Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mom's Lasagna

I already have a recipe on this blog for a lasagna with bechamel, but the one I grew up eating doesn't do it that way. Here's the recipe my family ate when I was younger. I use slightly different proportions today (for example, it's virtually impossible to find 15 oz spaghetti sauce jars in stores nowadays, so I usually just use a 24 oz one. Doesn't hurt the recipe at all) but the principles are the same.

Mom's Lasagna

12 oz lasagna noodles
1 lb ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
24 oz jar spaghetti sauce with mushrooms
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
2 cup cottage cheese
2 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cook noodles according to package directions, drain.

In a large skillet, brown beef and onions, drain if there's excessive fat. Stir in spaghetti sauce, garlic salt, oregano, and basil. In 2 qt greased rectangular baking dish, layer 1/3 of noodles, 1/3 of sauce, 1/3 of cheeses. Repeat layers twice (ending with cheeses on top).

Bake at 350F for 45 min, until hot and bubbling. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting to give it time to set up.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Baked Chicken Breasts

A quick, easy recipe that produces fantastically tender and flavorful chicken breasts in the oven.

Baked Chicken Breasts

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 2 large breasts butterflied in half to make 4)
Olive oil
Garlic powder

Begin by brining chicken for 15 minutes. Fill a bowl with warm water, add 1/4 cup salt, stir until the salt dissolves, and add the chicken. You can preheat the oven to 450 while the chicken is brining.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Lay it out in a baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray and brush both sides with olive oil. In a separate dish, combine approximately equal parts salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. sprinkle mixture over chicken and rub in, on both sides of all four pieces.

Bake at 450 for 15-18 minutes, then allow to rest for at least 5 min before cutting.

Serves: 4

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Chicken Salad

This is a take on the classic chicken salad with grapes and nuts. My version adds mustard and tarragon for a bit of flavor interest.

Chicken Salad

2 large chicken breasts, thawed (about 1.25 lbs chicken)
15 large red grapes, cut into 1/8ths
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup celery, minced
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise (don't substitute greek yogurt, it'll wind up too watery with the added waer from the grapes)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp tarragon

Begin by poaching the chicken breasts in boiling water for 15 minutes. I like to salt my water and add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes to try and get some flavor into the chicken as it poaches, so it won't be too bland, but what you do to your poaching liquid is totally optional. When the chicken is done, remove it from the liquid, dice it into slightly smaller than 1/2 inch cubes, then add salt, black pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste. Put it in the fridge to cool while you chop the rest of your ingredients.

Go ahead and do the rest of your chopping, then in a large bowl combine the grapes, celery, red onion, pecans, mayo, mustard and tarragon and stir. Adjust the mayo amount so that the salad achieves your desired level of creaminess, the 1/2 cup in the recipe is more of a guideline than any hard-and-fast law. Serve chilled.

This plates really well on a bed of spinach or lettuce leaves, with grape tomatoes around it for color. It's also great on sandwiches if you want to go that route.

Serves 6.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Asian Lettuce Wraps with Teriyaki Pineapple Meatballs

These are fast, require little cleanup, and are surprisingly both tasty and healthy. Even my father, who is wary of all things Asian-inspired, loved them. It uses meatballs that I sampled at the store and liked, which is a lot faster than making your own.

Asian Lettuce Wraps with Teriyaki Pineapple Meatballs

For the coleslaw:
1/2 head red cabbage, grated
1 granny smith apple, cored and grated
1/2 cucumber with the seeds scooped out, minced
12 baby carrots, minced
1 tsp dried cilantro (fresh can also be used and is better, but dried is what I had)

For the dressing:
3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce (add more to taste)
1 tbsp lime juice

For the lettuce wraps:
6 leaves romaine or iceberg lettuce, large enough for wrapping
1 package Aidells Teriyaki Pineapple Meatballs
Coleslaw (see above)

Start by mixing all the ingredients in the coleslaw dressing into a small bowl, whisking vigorously, then setting aside. They'll meld while you prep the slaw vegetables themselves.

Grate the cabbage and the apple, chop your carrots and cucumber. Add all the ingredients for the slaw into a large bowl and pour the dressing over them, then stir well. Add salt and pepper to season to taste. Set slaw aside. If you're prepping this in advance, the slaw can go in the fridge for up to a couple days.

Prepare the meatballs according to package directions. I used the oven for 12 minutes at 375 and they came out well. Rinse your lettuce leaves and pat them dry.

Serve meatballs, slaw, and lettuce leaves and let guests assemble their wraps themselves. Sriracha sauce, sprigs of cilantro, and lime slices are optional garnishes.

Serves 3

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Peach Galette with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Galettes - for when doing a pie sounds like too much work. This is a rustic little pastry that doesn't require much in the way of fuss or cleanup, but still tastes outstanding and looks good enough for company. If peaches aren't in season, this recipe adapts well to plums, pears, berries, etc.

Peach Galette

1 Simple Pie Crust
3 large peaches, sliced thinly
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Optional: whipped cream for topping (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Mix sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl. Add in peach slices and toss until completely coated. Set aside.

Line baking sheet with parchment or silicone baking pad, roll out pie crust onto baking sheet. Pile peaches in center of crust, leaving at least 2 inches on all sides. Fold crust up and over edges of peaches to form galette.

Bake 35-40 min, until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing to serve. Serve with fresh whipped cream, garnish with mint leaf.

Vanilla Whipped Cream

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl, beat on medium high until soft peaks form. Chill until needed.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Chocolate Pavlova with Mascarpone Whipped Cream and Blueberries

Sounds and looks fancy, but this one is fairly easy to prepare and doesn't take as long as I thought it would. Honestly, chopping the chocolate bar finely enough was the most time-consuming thing here. So this is the recipe for when you want to flaunt your haute cuisine dessert skills, without putting in haute cuisine time and effort. Plus it's gluten-free, so if you've got a gathering with a bunch of people whose allergies and diets you don't know, you can still walk in and knock the socks off everyone present!

Chocolate Pavlova with Mascarpone Whipped Cream and Blueberries
Used with minor adaptations from Once Upon a Chef

6 large egg whites 
Pinch salt 
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar (You can buy superfine, or grind regular sugar in the food processor until it's fine enough. You can't use powdered though, because it's got cornstarch and other additives in it to keep it from clumping) 
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder 
1 tsp red wine vinegar 
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (Use the best chocolate you can get. With not many ingredients, quality matters.)

Mascarpone Whipped Cream:
8 oz (1 cup) mascarpone cheese, cold
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a dark marker, draw a 9-inch diameter circle on the parchment paper by tracing around a 9-inch cake pan or plate. Flip the paper over so your meringue won't touch the marker. 

Use a mixer to beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy soft peaks form, about a minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the sugar; continue beating until stiff peaks form, 8-9 minutes. (The meringue will be glossy.)

Pass the cocoa powder through a sieve or sifter and add to the meringue. Add the vinegar and chopped chocolate. Using a large rubber spatula, fold the mixture until well combined. It should be a light mocha color with no white or brown streaks. 

Secure the parchment paper to the baking sheet by taping it down, or have an assistant hold it still while you spread. Mound the meringue onto the parchment inside the circle. Using the spatula or a butter knife, spread the meringue to fill the circle. Even the top and sides just slightly -- it shouldn’t be perfectly smooth or overworked. Place in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the meringue is puffed and crisp all over. Don't worry if the top is cracked -- that's normal and it all gets covered with whipped cream in the end. Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open, and leave the meringue in the oven to cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. (The meringue won’t collapse as much if it cools gradually.)

Before serving, carefully peel the meringue off of the parchment paper and place it on the platter on which you intend to serve. In a medium bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese, heavy cream and vanilla until combined. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until it holds soft, pillowy peaks. Do not overbeat; it should not be too stiff or grainy. Mound the mascarpone cream onto the meringue and gently spread it out about an inch from the edge (don't worry if the meringue cracks in the process). Top the pavlova with the blueberries. Cut the pavlova into wedges, wiping the knife in between slices, and serve.

Note: This pavlova can be made ahead and assembled up to 12 hours ahead of time. Keep in the refrigerator.

Mrs. Ludell's Egg Custard Pie (with Blackberry Syrup Reduction)

When I was growing up, a woman in my father's church always made one thing for church potlucks: egg custard pies. Supposedly they'd won many prizes in the state fairs when she was younger, but she was elderly when I knew her (she's long since passed away now) and come hell or high water, if there was a potluck or a pig-picking or a funeral at our church and people needed desserts, there she'd be, two egg custard pies in tow.

You don't hear much about egg custard pies any more, they certainly aren't one of the well-known or glamorous pies featured on TV baking shows or upscale menus, but for a certain slice of the Southern low-country, they are a longheld tradition. I always think of Mrs. Ludell Fox when I make her recipe. The blackberry syrup reduction here is my own addition. It's optional, and can be made with fresh or frozen berries, but the tart berries add a spike of perfect contrast to the velvety rich custard.

Mrs. Ludell's Egg Custard Pie

1 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
2 cups milk (any milk would work, but the higher the fat %, the richer the custard)
4 tbsp unsalted butter (Mrs. Ludell made hers with Superbrand margerine sticks, but those don't exist anymore, and butter work just as well)
1 Simple Pie Crust, uncooked

Preheat oven to 350F.

In the bowl for your mixer, stir sugar and half the whipping cream together with a spoon until smooth. Add 1 cup milk with eggs and beat with mixer until eggs are blended. Add vanilla, remainder of milk, and remainder of whipping cream. Melt butter and stir into mixture. Pour into 9-inch, deep pie shell. If you don't use a deep pie plate, you'll probably have some liquid left over, but a deep shell should hold it all.

Cook uncovered for 50-60 minutes, until crust is brown and custard is golden on top. The middle should be weakly set (this one always ends up more jiggly than I think it will, it's okay), but a knife inserted in the center should come back clean. Cool, then refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. If you are adding the blackberry syrup reduction, pour that on after the pie has cooled at least 15 minutes, but before you stick it in the fridge.

Blackberry Syrup Reduction

Approx 2 cups whole blackberries, rinsed (or if frozen, dethawed)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp cornstarch

In a small saucepan over medium high heat, mix blackberries, sugar and water. Bring this to a low boil, then turn the stove down and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until the blackberries have rendered most of their juices and are falling apart and soft. Remove pan from heat, and pour contents through a strainer into a small bowl, using the strainer to catch the blackberry solids. Mash the solids against the sides of the strainer with a spoon to force out all the juices, then discard the solids. Rinse everything off/out of the strainer and place a square of cheesecloth inside it, then wipe out the saucepan you were using for the cooking process. Pour the juices from the small bowl back through the strainer and cheesecloth into the saucepan, using the cheesecloth to catch blackberry seeds that may have slipped through the strainer the first time. This whole process leaves you with a simple syrup of blackberry juice and sugar, and with no blackberry solids at all to spoil the silkiness of the custard.

Whisk the 1/2 tsp of cornstarch into the syrup in the pan, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the syrup thickens to about the consistency of molasses. Remove from heat, allow to cool for five minutes, then pour/spoon over the top of the pie, spreading the syrup with the back of the spoon until the whole pie surface is covered. Refrigerate as above to allow pie and syrup to set.