Thursday, August 30, 2012

Honey Mustard Beer Chicken

I wanted to call this saucy chicken, simply because that is the best explanation.  Delicious, pan-saucy chicken.  But if I did that, then you might not be aware of the whole honey mustard beer party that is going on it that pan.  True, there is soy sauce too, but it got voted off the island because honey mustard soy sauce chicken is more an ingredient list, not a recipe title.

Few times have I made a pan sauce, although I'm not quite sure why, because I get it.  You take all those stuck on crunchy bits, all the juice that steeped out while the meat was resting, all that flavor, heat it up, cook it down and then just barely refrain from pouring it straight into your mouth.  I get that.  It works.  Ben, on the other hand, asks why I can just grill or bake the chicken for dinner at the first sign of a little smoke coming from the stove top.  Don't be Ben.  It'll be ok.  Pan-fry the chicken.  Make the pan sauce.  And if you sneak a spoonful or two while plating up, it'll be our little secret.

**UPDATE 3/13/13**   I made this again a few nights ago, the first time since I wrote the post.  I did double the sauce, and Ben and I were still wishing for more.  We served it on top of a bed of quinoa, ladling the sauce over top.  I am taking the liberty of updating the recipe below to reflect the doubled sauce.  It's by far the way to go!

Honey Mustard Beer Chicken
Adapted from CL September 2012

I served this with brown rice.  The sauce I was marveling about upstairs, pour it over the rice too.  Or if you're not concerned with silly things like picture taking before you eat (patience is never quite tested until you can't eat before getting a good picture...), go like this: rice, chicken, lot-o-sauce.  It'll make your rice ever-so-happy.  Trust me.  Speaking of, I plan on 1.5x or 2x the sauce on my next go round.  The sauce makes the dish.  Just in case that hasn't been clear enough...

2 tsp.canola oil
4 6 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast
black pepper & salt to season
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 c. beer (used Leinenkugels)
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. whole-grain Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. honey

In large skillet over medium high heat, heat oil until it shimmers.  Season chicken liberally on both sides with salt and pepper.  Add to hot skillet and pan fry until chicken is cooked through, about 6 to 7 minutes per side.  Remove from skillet and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add shallot to pan and saute until translucent, about 1 minute.  In small bowl, whisk together remaining 4 ingredients that form the sauce.  Make sure honey has dissolved into the sauce.  Add to pan and turn up heat to high.  Using a wooden spatula, scrap bottom of pan to loosen brown bits.  Add any accumulated juices from chicken to pan.  Bring sauce to a boil and maintain heat until sauce has reduced and thickened.

Add chicken back to pan and turn several times in sauce, to coat and warm.  Serve over rice or whatever can use a good soak in some yummy sauce!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Triple Sec & Lemon Popsicles

I feel like I've been phoning it in.  I am sorry, I actually feel bad about this.  I want to give you my all.  I want to pore over food photography books until my own food photos actually look appetizing.  I want to dig deep into my magazines and not come up again until I have a recipe plan, complete with shopping list and preferably people to help eat the goods.  Most importantly, I want my dinner to not be nachos for 4 week nights in a row and my lunches to not be ham and turkey on wheat bread sandwiches.  And yet...

Alas, all I have to give you are these popsicles.  These alcoholic, tart, pure-citrus popsicles.  I know this is not a bad thing, in fact, it is quite a great thing, it's just not what I thought.  How's that for a Debbie Downer?  Do me a favor and just tune out my complaining about my inability to fulfill these crazy visions I give myself.  It's fruitless as well.  I mentioned alcoholic popsicles and you really shouldn't listen to another word I say, unless it is alcoholic popsicles. 

Here's the break down on the popsicles.  1. Delicious.  2.  Didn't quite freeze all the way, so sticky too.  3.  If you decide to forgo popsicle molds and just drink the concoction over ice, well then my friend, we should hang out soon.  Because, this tart lemon squeeze is fantastic any way you want it: frozen almost solid, slushy, chilled on the rocks.  It just happens to get into your stomach a heck of a lot faster (with much less of a mess too!) without the four hour freezing time.  Basically, after a 10 minute session of making the drink, it's a choose your own adventure situation:  1. Freeze solid for a popsicle.  2. Freeze and fluff for a granita.  3. Pour over ice and drink, NOW!

Personally?  I'll be with the lazy folk in the corner, happily drinking away their popsicle cocktails.

PS - just in case you ever try to make a celebrity couple name out of popsicle and cocktail, just don't.  The first thing  you will say is cock-sicle.  Which is inappropriate, and consequently hilarious.

Triple Sec & Lemon Popsicles
Adapted from Cooking Light, August 2011

I don't think I will make these as popsicles again.  As per above, because they really work quite excellently just over ice.  As a drink?  They are very much fair game.

1 1/4 c. water
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1-2 Tbsp. lemon zest (from 1-2 lemons)
1 c. fresh lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
1/2 c. triple sec

In small sauce pan, whisk together sugar and water.  Over medium high heat, bring to a simmer.  Whisk until sugar has dissolved.  Stir in zest.  Set aside to cool.  Once cool, strain simple syrup and discard zest.  Stir in lemon juice and triple sec.

Here comes decision making time.  Chill and serve over ice?  Or if you have a little more ambition, pour into popsicle molds and freeze at least 4 hours, until frozen solid.  Enjoy fast, as they melt!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Zucchini Bread Pancakes

Would you mind if we just took a quick minute to talk about how awesome it is when the stars align?  I was a little worried about having my college roommate stay for the weekend just mere days after returning from our stint in Minnesota.  Little did I realize that house guest + leftover buttermilk + gifted homegrown zucchini = zucchini bread pancakes.  Yeah, it's totally cool to gape at that a little bit, I did.  Zucchini bread pancakes.  Deb is my cooking superhero.

Look above.  You see those fat, zucchini-specked, mini-cakes?  They are thick and warm and just waiting to have their way with a little bit of cinnamon butter.  And that is all you need, before introducing them to your over friendly gullet.  Hm, do you think I have a problem, the way I humanize food?  I sure hope not...

Anyways, these are delicious.  And even if you aren't blessed with the house guest - leftover buttermilk - gifted homegrown zucchini trifecta, even if you just have one of the three, you know you need to try these.  Your weekend isn't complete until you do.  Now let's just hope that the star's align this weekend while my parents are visiting... I would be so lucky.

Zucchini Bread Pancakes
Deb, you are my superhero

Now, I know this is two Smitten Kitchen recipes in a row.  But they're years apart!  So that's ok, right?  Right?  I need your affirmations today.  It's been that kind of week.

2 large eggs
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. dark brown
1/4 c. buttermilk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. (heaping) shredded zucchini
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

In large bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients, through vanilla extract.  Stir in shredded zucchini.  In separate bowl, mix together remaining dry ingredients.  Add to wet mixture and whisk until just incorporated.  Don't overmix!

Heat cast iron skillet over medium high flame.  Once hot, melt a small pat of butter.  Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter onto skillet.  Cook 2-4 minutes, until bubbles appear.  Flip and cook an additionally 1-2 minutes, until cooked though.  Deb suggested an additional 10 minutes or so in a 200 degree oven, but mine were cooked through just on the skillet.

Top with what is probably an unhealthy amount of butter or cinnamon butter.  Or just cinnamon butter.  Cause it's perfect.  Enjoy!

Monday, August 13, 2012

World Peace Cookies

And against all odds, I am back from Minnesota alive, in one piece, well rested and a better fisherwoman to boot.  Unknown to me at the beginning, Minnesota turned out to be exactly what a late summer vacation should be:

A cup of tea while watching boats bob by the dock in the morning.  Followed by a few hours fishing with some wonderful, funny conversationalists.  Stuffing myself silly every day at lunch on extremely fresh, fried fish and enough sides and goodies to be on par with Thanksgiving.  Napping or reading in the afternoon sun, in front of the lake, with a breeze.  Then of course, a few cold beers and late evening fishing.

It was a perfect enough vacation to make you actually believe that things like world peace, and cookies that could bring about its existence, actually could exist.  Or in the case of these chocolaty, crispy, melty wonders, that they actually do exist.

World Peace Cookies
Who else?  Via the Smitten Kitchen

I've made these twice now.  These are not the gooey chocolate chip cookie kind of cookies.  They are sandy, like shortbread, but with marvelous little pockets of melted dark chocolate.  They're addicting.  Just cut them a little thicker than you think and you're in business.  Also, doubling this recipe just to have a log or two of dough frozen in your freezer is a very, very wise idea.

1 1/4 c. flour
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
11 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temp.
2/3 c. light brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped in small chunks

In stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter on medium speed until pale and creamy.  With mixer running, add both sugars, salt and vanilla.  Beat until mixture is well incorporated and fluffy, a few minutes.

Sift together flour, cocoa and baking soda.  With mixer running on slow speed, gradually add flour to butter as fast as you can.  It will poof and make somewhat of a mess.  It's cool, you'll soon have cookies to keep you company as you clean.  Mix only until just incorporated.  Add chocolate chips and just stir them in.  Try at this point to work the dough as little as possible.

Turn out the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap.  Eye ball the dough into 2 equal pieces, each on their own sheet of plastic wrap.  Using your hands, roll dough into log, about 1.5 inches thick.  Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate them at least 3 hours, or freeze.  (Deb's note: you can freeze the dough up to 2 months).

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Once very chilled, using a "sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch think".  They're going to crumble apart like crazy on you.  Just do your best and squish them back into rounds.  Bake for 12 minutes at 325 degrees F (13 minutes if dough is frozen through).  "They won'y look done, nor will they be firm, but that's just the way they should be".  Let cool on cooling rack, resist the urge to eat immediately.  One, it'll totally burn your tongue.  Learn from my mistakes kids!  Two, they sort of really do taste better just slightly warm or at room temperature.  Share! Enjoy! Go World Peace!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Summer Veggies and Soba Noodles

I heard a sad thing on the radio today.  A sad thing and a scary thing.  "It's warm out there folks, so enjoy it! Before you know it, it'll be November, December, January, February, and it's going to be a cold one this year!"

Please answer me this.  Who says that in the first week of August??  You don't spend your time thinking of the miserable, dreaded cold of a dark Midwest winter in the first week of August.  August should be a happy, snow-free time!

I'm sorry.  I talk about the weather a lot.  I try not to, but it's like the queen of small conversation.  But maybe you all should talk back to me.  Then I can stop this small convo stuff.  Ok, that was a plea for attention, I admit it.

Anyways, I'm stalling here.  That's the real reason.  Cause here I am loving summer and praising the sunshine and blue skies and I want to put off telling you that I didn't like this.  It could very well be my fault.  It started promising.  There are beautiful fresh veggies that are chopped and diced and coated in a tasty Asian vinaigrette.  That mysteriously get eaten by wandering fingers.  See, promising?

And well, then I think I screwed up the soba noodles.  And then I messed up more and tried to convince myself that if I just tossed them with the yummy veggie mixture, it'd be ok.  It wasn't.  I really wanted it to be, but it wasn't.  The sad thing is, I know I will never try it again.  It could totally work.  I see that.  If you are better than me and can cook noodles into something other than a gummy, gooey mess, go for this.  Enjoy it for me, please.  Cause unfortunately I've already filled it into that special, round filing cabinet.  But let me know.  Please?  And I swear the weather talk will stop...

Summer Veggies and Soba Noodles
Adapted from Bon Appetit's July 2012 issue

1 medium red bell pepper
4-5 large radishes
1-2 large carrots
1 large cucumber, halved and seeded
1/3 c. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. Sriracha
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
8 lz soba noodles (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
Scallions, thinly sliced
Cilantro, slivered
Black sesame seeds

It all starts with some chopping.  Chopped all vegetables into matchsticks.  Be super happy if you have a mandolin and break it out.  Once all the dicing is done, you should have about 8 cups of little veggies.  It's a lot, I know.  Put in a large bowl.

Start the noodles going in a large pot of salted water.  Stir occasionally and cook until al dente.  Don't trust your package, use your judgement.  Overcook and you're going to have an unpleasant gooey gummy mess.  Trust me here.  Drain and run under water to cool noodles.  Keep running if you want cold, we went with lukewarm.

Meanwhile, whisk together vinegar, oils and Sriracha.  This is a wonderful sauce by the way.  Drizzle over cut veggies and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.  It's ok to eat a lot of this right now, without the noodles even.  It's veggies and a vinaigrette.  Totally good for you.

Toss in noodles when they are done.  Season with salt and pepper if needed and top with scallions, cilantro and sesame seeds.  Eat with chopsticks if you are adventurous!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Boston Baked Beans

I stress out.  Like crazy.  And rarely over seriously things; instead, it's over stupid little things that are completely out of my control.  I don't stress out over things at work, but instead over whether a 6 year old is going to like her birthday present enough.  I don't stress over bills, but believe you me, I will stress out if my monthly Bon Appetit is even just a few days late in the mail.  It's ridiculous and makes little sense, but it's what I do.  And when I do it best, it's over food.

Mostly whether or not people are going to like it.  It may not seem like it, but I am in serious stress mood the first time I bring cookies into work.  Or bring a buttermilk cake to a cookout.  Or share my food with Ben's family.  I know it's not really true, but at the same time, I very much feel like everyone that tastes my food judges me on it.  It's why if that first batch of cookies isn't good, I won't bring them to work.  And it's why I made my favorite stand by cake the first time meeting Ben's coworkers instead of trying a new recipe.  And it's also why these beans came about.

Ben and I will be retiring to a cabin in the woods of Minnesota in a little while to hang out with his family for half a week.  Every day at noon, fish are fried and everybody brings a potluck dish to share.  Since I didn't want to spend my mornings in the kitchen, I brilliantly thought I would bring my crock pot to help out.  I decided baked beans would be a hit, plus who doesn't want to be the girlfriend who makes amazing baked beans from scratch?  I just couldn't let the first time I tried the recipe though be in a cabin in the woods of Minnesota.  
So I did a test run.  And I am glad I did.  These beans are great, don't get me wrong.  Sweet, with salty goodness from the bacon, the taste you really can't beat.  My crock pot, on the other hand, is probably what I should be stressing over.  This is my third batch of beans and my third time of having slightly crunchy beans after 10 hours.  I needed to cook the beans on a high for 3 more hours to get them tender.  But after that?  These are beans I don't need to stress over sharing. 

Boston Baked Beans

1 lb. dry white beans (I used Great Northern)
1/3 c. molasses
1/3 c. brown sugar
4 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp. ground clove
3 1/2 c. hot water
1/2 lb. thick, smoked bacon, in 1 inch chunks
1 medium onion, diced

Rinse and sort beans, discarding any stones.  Put in large pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water.  Leave to soak overnight.

Drain beans.  Line the bottom of the crock pot half of the bacon, using the fattiest pieces.  Layer on half of the beans, followed by all the onion.  Add rest of beans, followed by the rest of the bacon.  

Into the hot water, mix molasses, brown sugar, mustard and ground cloves.  Pour over beans, making sure liquid covers beans.

Cook beans on low heat for 8-10 hours, until tender.  Adjust seasoning with salt if necessary (I didn't think it needed it).