on for eternity, and the summer was so blissfully long that you were actually a little bit excited to go back to school, and waiting for Santa/birthdays/summer camp/whatever was so agonizing you almost couldn’t take it? That was grand…

I made this months ago. MONTHS. And I have been wanting to tell you about it since the moment I tried it, because it is just so good. I don’t even know what it is about it that makes it so delicious, but trust…it’s delicious. Eggplant is pretty much the greatest. Whenever I eat eggplant I think, for a brief shining moment, that I could manage being a vegetarian. Just for a moment, mind you, but still, that is the power of eggplant.

This is from the Tartine Bread cookbook. I made a couple of changes, most notably that I totally forgot to add the breadcrumbs when I made it, but it was still so good that I didn’t realize I forgot to add the breadcrumbs until I went back and looked at the recipe again. I also used a different tomato sauce, because this one is so easy and delicious, I may never make another sauce again…but other than that, exactly the same! Mostly.

The Tartine Bread cookbook, by the way, is absolutely gorgeous. And obviously, not just about bread. The pictures are beautiful, I love the binding, and the recipes are great…if you are still not sure, see if they have it in your library and check it out, I bet you end up picking up your own copy.

Anyhoodle, this involtini is really, really delicious. It takes a little bit of time to salt and fry the eggplant before you are able to put it all together, so it may not be the best option if you need to complete the whole process after work and you still want to eat at a reasonable hour, but I suspect it would be no worse for the wear if you put it all together the night before. Perhaps one of these days I will give that a try and report back.

This would be a great dish anytime, really, but is very lovely for a meatless Monday (or meatless any day of the week.) Since I left out the breadcrumbs and was none the wiser, it could also be a really delicious gluten free option. I am also guessing it could be doubled, tripled or sextupled without blinking an eye.

Have I convinced you yet? Seriously. This is delicious…go forth and cook with eggplant.

The answer to your vegetarian prayers...

The answer to your vegetarian prayers…

Things I’ve thought since last time:

The internet is the most amazing rabbit hole that I fall into pretty much every day. I think back to my days in college and how productive I was back then and it is always such a mystery that I can’t seem to get anything done these days…I have come to the realization that the internet might be the problem…

What I am reading: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. It is really good. And I read Gone Girl, which was an excellent page-turner. I both loved and hated the ending.

I mentioned it last time, but if you can, please give to a cause that is near and dear.

I didn’t really have a horse in the race, but I still wish the Superbowl turned out differently. The halftime show was the best I’ve ever seen though. Does Beyonce have a fan club? I’ve started one before, and I can do it again.

My 2013 goals are not off to a very good start. And it’s already February…

For those of you in the Boston area, IGNITE the NITE is going to be an excellent time…another good cause that I am very excited to be a part of.

It’s 31 days of Oscar on Turner Classic Movies. It’s pretty much the best thing about the month of February.

Downton Abbey is JUST SO GOOD. And I bawled my eyes out last week…this will come as a surprise to approximately no one who is familiar with me and the episode I am referring to. On the flip side, The Mindy Project and The New Girl make me laugh out loud by myself on the couch multiple times an episode. And I am going to miss the heck out of Liz Lemon. Good thing I still have Leslie Knope.

I have a girls weekend on the Cape coming up in two weeks and I can’t wait. I’d love to say how much I am looking forward to relaxing with my ladies, but I suspect relaxing will be secondary to ridiculousness…

Singles Awareness Day is the 14th! Be sure to acknowledge all the Singles in your life. Much like Administrative Assistant’s Day, the people generally responsible for reminding you of of Singles Awareness Day are the Singles themselves, and that’s just awkward; so don’t forget people, remember your Singles!

Until next time…

prepped

prepped

Eggplant Involtini (serves 3-4)

adapted from Tartine Bread Cookbook

Tomato Sauce of your choice (don’t use store bought – throw a can of whole peeled tomatoes crushed in your hands, a peeled onion and a stick of butter in a pan with salt. Turn on the heat to medium, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes – thanks Marcella!)

2 or 3 medium globe eggplants

1 cup fresh bread crumbs (optional) – don’t use the seasoned italian breadcrumbs, use panko if you don’t have any stale bread to make your own.

2 cups whole milk ricotta (or make your own!)

Zest and juice from one lemon

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1/4 tsp salt, plus additional for salting the eggplant

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

chiffonade of basil for garnish (optional)

olive oil for frying

Slice the eggplants lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices (you should have about 12.) Salt the slices generously on both sides and layer them in a colander or on paper towels. Let the eggplant stand for one hour to pull out the liquid.

Blot the slices dry with a towel and fry them over medium heat in a heavy skillet in approximately an inch of olive oil for three to four minutes until lightly brown on both sides. Let cool in the colander or on paper towels.

Meanwhile, mix together the breadcrumbs, ricotta cheese, lemon zest and juice, thyme leaves and 1/4 tsp salt.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the tomato sauce in the bottom of a medium sized baking dish. Place a spoonful of filling on each eggplant slice, and roll the slice around the filling. Put each roll seam-side down on top of the sauce and drizzle the cream on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the rolls are golden and the sauce starts to darken around the edges. Sprinkle with parmesan and basil and enjoy!

roll 'em up

roll ‘em up

Stocking up for the New Year…Chicken, Beef and Vegetable Stock

Essentials for the new year...

Essentials for the new year…

Hola nerds!

How I have missed you! It has been a busy fall and winter, blah blah blah, excuses, blah, blah, travel, blah, unitentional hiatus…

Now that I have cleared that up, what’s new with you? I hope all has been well!

My brother recently said that I needed to post something asap, because he was really tired of looking at wings. I did not know that my brother was actually visiting the blog, but since he is, I certainly don’t want to cause fatigue and lose him as a reader, so here I am with a new post. This may not actually be what he had in mind, but beggars can’t be choosers.

This one is really more about technique, as there are myriad ways to make stock and pretty much all of them have already been documented on the interwebs, so instead of considering this a recipe, consider it a friendly reminder/suggestion. Make stock, put it in the freezer, use it until you run out, make stock again. Repeat ad infinitum. The work involved is minimal and the payoff is HUGE. The flavor is better than what you get in the store, your house will smell good while you make it, and people will be impressed. Actually, those three reasons pretty much make up the sum total of my rationale for cooking at all…

I value my “stock”pile (ahahahaha) so much that it is the only frozen item that made the move to my new place with me. I make the stock and let it cool and then measure two cup quantities in to quart-sized ziploc bags. Then each stock bag goes into a second ziploc bag to prevent freezer burn. Label with the type of stock, the quantity and the date, and there you go. This is not the most environmentally friendly storage method, but it is the best storage method, and if you label the INSIDE bag, you can use the outside bag again. (Label the bag before you add the stock. This is probably obvious to most, but in case it’s not, take it from me…) (Also, I know you are looking at the photo and saying “but Meghan, those don’t look like ziploc bags…” and you would be correct, but ziploc bags don’t photograph particularly well, so I dirtied some extra dishes for you. You are welcome…) Freezer bags are the best storage because they can be laid flat and stacked on top of each other in the freezer to maximize space. Two cups is a good amount because if you are making soup or risotto, two bags will typically do the trick, and if you need less than that, you will likely be able to use the rest of what you defrosted without it getting lost in the back of your refrigerator for many moons and going to waste…though maybe that kind of thing never happens to you, in which case, carry on.

the beginnings of beef stock

the beginnings of beef stock

Stock is pretty much the same regardless of type – the main ingredients, the aromatics and water get simmered together for enough time that the water becomes rich flavorful stock rather than boring, flavorless water. Which aromatics and vegetables you choose can depend on the stock you are making, but for the most part, if you have the holy trinity of cooking: onions, carrots and celery, and perhaps some garlic and herbs, you have what it takes. For chicken stock I like to make sure I add thyme, bay leaves, lots of peppercorns and, sometimes, ginger, to brighten it up. For lobster stock I like to add fennel and some tomato paste because they are so suited to lobster, and for vegetable stock I like to add mushrooms, because they deepen the flavor and add the umami-ness that is important when you aren’t including meat. The rules are the same: bring everything to a gentle boil, then reduce the temperature and let the goodness simmer for a couple hours until it’s stock. In the case of beef stock, you want to avoid boiling at all – you just want to bring it to and keep it at a simmer instead – but otherwise, the process is the same.

Make stock my darlings, if you’ve never done it before, it will revolutionize your cooking.

In other news…my 10 things:

I don’t like asking for things, but this one’s for Shania – I am so lucky to call her my homie: http://www.fundraiseforbcrf.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1021963&team=5354081

BostonGLOW: an amazing organization that I am proud to be a part of…small now, but I’m certain it won’t be small for long…

My album of the moment is really not an album at all, just a playlist of ridiculous Top 40 amazingness.

What I am reading: I just finished Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. Amazing and heartbreaking.

I want Tina and Amy to be my best friends. http://tv.yahoo.com/blogs/2013-golden-globes/tina-fey-amy-poehler-dazzle-hilarious-golden-globes-014640389.html

Pitch Perfect might be my new favorite movie. Best. Ever.

I guess I have to root for the 49ers in the Super Bowl? Not how I hoped that would go.

Resolutions are tricky, so I am setting goals instead. Because those will totally be easier. Financial, Work, Personal, Fitness, B&G, they’re all covered…we’ll see how it goes. Happy New Year!

It’s the beginning of free week at the casa! If you are new around here, free week is when I decide not to buy any groceries, and just fashion dinners out of what I have in the house. I did cheat and buy eggs today, but I figured that didn’t count, because you can practically buy eggs with pocket change. The menu for free week includes: Penne with fennel, tomatoes and olives inspired by this, cowboy beans from here, spaghetti carbonara (I think I might have figured out how to make this work every time! I will share) meatloaf, soy sesame noodles and sweet pea ravioli with pecorino romano. As you can see, it was high time for a free week. It will not be much of a sacrifice.

I guess that was only nine things…until next time, my lovelies…

Here’s to 2013. I have high hopes.

Be good to one another.

And to the recipes we go…

Beef Stock

Vegetable Stock

Basic Chicken Stock (makes about 3 quarts)

4-5 lbs chicken wings

2 medium onions, quartered

2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, peeled and roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic, unpeeled

Handful of fresh parsley

2 dried bay leaves

1 tsp peppercorns

Add all ingredients to a large pot with 4 quarts of water. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for two or two and a half hours. Strain the stock through cheese cloth, and store for future use.

Feel free to add leeks if you have them, ginger if you would like to add a little zip and bright flavor or thyme if you want a more herby flavor.

Buffalo Wings for Football Sunday

It’s really fall. I’m sleeping with blankets, wearing boots to the grocery store, listening the college kids partying into the wee hours and making wings for a football Sunday.

a football classic

…At least the wings were successful.

I’m just going to chalk that Pats performance up to a show of solidarity for that smoking wreckage of a baseball team we have up here right now, and figure we’ll all be moving on next week.

***

Buffalo wings are delicious. And actually pretty easy to make. Ingredients are minimal: hot sauce, butter or margarine, and chicken. I like to add a little salt, pepper and cayenne also. You can technically bake these, and I have. They are fine, and they still taste like buffalo wings, but I’m not going to lie, deep-frying them is better. A bit more work, but not much, and worth it I think. Yep, they are more unhealthy, but we are talking about a recipe in which one of the primary ingredients is butter or margarine, so let’s go all in, shall we?

I have made these for years with butter, but I was just reading the most recent Saveur, and apparently, the original recipe – like the Anchor Bar in Buffalo original recipe – used margarine. Which makes sense, since these were invented in the 60’s. I used margarine today to see if it made a difference, and I am not sure if it does, and since margarine is pretty much poison, I will probably stick to butter in the future. But I did come up with another trick. I tossed the wings in just a little corn starch before I fried them. It doesn’t really make a huge difference in the crispiness, but it gives the sauce something to stick to, so it’s a win!

crisp fried and delicious

Wings are a crowd pleaser. They are messy as anything, but that is half the fun. Obviously, blue cheese dressing is a requirement, and it’s always nice to add celery and carrots for health. And just like that, you can skip the bars and strangers and have delicious wings at home! (If you are like me, this is a dream come true.)

Sunday Funday

Buffalo Wings (makes two dozen wings)

24 chicken wing pieces (from twelve wings, separated, tips removed)

1/4 cups corn starch

3/4 cups hot sauce, like Franks

3/4 cups (1.5 sticks) butter or margarine

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

salt and pepper

Peanut or canola oil (or a combination) for frying

Blue cheese dressing (recipe below) celery and carrots for serving

Heat several inches of oil in a dutch oven or other heavy pot to 350 degrees. Toss the wings with the corn starch and salt and pepper. When the oil reaches 350 degrees, shake off the extra corn starch and add half the wings and fry until crispy and cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. When finished cooking, remove the first batch from the oil and drain on paper towels. Let the oil come back to 350 degrees and add the second batch of wings.

In the meantime, cook the hot sauce, butter, cayenne, salt and pepper over low heat until the butter melts. Keep mixture warm over low heat until the wings are finished cooking. Toss the wings in the hot sauce mixture and serve with blue cheese dressing and carrots and celery for dipping.

If you want to bake these, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and toss the wings in half the hot sauce mixture. Lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and bake for 20-25 minutes until the wings the cooked through. Toss with the rest of the hot sauce mixture and serve.

Blue Cheese Dressing (makes about 1 1/4 cups)

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 tbl white wine vinegar

Splash of red wine vinegar

4 oz blue cheese crumbles

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine sour cream, buttermilk, vinegars, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add blue cheese and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Weeknight Chicken: Chicken Thighs with Garlicky Crumbs

weeknight chicken (don’t mind the anchovies…)

Warning: This post contains anchovies. I hesitate to warn you because if you are anything like my mom, or if you are my mom, you have probably already stopped reading. And that would be a mistake! Because there is nothing to be scared of. But I was afraid if I didn’t warn you, you would get to the end and discover the tiny fish in the recipe and feel duped, and never trust me again. And after you took all that time to read this…

I hope you stay though, because these are not offensive anchovies. In fact, if you came over and I made this for you and you didn’t already know about the anchovies, I don’t think you’d be the wiser. It would be such a dirty trick (my dad totally does this to my mom – luckily for him she’d rather eat hidden anchovies than cook, so…) but that’s the thing about anchovies. Unless they are sitting there on top of a pizza staring at you, often times you’d never know they were there…

The strangest thing about this recipe is actually not the anchovies at all. It is the fact that you are asked to grill a piece of chicken that has been breaded with breadcrumbs. That is very strange. Until I did it, I couldn’t quite imagine how it was going to work. I suspect the next time I try this (and there will be a next time, because it is delicious) I will try just pan frying it because I did lose some crumbs and presumably they would stick a bit better that way. Or maybe not! There has to be a reason that grilling was suggested in the first place. I will keep you posted

Regardless of the cooking method (you could absolutely bake these too, methinks) these are great. The garlic (lots of it) packs a great punch, the anchovies add a ton of good salty-umaminess and the parsley adds an awesome freshness. It’s an excellent combo. And I would totally make these green beans (or snap peas as the original recipe suggested) by themselves. They were delicious on their own!

You don’t have to be afraid of these ‘chovies, I promise.

don’t fear the anchovies!

Chicken Thighs with Garlicky Crumbs and Green Beans (serves 2)

adapted from Food & Wine

3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained and chopped

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

6 garlic cloves, smashed

1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tbls extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs

Salt

1/2 lb green beans, ends trimmed

2 medium shallots, thinly sliced

In a food processor, combine 2 of the anchovy fillets with the bread crumbs, garlic, parsley and 1/4 cup of the olive oil; process until evenly blended.

Season the chicken thighs with salt. In a large bowl, toss the chicken with the bread crumb mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a pot of boiling, salted water, blanch the green beans until bright green, about 1 minute. Drain and pat dry.

Grill the chicken thighs over moderate heat until they are lightly charred, crisp and cooked through, about 10 minutes per side. Transfer the thighs to a platter.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the shallots and the remaining anchovy fillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the green beans and cook, tossing a few times, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season the green beans with salt and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve the chicken with the green beans.