Monday, March 3, 2014

Cranberry-Walnut Scones

Hi! Yes, I know. It's been a while. Too long actually. I can't tell you how many times I have looked at these empty pages promising that I will get back to it tomorrow, or maybe the day after, but more likely next week. But the truth is, we have to eat every day, so I should just quit procrastinating and just share what I am doing anyway.

Starting with a recent purchase, Anne Burrell's new book Own Your Kitchen has proved to be a winner in my first three choice recipes. This weekend, I decided to try my hand at scones for the very first time. I've always liked scones, but never found them so amazing that I craved them and I would never select them over pain au chocolat...until now. These cranberry-walnut scones are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Even the hubby, who is also not a true fan of scones, loved them enough to have seconds...and he cleaned up the kids' "crumbs."

I should point out that I made these with the help of a 5-year-old which in itself adds another complexity to the process and yet I am still raving about them. I want my kids to learn how to cook, maybe even enjoy it, and as a bonus, have some fond memories of cooking with mom in the kitchen. So this is a relatively easy recipe that fits the bill.

All the ingredients came from my pantry so nothing special is needed. Then again, I do keep heavy cream in my fridge at all times so that may be the exception for you. Whole milk may work as a substitute but I wouldn't go much thinner than that. They lend themselves well to slight imperfection when mixing (should you also have a sidekick in the kitchen). In the end, they come together well and make for a delicious breakfast or brunch treat for the entire family. Try this some Sunday morning when you have a few extra minutes to spend in the kitchen. You'll never think of scones the same way again.

Cranberry-Walnut Scones
Adapted from Anne Burrell's Own Your Kitchen

Makes ~ 8 to 10 triangular scones (depending on the size that you cut)
Prep time: 15 minutes  Cook time: 16-18 minutes

3 cups all-purpose flour (more as needed for dusting)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder (make sure it's not old!)
Zest of 1 orange (I used 3 clementines as that is what I had on hand)
Pinch of kosher salt
12 Tablespoons (1.5 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pea-sized pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
Turbinado sugar/"Sugar in the Raw"

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, orange zest, and salt in the bowl of a food process and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse multiple times until it looks like crumbled Parmigiano cheese (a great description!), about 30 seconds. Add the cream and pulse some more until the consistency changes to that of little balls of gravel. Don't overwork the tough or it becomes tough.

Turn the mixture onto a slightly floured surface and add the cranberries and walnuts, working them into the dough with your hands. Don't knead it, just squish the dough between your fingers to combine.

Flatten the dough into a round disk so that it's about 1 inch thick all the way around. Then cut it in half and then cut each half into 4 triangles.

Place the dough triangles on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with the Turbinado sugar. I should note that I did NOT have this sugar in the raw. Some internet research suggested that brown sugar could be substituted, so I did. However, the brown sugar likes to clump and it did not "melt" like I thought it would. The clumps of brown sugar in your mouth are not unpleasant but I can't say they look pretty in the final product (refer to my photo above to see what I mean). If you have the sugar in the raw, a small sprinkle would be a nice addition but it could easily be omitted. Use brown sugar if you would like but I would probably leave it off next time.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until golden on top. Served warm is better but they are just as good at room temperature or slightly reheated. Store at room temperature in a closed container...if you have any leftovers.

Note: The cookbook also comes with a recipe to make a whipped honey butter to serve on top of the scones, however, they could easily be served with plain butter or honey or even your favorite jam.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cream-Braised Green Cabbage

It's amazing to me how many memories are affected by smell. Johnson's baby lotion in the pink bottle, a smoky campfire, grandma's famous chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, fresh-cut grass on a hot summer day, etc. In Molly Wizenberg's book A Homemade Life, she shares many recipes that have some emotional attachment from her life. As much as I love food and cooking, I could simply read her words for hours for the enjoyment of her stories and descriptions of how food continually brought her family together around the table.

With all the recent attention given to the promotions of buying organic and buying local, I have been trying to make it my personal goal of also buying in season. Unfortunately, mass distribution, greenhouses, imports, and GM foods have made it near impossible to discern what foods are actually in season. I've actually had to research local seasonal crops! That being said, green cabbage is being harvested from the garden as we speak so it's time to break out one of my favorite recipes.

Until reading A Homemade Life, I really only had two uses for cabbage: Cole slaw and along side a St. Patrick's Day corned beef roast. I can now add a third use, and probably my most favorite of the three: braised in cream. This recipe is super easy and other than turning it over a few times in the pan, it basically minds itself while you are preparing the rest of your dinner. The smell of the cabbage caramelizing in the pan and the joy in watching my entire family devour every last bite has added a new "smell memory" in my life. Even if you are not a big fan of cabbage I urge you to try this. You will never look at cabbage the same way again.

Cream-Braised Green Cabbage
Adapted from A Homemade Life

Serves 4
Cook time: 45 minutes

1 small green cabbage (about 1.5 pounds)
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
2/3 cup heavy cream (enough to cover bottom of pan)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Prepare cabbage by removing bruised leaves and clean away any remaining dirt.
Cut the cabbage into quarters, and then cut each quarter in half lengthwise, taking care to keep a little bit of the core in each wedge (to help hold it together).

In a large skillet (12-inch), melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage wedges, arranging them in a single crowded later with one of the cut sides down. Cook, undisturbed, until the downward facing side is nicely browned (approximately 5 to 8 minutes). Good browning of the wedges will provide a wonderful sweet flavor. Gently turn to the other cut side and repeat browning process.

Sprinkle cabbage with the Kosher salt and then add the cream. (The recipe calls for only 2/3 cup, but I like to add enough to just barely cover the bottom of the pan.) Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and reduce heat so that the liquid just simmers. Cook for 20 minutes and then flip the cabbage wedges to their other side. Cook for another 20 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a thin, sharp knife. Add the lemon juice and shake the pan to distribute evenly. Simmer, uncovered, for a few additional minutes to thicken up the pan liquid. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

9-Month Hiatus

What does a full-time mom, part-time evenings lab technologist, part-time student with an impending graduation, and a pregnancy equal out to?  A very exhausted individual and a very empty blog!  Posts shall resume later this summer.  Sorry to keep you waiting!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

White Chicken Chili

Who doesn't like a 1-pot meal that has spent the day cooking away and is ready for you when you get home?  Slow cookers are perfect for that scenario and chili is an easy choice.  As much as I like your standard chili, I do enjoy trying different variations and spices.  This white chicken chili is a great example of a deviation from the norm and it uses hominy which I love.  I must confess, it's not entirely a 1-pot meal, you do use a skillet to brown the aromatics before putting them in the slow cooker, but it's well worth the extra 10 minutes.  This dish is easy to prep the night before and only needs about 5 hours on low to cook.  (Therefore a programmable slow cooker may be necessary if you're gone for a normal 8-hour work day.) 

I actually made this early on a Saturday morning where my husband was kind enough to get up at 5 am to switch it on (as I only have the old-fashioned non-programmable slow cooker) as we needed it ready by 11am to feed a group of 10 adults before our adventure to the Porter Perfect Pint Festival.  That being said, the recipe is easy to double to feed a crowd and you won't sacrifice any flavor.  Keep in mind that if you do prep this ahead of time, when you take it out of the fridge, you will need to allow extra time for the contents to warm up before the actual cooking time begins.

White Chicken Chili
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen's Slow Cooker Revolution
Serves 6 to 8
Cooking Time: 4 to 6 hours on Low

3 cups chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can white or yellow hominy, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, minced
2-4 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
3 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp minced jarred pickled jalapeno chiles (optional)
1/4 cup minced cilantro
sliced jalapenos for garnish & serving (optional)
2 avocados, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch pieces---do this just before serving

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onions, jalapenos, garlic, cumin, and coriander and cook until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Stir in 1 cup of the broth, scraping up and browned bits; transfer to slow cooker.

Stir beans into slow cooker and add remaining broth and hominy.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker.  Cover and cook until chicken is tender, approximately 4 to 6 hours on low.

Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces, discarding bones.  Let chili settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using a large spoon.

Stir in shredded chicken and pickled jalapenos (optional) and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes.  Stir in cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste, garnish and serve with the avocado and additional jalapeno slices (if desired).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Barbecued Beef Brisket

I love the weather this time of year.  The crisp, cool air gives me an excuse to pull out my slow cooker to celebrate the changing seasons.  Not that the slow cooker can only be used in cooler weather, it's just the thought and taste of comfort food in the crock pot seems more appropriate during the fall and winter months. This season I started off with a brisket.  I can't say that a cut of brisket is the first cut of beef that I would choose to bring home.  It was part of "the package deal" when we purchased an entire half of cow's worth of meat and filled up our freezer for the winter.  My first thought for the brisket was my grandmother's traditional BBQ brisket that was always a family favorite for the holidays.  Alas, I do not have her recipe (yet) and since she is currently away from home, I was forced to find another recipe.

The search lead me to a recent purchase in my cooking library, America's Test Kitchen's Slow Cooker Revolution.This cookbook has already proven its worth to me as every recipe I've tried thus far has been delicious.  This is also an amazing feat for a slow cooker cookbook because let's face it, most slow cooker recipes seem to taste and look the same after a while.  While not every recipe in this book has a photo (which I often frown upon), I have let that detail go in my rating because as I already mentioned, everything thus far has turned out very well.

This recipe for Barbecued Beef Brisket also follows suit.  Admittedly, I did not follow the instructions exactly as stated.  This is mostly due to lack of preparation (i.e. laziness) and not realizing that the dry rub should have been done 8-24 hours before the cooking process was to begin.  Nevertheless, I put the rub on and then threw it in the crockpot on high for 6 hours and it still turned out delicious.  There is a delicious jus to serve with the brisket and served with a side of mashed potatoes and a vegetable of your choice, the meal is complete.  This is perfectly suited for entertaining or simply for a day when your prep and cook time is limited.  (Just be sure to remember and turn the slow cooker on before you leave the house in the morning!)

Barbecued Beef Brisket
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen's Slow Cooker Revolution

For the dry rub:
1/4 cup dark brown brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 Tbsp sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce (optional)
2 teaspoons black pepper

Mix together. Rub mixture over brisket, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refridgerate for 8 to 24 hours.
Unwrap brisket and place in slow cooker. (Remember, if you forget to do the rub in advance, you can still put the rub on and put it directly in the crockpot.  The flavor will still be good, but more muted.)

Remaining ingredients:
1 (3 pound) flat-cut beef brisket
1 large onion, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (optional)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp liquid smoke

Microwave onions, tomato paste, garlic, oil, chili powder, and remaining tablespoon chipotles in bowl, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir mix together and transfer to slow cooker.  Add the water and cover.  Cook until beef is tender, approximately 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.

When finished cooking, transfer brisket to cutting board, tent loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 20 minutes.  Let braising liquid settle for 5 minutes and then skim fat from surface.  Whisk in ketchup, vinegar, and liquid smoke and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slice brisket in 1/2 inch thick slices against the grain (very important).  Spoon sauce over meat to serve.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coconut Bread

I have to admit a tiny, devious secret; I have an ulterior motive to this recipe.  It is a mere stepping stone towards a dish I really have a craving for.  Let me explain. I enjoy scuba diving and on my most recent trip diving in the Bahamas, we stopped at a local restaurant for breakfast before boarding our boat.  I really enjoy breakfast foods so choosing just one item off the menu is often difficult.  I usually try to convince my husband to get something different so that we can share.

This time around, I selected the coconut french toast.  It seems rather simple, I'm sure, but it's something that I would never take the time to make for myself.  Week days are too busy to indulge in fancy breakfast foods, only leaving the weekend to partake in the more decadent dishes. Getting back to my story, it was absolutely delicious. You could taste the butter that it was cooked in and the sprinkle of confectioners sugar on the top made the maple syrup almost unnecessary.

Since that day, I have tried only once to recreate the dish.  My version was good, but it seemed like a lot of effort for only a second-place finish.  I'm hoping that this recipe for coconut bread will help me get one step closer to the flavor that I can only seem to find in the Caribbean.  The bread itself turned out great both moist and flavorful.  Slice it and serve it warm with a small pad of butter or sprinkle some powdered sugar on it.  It makes a great breakfast treat or a light post-dinner dessert.  I'll be sure to let you know if the coconut french toast turns out, however, this recipe was good enough to hold up on its own.

Coconut Bread
Adapted from Bill's Sydney Food
Makes 8-10 thick slices

2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup milk (not skim)
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
3/4 cup shredded coconut
2 Tbsp butter, melted

To Serve:
confectioners (powdered) sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Lightly whisk eggs, milk and vanilla together.

Sift flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl, add sugar and coconut, and stir to combine. Make a well in the center and gradually stir in the egg mixture until just combined.  Add melted butter and stir until the mixture is just smooth, being careful not to over mix.

Pour into a greased and floured 8.5 x 4 inch (loaf) pan and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour or until bread is cooked when tested with a skewer or toothpick.

Leave to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to cool further on a wire rack. Serve with a pad of butter and/or dusted with powdered sugar.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Not Your Mother's Scrambled Eggs

Rise and shine!  We've all had scrambled eggs for breakfast. Even someone who has never cooked before could probably whip up a dish of scrambled eggs without screwing them up.  What if I told you that while you can't really screw them up, you can totally make them better?

Case in point:  I have always been a follower of the cooking show Good Eats hosted by Alton Brown.  He was the first to point out that I was cooking my eggs incorrectly.  A scrambled egg should be removed from the pan when it still looks runny as it will continue to cook when laid upon the plate.  By the time the first bite hits your mouth, it will be finished cooking and done so to perfection. 

Alton's second point made is confirmed by this recipe taken from Bill Granger's book Bill's Sydney Food. The magic ingredient to fantastic scrambled eggs is heavy cream.  Yes, I know, I can hear the moaning and groaning from here, but it's true.  As much as our diet-fad culture wants us to cringe at the very thought of heavy cream, it really does make the world taste better.  Every now and then,  treat yourself and buy a small container of it and make several dishes in a row that require it. Using it up with no waste justifies the cost (which I admit seems ridiculous) and you get to treat your palate to a few meals indulging in rich, decadent flavors. As it was said to Mikey so many years ago, "Try it. You'll like it." Trust me.

Scrambled Eggs
Adapted from Bill's Sydney Food
Serves 1

2 eggs, large
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
pinch of salt
fresh ground pepper to taste

Place eggs, cream and salt in a bowl and whisk together.
Melt the butter in a non-stick rying pa over high heat, but becareful not to burn the butter.
Pour in the egg mixture and cook for 20 seconds or until gently set around the edges.
Stir the eggs with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently bringing the egg mixture on the outside of the pan towards the center.  The idea is to fold the eggs rather than to scramble them, but really, I just push them towards the center of the pan.  Leave alone to cook for another 20 seconds longer and then repeat the folding process.  When the eggs are just barely set (yes, they will look runny), turn out onto a plate and serve. Sprinkle salt and peper to taste.