Saturday, January 7, 2017

Brown Butter Blondies with Pecans

For the longest time, I didn't think I like blondies.  For one, there was no chocolate in them.  What was the point?  Secondly, they always seemed a little bland and tasteless or else so sickly sweet I couldn't stand to eat them.

As is so often the case, I've learned a killer recipe can turn that all around.  This one converted me.  The browned butter adds a nutty flavor in addition to the pecans. These are crazy sweet and crazy rich from all the butter, but make a decadent, occasional treat.

These make a 9x13" pan and keep wonderfully well on the counter.

Brown Butter Blondies with Pecans
from Bon Appetit

1/2 c unsalted butter
1 large egg
3/4 c packed light brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1/2 t kosher salt
1/3 c flour

1 1/2 c pecans, coarsely chopped
2 1/4 c flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t salt
1 c butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 c packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla extract

Cook 1/2 c butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until butter foams, then browns.  If you listen closely, you can the moment when the butter is browning (the fast sizzling stops and the butter quiets down a bit).  Transfer butter to a medium bowl and let cool for a few minutes.  Add 1 egg, 3/4 c brown sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat until mixture is light and falls back on itself in a slowly dissolving ribbon (in short, beat until the mixture "makes a ribbon").  This will take about 3 minutes depending on your mixer.  Fold in flour.  Set aside

Toast pecans in a preheated 350 degree for 8 - 10 minutes, until fragrant (above, you could tell when the butter was done by the sound, here you want to smell when the pecans are done.  After 8 minutes, open the oven door and sniff.  If the pecans are done a nice pecan smell will greet you.  If you wait until you can smell the pecans without opening the door, you will have burnt pecans).  Let cool.

Whisk together baking powder, salt and 2 1/4 c flour in a medium bowl.  In a large, beat together 1 c butter and 1 3/4 c brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes depending on your mixer.  Add eggs and beat until pale and fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Mix in vanilla.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture.  Fold in half of pecans.

Scrape 2/3 thirds of the batter (not the browned butter mixture) into a buttered and floured (alternately, you can line the pan with parchment paper) 9 x 13" pan.  Smooth top and push batter to the edges.  Alternating, dollop browned butter mixture and remaining batter on top.  Smooth and sprinkle the remaining pecans over all of it.

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes in a preheated 350 degrees oven.  The blondie should be golden brown and firm, a tester WILL NOT come out clean (if it does, you have seriously overbaked your blondies).  Let cool before slicing.

For the ultimate experience, serve with vanilla ice cream.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Rice Cooker Beans and Rice

My library books are due back in two days and there are several recipes I need to save before then.

I haven't used my rice cooker for much besides rice, however, I've heard they are great for all sorts of other cooking as well.  This is my first attempt at something in addition to rice in my rice cooker.

We loved this.  Curtis and I especially loved the addition of plantains and bacon to give it a little extra oomph.

Serves 6

Rice Cooker Black Beans and Rice
adapted from More Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

1 1/2 c rice
1/4 c onion, chopped or 2 green onions, trimmed and cut into 1/4"pieces
chicken broth or water
2 T olive oil
1 large black-ripe plantain, cut into 1/2" pieces
4 oz shredded meat from smoked pork shanks/hocks, or cubed ham, or bacon, cooked and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 (15-oz) cans black beans, drained
1/4 c cilantro leaves, chopped

Put rice and chopped onions in rice cooker.  Cover rice with usual amount of chicken broth (water) for the rice cooker.  Pour in two cans of drained black beans and turn on rice cooker.  Taste broth and season with salt as desired.  Turn on rice cooker to regular and cook.

While the rice cooks, heat the olive oil in a pan over med to med-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the chopped plantain and cook, until it is browned on all sides.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In the same pan, cook the bacon (if using) until crispy.  If using other meat, you don't need to do anything to it.

When the rice is done cooking, add the browned plantains and meat.  Fluff to combine and heat for 5-15 minutes.

When ready to serve, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and top with salsa or queso fresco as desired.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Skirt Steak Salad

When we were in Chicago, I took something off my bucket list.  After years of watching Mexico! One plate at a Time on PBS for many years, I made it to Rick Bayless's restaurant.  Twice.  The first meal we ate in the city was at Frontera.  The last meal we ate was also at Frontera in the Chicago airport.  When we got home, I immediately bought a Rick Bayless cookbook.

A lot of the recipes in the book are "typical" Mexican dishes--enchiladas, tortas, tacos.  I enjoyed this one because it is a salad recipe.

Serves 4 - 6

Skirt Steak Salad
adapted from Everyday Mexican by Rick Bayless

8 c spinach (young or small), long stems removed (or 8 oz frisbee or escarole, cut into 2-inch sections)
2 medium large (1 lb) tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium avocados, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 plus 2 T olive oil
1 lb skirt steak

2 - 3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c beef broth or water
1 canned chipotle en adobo, finely chopped
1/4 c lime juice

1/3 c queso anejo, grated (or another hard cheese like Romano or Parmesan)

Put the spinach in a large bowl. Strew the tomatoes and avocados over top.  Heat 2 T olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium high heat.  Sprinkle both sides of steak with salt and pepper.  Lay in the hot oil and cook until medium-rare (or you can cook longer if you don't like meat medium-rare), about 1 to 1 1/2 on each side.

Reduce the heat to low.  Add the garlic and stir for a few seconds, until very fragrant.  Pour the broth (or water--which is what I used) in to the pan and release any browned bits.  Remove from heat and stir in the chile, lime juice, and 1/4 c olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.

Cut the steak into roughly 3-inch lengths, then cut each piece across the grain into 1/4-inch strips.  Add to the bowl with the spinach.  Pour warm dressing over the top and toss to coat.  The warm dressing will help the spinach wilt a little  Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Food Cart Curry Chicken

Another wonderful, family favorite from Ruth Reichl.  This jumped immediately into our rotation as a flavorful, fast easy weeknight meal.

Serves 6

Food Cart Curry Chicken
adapted from Ruth Riechl's My Kitchen Year

1 1 /2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 onion, sliced into rings
1/4 c olive oil
2 T lemon juice
fat 1/4 t coriander seeds
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 T curry powder
2 sprigs fresh oregano (or 1/2 t dried), leaves removed and coarsely chopped
fat 1/4 t paprika
3/4 t cumin
1 t salt

white rice
mango pickapeppa sauce

Using an immersion blender or small food processor, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, coriander seeds, garlic, curry powder, oregano, paprika, cumin and salt to make a paste.

Put the onions and chicken pieces into a large bowl or plastic bag.  Pour the curry paste over top and coat each piece of chicken thoroughly.  Marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight (true confession time--sometimes, this only marinades for 15 minutes, it's still great).

When you are ready to eat, heat up a wok and add 2 T vegetable, grapeseed, canola, or sunflower oil.  Add the onions and garlic to the hot wok and stir fry for about 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve over white rice with some spicy sauce if desired (my favorite is the Mango Pickapeppa Sauce--however, that is not Curtis's favorite).

Monday, June 27, 2016

Pork Tinga Tacos

Once upon a time, I made crockpot meals.  I'd put things in at noon, do kid driving/practices and end up with a tasty dinner when we all made it home.  These days, that is just a fairy tale-at least when I need make ahead meals most.  I've had challenges getting things in the crock pot before school (partly because I am too exhausted the night before) and 7 am to 4 pm is too long to leave most anything in the crockpot (at least my crockpot who's low temp works more like a high temp).

This summer though, I've made an amazing discovery.  Getting a meat dish in the crock pot in the mornings before we go to swim meets means when we return, our house is fragrant and I have supper ready.  I usually let the meal cool a bit, then put it in the fridge until supper time (reheating it right before eating).  Perfection.

It's been the summer of the taco.  We're eating tacos about once a week, mostly because they're easy, I found mixta (a mixture of corn and flour) tortillas we love, and everyone loves tacos.  It's a fix your own meal kinda meal so if I am wanting more veggies, I load more cabbage salad on mine.  The boys can skip the cabbage salad entirely and just have meat and cheese.  

This serves 6 - 8

Pork Tinga Tacos 
adapted from Everyday Mexican by Rick Bayless

1 lb potatoes (red or yellow--not Russet baking potatoes), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 lbs boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 -2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and thinly sliced
1 T chipotle canning sauce
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t died oregano
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick

tortillas (corn, mixta, flour--your preference, but corn is best)
queso fresco, crumbled
avocados, flesh cut into 1/2-inch pieces (avoid pit and skin)
guacamole (unnecessary if you're using avocados)

Spread the potatoes over the bottom of the slow cooker.  Cover with pork.  In a large bowl (or if you're lazy, just dump everything straight into the slow cooker), combine tomatoes, chipotles and chipotle sauce, Worcestershire, oregano, garlic, onion and 1 1/2 t salt.  Pour the mixture evenly over the meat and potatoes.  Cover and slow-cook on low for 6 hours (Know they slow cooker!  The original recipe said cook on high, but I know high for 6 hours would ruin my meat).  Taste and add more salt if necessary.

To serve, put a spoonful of pork and potatoes in the center of a heated tortilla.  Top with queso fresco, avocado chunks, salsa, guacamole or whatever else you desire.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Hot Fudge Sauce (to beat all other hot fudge sauces)

We have favorite brands of products.  I am rather devoted to those which I love and often I would rather by none at all rather than a different brand.  Thus, I found myself without the promised chocolate sauce for Madeleine's birthday angel food cake.

I knew I had made Dorie Greenspan's chocolate sauce before and loved it, but this is the summer of Ruth.  I turned to my summer cookbook and found a hot fudge recipe.

After one child guest told us it must be made out of all fake things because it had corn syrup in it (someone asked how I made it), I took a deep breath and went to my happy place.  I didn't have to wait long for her (and everyone else) to get over the "fake stuff" and talk about how wonderful the sauce was.

If you make this, use the best chocolate you can.  We used our Chicago chocolate (from Blommer's--a chocolate factory who filled our Architectural boat tour with a wonderful aroma) and this sauce was amazing.  I may be hording it a bit in the fridge and hoping everyone else forgets about it so there is more to myself.  I don't think that's really possible though.

Makes about 2 cups

Hot Fudge Sauce
adapted slightly from Ruth Reichl's My Kitchen Year

2/3 c heavy cream
1/3 c brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cocoa powder (Dutch processed is preferable)
1/2 c light corn syrup
6 oz bittersweet chocolate (coarsely chopped or in chip form)
2 T butter
1 t instant espresso powder
1 t vanilla

Combine heavy cream, brown sugar, salt, and cocoa powder in a saucepan over medium heat.  When the mixture has reached a smooth consistency, stir in the corn syrup.  Continue to stir frequently over medium heat and add the bittersweet chocolate.  Stir constantly and bring the sauce to a near (or slow) boil.  Once the sauce is thick and rippling, stir in the butter and instant espresso powder.  Once the butter has melted and is incorporated, stir in the vanilla.  Keep warm until ready to pour on ice cream (if it's soonish) or allow to cool and store in the refrigerator until you need it.  Microwave cooled sauce briefly to heat up and soften.  Pour over ice cream or angel food cake (and berries!).

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Spanish Tortilla (or at least as Spanish as I get)

Some days, I leave space in my menu for an "Iron Chef" day.  I purposefully plan no meal and decide I am going to figure out something to cook just using the ingredients from my pantry/fridge.  

For this addition, I had a ton of potatoes and was hoping to avoid using meat (we have a meat heavy menu the rest of the week).  Spanish tortilla came to mind and I started googling recipes.  I decided quickly that I didn't want to make an authentic tortilla because of the amount of olive oil and flipping the entire tortilla and getting it back into the pan.  Amanda Hesser and food52 came through for me.

We topped it with salsa and we mostly liked it.  Curtis and I thought it should have Manchego with it, but that would have defeated the Iron Chef aspect (and involved a trip to the grocery store).  I had this the next morning for breakfast as well.  

Serves 4 - 6

Spanish Tortilla
adapted from Amanda Hesser at food52

2 lbs potatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
3 T olive oil
8 eggs
1 t smoked paprika
1/3 c Parmesan, grated (or Manchego would be wonderful)
1 1/2 T butter

Boil the potatoes in a pot of salted water until they are just tender, about 20 - 25 minutes.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into thin, 1/8" slices.

While potatoes are boiling, heat 1 1/2 T of olive oil in a skillet (I used my all clad skillet).  Saute the the onions with a little salt until they are lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Place in a large bowl and let cool.  Preheat the oven to 400.

In a bowl, beat the eggs until they are frothy and well blended.  Set aside.

Put a layer of potato slices over the onions in the large bowl.  Make sure each slice is separate.  Pour a little egg over top and stir gently to make sure each potato slice is coated.  Repeat the process until all the potato slices have been added and each slice is coated with egg.  Gently fold in 1 t salt and smoked paprika.

In the same skillet you sauted the onions in, melt the butter and add remaining olive oil over medium heat. When butter is melted, gently pour in the egg and potato mixture.  Even out the top with a spatula and sprinkle with cheese.  Cook over medium high heat until eggs are set at the edges.  Transfer the pan to the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until the center is set.

Remove from the oven, let cool for a bit, and invert on a plate if desired.  We took the easy way and serve it straight out of the pan (watch for the handle! It's hot).  Top with salsa with good green olives on the side, if desired.