Saturday, December 25, 2010

French Butter Cookies (Sables)

I love butter cookies. I mean, what's not to love. There's butter, sugar and more butter, sprinkled with fat grains of sugar. I decided to take a crack at making my own butter cookies this year. There are so many recipes for butter cookies out there. I decided to make the Cook's Illustrated recipe for French Butter Cookies, or Sables (pronounced SAH-blays), because CI is my go-to place for new recipes these days. Of the many, many CI recipes that I've made, I've only had, maybe, two that didn't turn out as tasty as I had hoped. Most surpass expectations. This recipe was not a disappointment, at all. They turned out crisp and sandy and buttery and only slightly sweet. Just sweet enough to keep you coming back for more, even after you've already eaten a whole dozen of them. Yep, they are that good.

The process of making the cookies is a little odd. You have to boil the egg, but only use the yolk. I've never made cookies like that before, but it works. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Homemade Almond Buds

I recently went to See's Candy with my friend, Debe, and bought a pound of chocolates. I got a custom box because they don't make an assortment that has everything that I like. My husband's only request was that I get him some almond buds. For those of you who have never had an almond bud, you are missing out. They are toasted almonds wrapped in caramel and drenched in chocolate. Yum! After bringing the chocolates home and examining the almond buds, I thought that there had to be a fairly easy way to make them at home. It would probably be much cheaper to make them too. (I paid about $18/lb at See's.)

On Friday, I decided to try it out. I found a chewy caramel recipe that would work here at high altitude. Candy making is finicky here, but I found a solution. When cooking caramel or fudge or any other sugar syrup-based confection, you have to lower the cooking temperature by 2 degrees for every 1000ft you are above sea level. For example, the recipe I found said to cook the dairy/sugar mixture to 257 degrees; here I would only cook it to 247 degrees and it would turn out right. However, that means that regular chewy caramel recipes that call for boiling the dairy, sugar and corn syrup together from the beginning don't get quiet as caramelized and dark as they do at sea level. The recipe I found called for the sugar/corn syrup to be cooked to a medium amber color before adding the dairy. That's the best way I've found to get good caramel color and flavor way up here at 5300+ ft.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chicken, Roasted Butternut Squash and Feta Lasagna

The first time I made this dish, I was skeptical.  I'm typically not picky with food, but when it comes to the basics, I don't like to mess with a good thing.  I grew up eating mom's lasagna and didn't think that anything would compare.  So, I bought the ingredients, invited friends over and started on this recipe that I hoped wouldn't ruin my "good cook" reputation with my friends.  When I told my friends what we were eating, they also seemed to be a bit hesitant to trying a strange twist on a classic dish.  However, it was a hit!  This is one of the recipes that continues to come up in conversations and I constantly get asked for the recipe.  The sweetness of the squash, saltiness of the feta and creaminess of the cheese sauce, make this dish is near perfect!

2 cups butternut squash (peeled and cut into bite sized pieces)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
1/2 cup white wine
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken (cooked and shredded) **I use a rotisserie chicken, because it already has a lot of great flavors cooked into it.  Just pull all the meat off of the bones.  I also use the bones to make chicken stock for another recipe later.**
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup cheddar cheese (grated)
1/2 pound lasagne noodles (cooked)
1 cup feta (crumbled)
1/2 cup mozzarella (grated)

1. Toss the butternut squash in the oil along with the salt, pepper and rosemary to coat.
2. Arrange the butternut squash in a single layer on a baking sheet.
3. Roast in a preheated 400F oven until tender, about 20-30 minutes and set aside.
4. Heat the oil in a pan.
5. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
6. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
7. Add the wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
8. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken, about 15-20 minutes.
9. Mix in the chicken and set aside.
10. Heat the butter in a saucepan until it is nice and bubbling and it has turned a light golden brown.
11. Mix in the flour and let simmer until it returns to a light golden brown.
12. Mix in the milk, nutmeg and cheese and heat until it thickens.
13. Lightly grease the bottom of an 8 inch square baking dish.
14. Place a layer of noodles followed by 1/2 of the tomato sauce followed by 1/2 of the feta followed by 1/2 of the butternut squash followed by 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Repeat a second layer in the same fashion and top with a final layer of noodles, the remaining bechamel sauce and top with the mozzarella.
15. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the top is golden brown and the sides are bubbling, about 30-45 minutes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tortilla Soup to Die For

I have found the most amazing recipe for tortilla soup! I love it. And the best part is that my kids love it too. About a month ago, I made a pot of this soup, hoping that I'd have enough for two meals. No such luck. The kids gobbled it up as fast as they could. There was enough left at the end of dinner for one person for lunch the next day and everyone wanted it. Luckily, the kids had school and Eric forgot to take it to work, so I got it. I enjoyed every last drop.

I made this soup again, but this time I made a double batch. I have savored it for the last four days. The kids didn't gobble it up as quickly because it was a little too spicy for them this time. You can never tell just how hot a jalapeno is going to be. I, again, loved it.

The best part about this soup is that it is SO easy to make. You poach chicken breasts in chicken broth with onions, garlic and herbs and shred it when it's cool. Then you puree the rest of the ingredients and brown them in a pot, add the chicken broth back into the pot and simmer it. Just before serving, you add the shredded chicken back into the soup to heat it through. Serve it with crunched up tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, diced avocado, extra jalapenos and cilantro. It takes a little time, but most of that time is spent waiting for the chicken to poach and the flavors to meld after adding the broth to the puree. Most. Amazing. Soup. Ever.

Try it, I'm sure you'll love it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I tried Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies for the first time about a month ago and have thought about them several times since then.  I decided to give it a try!  I used the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, but made a few minor adjustments.  First, I browned the butter and then added it to the brown and white sugar.  I also, increased the amount of brown sugar to 1 cup and decreased the white sugar to 1/2 cup.  I wanted to use dark brown sugar, but didn't have any, so I added a tsp of molasses as well.  I accidentally added 3 eggs instead of 2 so I decided to make a more cakey cookie and added an extra 3/4 c flour as well.  These cookies turned out DELICIOUS!  The outsides are crunchy and the middles are soft and cakey.  You can taste the brown butter, which is carmel-y and rich.  Next time I make these, I'll try it with only 1 egg and the regular amount of flour, but I'm not convinced I'll like them more than this batch.  Let me know what you think!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

And it begins...

On a recent visit to Pittsburgh, we spent hours in the kitchen sharing recipes and eating entirely too much delicious food.  Since then, we've tried new recipes and look forward to sharing them with each other.  Our new food blog will help us see what each of us is doing in the kitchen and stay connected with our genius culinary creations!  Here are a few pics of what we made in Pittsburgh.

 French Macarons with Orange Chocolate Ganache
 Salted Caramels
 Giant Fudgies
Cornish Game Hens with Cornbread and Fig Stuffing