Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Crock Pot Chicken Stock

Here is a quick tip that is going to make life so much easier for those of you who make your own chicken stock – make it in the Crock Pot!  For those of you who don’t make your own stock, start now.  There is nothing better or more satisfying than to make stock out of something that you would normally throw away.  Stock can be made with a whole, uncooked chicken from the market, but I find that the tastiest stock comes from a chicken that has already been seasoned and roasted, meat carved away and consumed at dinner or piled on a sandwich.  I leave a good bit of chicken on the bone for extra flavor and toss the entire carcass into the pot.

There is a debate over whether or not the meat from a chicken used to make stock should be eaten.  I say, don’t.  Whether made on the top of the stove or using this crock pot method, stock takes many hours of simmering in order to produce a flavorful end result.  This means that the meat has pretty much had every bit of flavor cooked out of it. 

Crock Pot Chicken Stock

1 whole chicken or rotisserie chicken*
1 medium yellow onion, washed, skin on, quartered
2-3 carrots, cut into 3-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into 3-inch pieces, with leaves in tact
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 sprig fresh)
1 teaspoon rubbed sage (or 1 sprig fresh)
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
½ teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon Kosher salt

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker.  Add 5 to 6 cups cold water, or whatever it takes to cover the chicken.  Cook on low for 8 hours. Place a large colander in a large bowl.  Pour the stock into the colander, separating the solids from the liquids.  Discard solids. Pour the stock into jars or containers.  I use various sized plastic containers from 1/2 cup up to 3 cups, so it is premeasured for just about any recipe that I need.   If you plan to freeze the stock, leave about an inch at the top for liquid expansion, otherwise use within three days.  

*As rotisserie chickens tend to be highly seasoned, I find that they yield the most flavorful stock.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Baked Eggs with Red Peppers and Boursin

If you made the spinach soufflé recipe from yesterday you’re probably wondering what to do with the other half of the jar of roasted red peppers.  Here is but one of the many answers, Baked Eggs with Red Peppers and Boursin.  This has to be the easiest breakfast dish that I’ve ever assembled, and it is really good.  It also looks quite impressive and I’m guessing could be a real dazzler when serving overnight guests.  It can easily be custom made to fit you or your guests’ interests -- eliminate the bacon for a vegetarian version, change the herbs to suit various tastes, top it with salsa verde for a spicier, Tex-Mex variety, add or subtract cheeses, toss in spinach or kale, or top with chopped ham and hollandaise for a mock eggs benedict.  The combination of ingredients are endless.  Give it a try and let me know.

Baked Eggs with Red Peppers and Boursin

1 t. unsalted butter, softened
1 T. boursin cheese, more or less to taste
1 T. Parmesan cheese, grated
T. fresh parsley, minced
2 large eggs
1 strip bacon, cooked and crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat oven to 350°F.  Butter one small baking dish. Place chopped roasted red peppers into the baking dish and top with cracked eggs then sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese, and parsley.  Drop small dollops of Boursin in various spots on top of the eggs, sprinkle with a dash of salt, freshly ground pepper, and crumbled bacon. Bake the eggs for 10-15 minutes until the eggs have achieved desired doneness: less time for runny yolks, more time for firm yolks. Serve immediately. Serves 1

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Spinach Soufflé with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

My all-time favorite color is green, but I find myself particularly drawn to it at this time of the year with both St. Patrick’s Day and spring in the offing.  It makes me happy with thoughts of renewal, growth, and plenty.  The hunt is always on for green food to serve at my annual St. Pat’s dinner, so I was pleased to find, in an ancient (1998) issue of Bon Appetit magazine, this light and delicious spinach soufflé.  More an airy, fluffy spinach dish than soufflé, it makes for a tasty side or  delicious light supper with a crusty roll and side salad of greens or fresh seasonal fruit. The delicious red pepper sauce that accompanies it makes this dish seem more appropriate for Christmas serving, so I’ll make up a spicy béchamel in addition to the red pepper sauce and let my guests choose.  Either way, they’re in for a treat.  I made a few changes in the original recipe and feature these in italics.

  Spinach Soufflé with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

1 10-ounce package frozen creamed spinach, thawed
3/4 cup coarsely grated Gruyere cheese, packed 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Few gratings fresh nutmeg
2 large egg yolks
3 large egg whites
1/2 of a 15.5-ounce jar of Melissa’s Fire Roasted sweet Red Bell Peppers, drained well, 1 tablespoon of juices reserved
1-1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 medium shallots, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Blend creamed spinach, grated cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a medium bowl; whisk in egg yolks. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large bowl until stiff but not dry; fold into spinach mixture. Gently transfer to prepared dish.

Bake soufflé until beginning to color at edges and center is puffed and softly set, about 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, purée half of roasted red peppers, 1 tablespoon reserved red pepper juices and balsamic vinegar in processor until almost smooth. Add remaining roasted red peppers and shallot and chop, using on/off turns, until chunky purée forms. Transfer sauce to small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until warmed through; season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon soufflé onto plates. Serve, passing sauce separately.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Nobody here but us chickens!

It’s always difficult, I think, to come up with an attractive table setting after all of the splash and glitter of the tables set during the holiday season.  It seems there is just one holiday after another once October hits, and then after Valentine’s Day it’s a bit of a letdown until St. Pat’s and Easter.
 This table was inspired by a piece of scrapbook paper that I couldn’t resist during a recent trip to Michael’s.  I think I envisioned cutting a chicken silhouette out of the paper and centering it on a complementary piece of cardstock, but then I figured, who’d see it once a plate was set down?  So I pulled out my glass squares that I first used here and put the paper beneath them.
 Thanks to other bloggers for the brilliant idea of using rugs, throws, matelassés, quilts, and afghans as table coverings, I pulled the afghan off of the couch and placed it diagonally on the table.  It didn’t cover completely, but I liked the look and, really, isn’t it just so much fun perplexing men with this sort of thing?
 Then I started looking for some chicken theme items and came up with this.  It’s quite cozy on dreary winter days.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kräftig Beer Cheese Soup

I enjoy making soup and find that few people will turn soup away.  Of course, the trick is to match up the right soup with the right people.  A chilled cucumber soup would not be something I’d serve to a mixed crowd during a sporting event.  No.  So when the Super Bowl arrived, along with this recipe by email from Tasting Table, I knew I had to try it.  I pumped up nutrition (as much as one can in a soup that consists of beer and cheese) and taste, by adding extra ingredients.  We all enjoyed it very much.  Here is my version.


Kräftig Beer Cheese Soup

Adapted from Tasting Table

1½ cups whole milk
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 shallots, chopped
1 small Melissa’s fennel bulb, sliced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 dried bay leaf
¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup Kräftig Lager beer, room temperature

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 pound sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
¼ cup Parmigianino, grated
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 slices bacon, fried crisp and crumbled (for garnish)
Fennel sprig (for garnish), optional

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine milk and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low to keep the mixture warm.

In a soup pot set over medium heat, add the oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter.  Heat until butter is melted, and swirl with the oil to incorporate the two.  Add the carrots, celery, onion, shallots, fennel, garlic and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 3 minutes.

Slowly pour in the warm milk-broth mixture, whisking constantly to avoid forming lumps. Whisk in the beer and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently and monitoring the heat so the soup simmers but doesn’t boil (boiling causes the soup to separate). Remove the bay leaf and stir in the Worcestershire sauce. While stirring constantly, gradually add the cheeses, salt, and pepper.

Using an immersion blender, blend soup to desired consistency.  I like my soup a little chunky, so didn’t continue to blend until it was completely smooth.  Control is the beauty of the immersion blender.

Ladle the soup into serving bowls and serve topped with the fennel tops and bacon.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Patchwork Cookies

As many of you know, my mother passed away on Monday of this week.   It was not unexpected, and yet, I find myself at a total loss, baffled by the finality of death. To prepare for Friday's services I've been going through boxes of old family photos. It's been bittersweet, both sad and comforting at the same time. I was struck by how many of the pictures involved food and family dinners. Even this ridiculous photo of me with my best college friend, Angela (she the beautiful one on the left, me the one on the right with the wild-eyed look of a potential serial killer) involved this silly cake, obtained at 50% off from the Target bakery when it had been abandoned by Irving and his family. Foodies even then, we'd spend weekends working on geology homework while tending to something delicious that was baking in the oven.

One of our favorite things to make, perhaps because it was such an easy recipe, was Patchwork Cookies. The recipe is old and faded, written in Angela's crooked hand, and splattered with years of ingredients, but it's the one I always use. It has such a fond history that to rewrite it would just seem wrong.

The versatility of this recipe comes in the decorating. Select colors and candy toppings appropriate for the nearest holiday or occasion.

Patchwork Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9" x 13" baking pan with vegetable spray.

Cream butter; gradually add sugar, beat until well blended. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in flour, beating just to blend. Spread evenly over the bottom of the baking pan.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes until golden. Remove from oven; quickly sprinkle chocolate chips over the bakes cookies. Bake an additional 2-3 minutes to melt. Remove immediately and spread the chocolate evenly over the top.

Mark off into squares. Top each with a variety of decorations, alternating to give the appearance of a patchwork quilt.

Chill until frosting is set.

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