Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Simple Tips for Great Roast Potatoes and Scrambled Eggs

During the week, the only time I can afford for breakfast is usually just making a bowl of instant oatmeal. But on the weekends, I love to have a good breakfast. My dear hubby usually makes the french toast - I'll go into the trick for that another time - but if there are scrambled eggs involved, I'm usually the one on it.

I know people can be picky about their eggs, and there's a lot of hype for the Gordon Ramsey style eggs: super creamy, laden with creme fraiche, they are good but more like an egg pudding than anything else. In the end, I keep coming back to my favorite style eggs: fluffy, moist, and very tender large curds. You don't cook these exceptionally slow, or even on that low of a temperature. The trick, really, is just to stir as little as possible. It makes sense - people like fluffy omlettes, but you don't stir omlettes, you just push them. Use the technique towards your scrambled eggs, and you will be rewarded with large, creamy curds.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Beefalo Shepherd's Pie with Potato-Turnip Mash

Spring is here, and while I'm always eager for the fresh and vibrant foods of spring - fresh garlic, asparagus, pea shoots, wild salmon - I usually start to get a little anxious about the going away of winter foods - long braised meats, root veggies, hearty soups and stews, and stick-to-your-ribs kinda meals. So I decided to make perhaps one of the heartiest, most comforting dish I know, and one I'd never made before, to boot - Shepherd's Pie.

This wasn't something I grew up with, or even really knew about until an I was an adult. Poking around online lead to many quick-fix recipes that looked mostly bland or boring, and the good ones seemed to use red wine - something that I was reluctant to use for this dish, knowing I wasn't going to drink the rest tonight (let's just say there was quite a celebration for a friend's birthday last night, and more alcohol was out of the question). So I decided to put my own spin on it, based on what I had on hand, and was quite happy with the way it turned out.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mint White Chocolate Mousse

Mousse is one of those things that will always be a little bit of a mystery - how does something so laden with heavy cream and chocolate taste so light and delicious? It's a amazing what a little air can do.

This recipe is great in that it's pretty simple, tastes really fabulous, and I've never run across another mousse like this! You can make it ahead of time, up to about 12 hours. It will keep longer, but I get a little iffy about keeping it around too long because of the raw egg whites. It is so good - so rich, creamy, and with just a hint of mint.

And if that isn't enough, then make some chile chocolate brownies to go with it, and knock everyone's socks off!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vietnamese Pork Satays

I love the fresh flavors of this dish. Lots of bright ginger, lime, cilantro; fresh and cooling cucumber, carrot and bean sprout garnish; and a tingling of chile sauce for spice and fish sauce for a little kick of saltiness. And then there's pork, and who doesn't love pork? Ok, maybe lots of people, but not me. If you use a lean cut, like tenderloin or loin chops, they're more or less guilt free!

As if you needed an extra bonus, they're fun to eat too, as long as you don't mind a little mess -- heaven knows I'm a sucker for anything that lets you pick and choose and wrap up little bundles of deliciousness. Add as little or as much cilantro as you like, I always like a lot. This is great during the summer when it's hot, mint is readily available, and you want something light and refreshing to eat. Or, like this time, when it's cold and raining, and you're wishing for warmer weather.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pasta with Zucchini and Chicken Sausage

It's no secret that I'm fond of pasta dishes. While I like to cook more elaborately on the weekends for my hubby and I, and for friends and family, during the week I just want something tasty and relatively fast. Pasta dishes tend to come together easily, don't make a lot of dishes, and make enough for leftovers the next day.

This is one of my favorites. It has just a few ingredients, and is relatively lean if you use a good, lowfat chicken sausage (I like Isernio's, which is local, and very lean but still very tasty). This method also taught me to love pasta without a thick sauce like tomato or cream-based - often, all you need is some good olive oil, some freshly grated cheese, lots of fresh ground pepper, and a little cooking water from the pasta to make a nice noodle dish with a veggie and a little meat. When making this, do not skimp on the oil when cooking the zucchini, it becomes part of the "sauce". Leaving it out will leave you with a dry, sticky noodle.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day

I've always had a love/hate relationship with bread. I love good bread. I am very picky about my bread. But man, do I hate making it. Proof, mix, knead, rise, punch, rise, shape, bake. Set aside 4 hours, at least! Make sure the house is warm enough (we keep it chilly in here in the winter). And then, hope and pray it turns out good after all that work. Usually it just turns out ok. Sometimes it's only good enough to stash in the freezer for breadcrumbs (talk about disappointment).

So when I heard about the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day technique, I was hopeful, but skeptical. Now I'm only on my first batch, but so far I'm smitten.

Look at that beauty! It was supposed to be ciabatta. Obviously, it's not flat enough, but that was my fault. But, it tasted fantastic, and really, it took about 5 minutes to make the dough. You can keep the dough in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, and just grab a chunk when you need bread, and then you can have bread in an hour! Just turn and shape the dough a bit, let it rise for about 30 minutes, and let it bake for another 20 minutes. So by the time your soup or stew is ready to go, your bread is done.

Even if this is as far as I get, and all I can make are misshapen loaves of ciabatta, I'm still sold (although there are recipes in the book to make everything from pizza to rye bread to cinnamon rolls, using different master dough recipes, I can't wait to try!). And it's so much cheaper than forking out $4 for a loaf of artisanal bread at the store!

For those interested, here's a link to a youtube video, and here's the book on Amazon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Onion Soup with Thyme

I really love french onion soup. But I don't like heavy, overly beefy, salty soup, and I really don't like all that cheese on top. It's just too much, and you end up chewing great hunks of rubbery cheese, which I don't find pleasant. However, I made this onion soup and really loved it. Not only did it take less than an hour, it still had the sweetness of the onions and a little richness from the beef broth, but it wasn't heavy. Floated with two thin, crisp baguette slices topped with a little sharp cheese, it was just right.

Bacon Cheddar Ranch Gougères

If you've never made pâte à choux, and you're reading this, you owe it to yourself to try it. You may know this dough only as the basis for cream puffs or eclairs, but it makes a fantastic savory little cheese ball known as a gougère. It's such an easy, simple dough, and so versatile, no wonder the French adapt it to both sweet and savory dishes. Even when I think I've done something wrong, my dough always turns out perfect: light, crispy on the outside, with a tender, creamy interior.

This time I decided to bring these little snacks down to the lowest common denominator by making a bacon cheddar ranch version. Yeah, you heard me. I'm taking these babies down a peg or two... or maybe I'm making the bacon-cheddar-ranch combo upscale. Whatever happened, it was delicious. If you're making these for hungry guys, you may consider doubling (or even tripling) the recipe: they never last long in my house.