Saturday, January 29, 2011

Shredded Brussel Sprouts with Candied Walnuts

I used to hate brussel sprouts until my uncle-in-law, John Lemek, made these for Thanksgiving one year. Shredded, quick-sauteed, and simply seasoned with sugar and cider vinegar, these brussel sprouts are bright and lively -- a far cry from the sulphuric boiled brussel sprouts I had had in the past. Best of all is the addition of crunchy and sweet candied nuts, which add texture and flavor.

I've lightened up John's version considerably, as his used almost a stick of butter if I recall correctly. Here I use a tbs. of oil and agave nectar to replace the sugar. Agave nectar is good for those who can't have white sugar due to dietary restrictions (agave nectar, which comes from a cactus, has a very low gycemic index and it's an all natural sweetener).

For the brussel sprouts, the seasoning is equal parts sugar and apple cider vinegar. If you decide you want more of that flavor in your brussel sprouts, just add more sugar and apple cider in equal parts. I usually start with 2 spoonfuls of each, but it's delicious with more too.

Candied Nuts
A handful of pecans or walnuts, chopped
Butter and/or oil
agave nectar (or sugar)
A package of brussel sprouts, rinsed and any wilted leaves pulled off and discarded
2 tbs. agave nectar of sugar
2 tbs. apple cider
Salt and pepper to taste

To make candied nuts, heat small skillet over medium heat until hot. Add nuts and stir around until you start smelling a nice toasted smell. Turn down heat and add a little butter or oil to coat the nuts. Sprinkle the nuts with sugar or agave nectar and keep stirring until the sugar dissolves and the nuts are coated with a glaze. Pour onto a plate and let cool.

Trim the bottoms off the brussel sprouts in cut in 1/2 through the core. Lay flat and slice the brussel sprouts very thinly, shredding them.

Heat a skillet large enough to accomodate the brussel sprouts over medium high heat. Add a tbs. of oil and then a little butter for flavor (or just use oil). Add the brussel sprouts and saute for a few minutes until the color turns a bright green and the sprouts start wilting. Add salt and pepper, and agave nectar/sugar and vinegar. Stir, taste, and adjust seasoning. When properly cooked, the brussel sprouts will be tender but not overly soft.

Turn off heat, mix in nuts, and serve.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Will You Take the Snow Day Food Challenge?

Our cars after last night's storm

In my neck of the woods, we have been pummeled by snow storms.  After a noon release from school yesterday, I asked my friend and co-worker, Julia, if she thought the roads were passable enough to go to the grocery store on the way home from work.  Julia said, "Why go to the grocery store?  Let's go home, be creative, and cook from what we have available."

Thus the Julia Gabriele Snow Day Challenge was born.

After spreading the news on Facebook and email, we both started foraging in our kitchens.  We sent each other pictures of our work in progress, including Julia sending me a picture of a giant frozen turkey carcass in water looking like it was trying to escape out of the Le Crueset pot.  Priceless!  She wrote, "It's called 'progressive broth'...I'll simmer it until it fits, pick the meat off, add more parts, do it again.....I'm just not sure what this is going to be yet ..."

As for me, I found all sorts of things to cook too -- frozen meats, tons of pantry items, and some fresh vegetables. I even had an extra 1/2 gallon of milk in the fridge.  Why go to the store indeed?

Here are what some of Julia and my friends said in response to the challenge:

Christine: I find myself in this situation frequently and usually rely on something from the freezer to get me going - I almost always have pork tenderloin and some chicken breasts I can defrost. If that's bare, I'll create some kind of soup with whatever vegetables, small pasta, beans, and leftovers are on hand. If I have time, I make biscuits or popovers to go with it, and everyone thinks I planned all day. Otherwise eggs in some form - souffle, quiche, frittata.

Tracey: Fried Rice or Stir Fry. I take whatever veggies are in my fridge, I always have rice and eggs on hand, and then put them together with spices. If I have chicken (or beef), I will add that as well. Big favorite of the kids.

Bonnie: Risotto is good if you have stock in the freezer.  I almost always have broccoli or broccoli rabe in the fridge, so pasta with oil, garlic and broccoli is always easy, hot pepper flakes, parmesan, glass of red...

Heather:  I did not plan ahead for dinner last night and had to use what was in my fridge and pantry.  Linguine with zucchini sauteed in olive oil with diced onion, mushrooms and garlic.  Parmesan cheese was then added.  

Jane: When you have the luxury of having a snow day with no children at home the menu can go in a whole different direction.  Popcorn, smoked oysters, omelettes, dark chocolate ... wine?

Laurie: I can't go into a store and just buy a few things.  As a result, I always have a freezer full of STUFF!   This reminds me of a Pierre Franey article in the NY Times.  Anyway, he stalked random people in the Food Emporium in NYC and asked about 5 people if he could go home with them and prepare a meal with whatever they already had at home or in their baskets. It was hilarious. I especially remember one guy who had stale bread and a can of tuna... and maybe some beer :) 

Elisabeth: For tonight, Barefoot Contessa spaghetti and meatballs, rocket salad  If we're home tomorrow, crab cakes and wedge salad plus some baking- a carrot cake.  Our fall back meal is always omelettes which my husband actually makes- it's his "thing."

Kate: Tonight I made spinach souffle and angel biscuits.

Lora: Wow, I am really not worthy. I went to the grocery store and got more food for the pantry and made good old fashioned spaghetti (trying to feed a large crowd of 12 kids) and served it with lots of wine for the cooks! [Note: With 12 kids over, I'd be going to the grocery store too!]

Did you notice that wine seems to be a requisite pantry item?

Julia ended up making grilled polenta with a rosemary asiago olive oil drizzle and bolognese topping, chicken quesadillas with salsa and cilantro cream sauce, and a banana cake with chocolate sauce and ice cream ("I was short one banana but found a small bag of freeze dried bananas...pretty idea why I have freeze dried bananas but I'm glad I did for our snow day challenge!!")

Here's what I made yesterday:

Cajun-style dirty rice with cooked Italian sausage I found in the fridge, Uncle Ben's rice, a green bell pepper, and leftover caramelized onions.  A wonderfully, flavorful dish made even better with lots of hot sauce!  This type of dish was a favorite of mine and my husband before we had children and he went carb-free.  Here's a recipe of this type of dish that I posted before.

Roasted cauliflower, hands down our most favorite way of preparing this vegetable.  Regina, a friend of my daughter and a notoriously picky eater, actually ate these last night and liked them.

Apple galette with Granny Smith apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and Pillsbury pie dough crust.  This was okay, not great.  My blueberry galette is much better because of the homemade dough, and I haven't gotten a handle on the apples and the balance of sweetness to tartness, as well as the right size and texture.  When I make this, the apples always seem to get dried out on the top before they get tender.  Any suggestions?

Here's what I made today:

White mac-n-cheese made with gruyere, manchego, and American cheeses with thyme-infused bechamel and a sprinkling of cayenne.

Tomato bisque made out of canned fire roasted tomatoes, broth, canned evaporated milk, and fresh basil.

Chili with ground beef, canned fire roasted and Rotel tomatoes, 7 tbs. of spices, beef broth, leftover coffee, beer, and unsweetened chocolate.

Ramen with quick Asian broth (chicken broth, soy sauce, grated ginger, white pepper, sesame oil) with leftover chicken. 

Whether snow is your muse or not, how would you respond to the challenge of cooking from what you have?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Wings (Baked)

My husband said, "I'd like buffalo wings.  The real kind."

What he meant was that he wanted wings slathered in sauce, not plain wings with sauce on the side.

He's been subject to the sauce on the side rule since our older daughter dislikes the buttery, vinegary, tangy sauce. But Lizzy was away on a ski trip with her friend, and Mark was free, free at last, to have wings his way.

I've been making these wings for years.  In fact, buffalo wings (deep-fried) were one of my first posts for this blog, and I also posted a blue cheese dressing recipe to go with the requisite celery and carrot sticks.  My pictures weren't so good back then.  An anonymous commenter noted, "Love your blog and lots of your recipes, but this has to be the most un-appetizing picture of wings ever!! You need a better finished wing picture!"  Click here to see the post, and the method for frying wings.

Buffalo Chicken Wings (Baked)

2 packs of chicken wingettes
Brine (8 cups water, 2/3 cup kosher salt, 2/3 cup sugar)
Buffalo wing sauce below (Frank's Red-Hot Sauce, butter, vinegar)

Notes:  This recipe is very scale-able.  You can make as many wings as you like, and you may not have to increase the brine to cover the wings.  Also, please note that if you're going to brine the wings, you'll need a big enough container to hold the water and wings, plus refrigerator space to hold the container.

Make the brine in a large bowl or pot, letting the sugar and salt dissolve in tepid water.  This can take a few minutes, so be patient, whisking the water occasionally until the sugar and salt dissolves.  I usually start the brine water first, 20 minutes before I start cooking or earlier in the day, so that when I need it, the brine is ready.

If you don't buy the wingettes but full chicken wings, cut off the wingtip and separate the drumstick and the wing , or the "two-bone" as my daughter calls it.  If you're not really sure how to cut up wings, watch this handy dandy video.

Add the wings and let brine in the fridge for 1-3 hours.  

When you're ready to cook the wings, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Take out bowl/pot of chicken from the fridge and rinse chicken well, and I mean really well -- I dump them out into a clean sink and rinse them with the faucet sprayer.  Dry on paper towels and then place on a baking sheet or baking sheets if you have a lot of wings.  I use Silpats, so the chicken doesn't stick to the baking sheet, but one could also use non-stick aluminum foil or teflon baking sheets. Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and put on the middle rack of the oven.

The wings will take 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes, depending on their size and how crispy you like them.  If you want to bake the sauce onto the wings, that will be another 15 minutes.

Cook the wings for 30 minutes or until they start browning on one side and then flip over.  You can flip them occasionally from this point, so they brown on both sides, and you'll notice some wings will brown more quickly than others.  You can rotate the baking sheet(s), and/or move the wings around on the tray for even browning.

When they are crispy to your liking, take them out and toss with the buffalo wing sauce.  You can serve the wings at this point.

If you want to bake the sauce onto the wings, place the sauced wings back in the oven, turning it down to 350 degrees, and let the wings bake for 15 minutes.

Serve with celery sticks, carrot sticks, and blue cheese dressing.

Buffalo Wing Sauce

Frank's Red-Hot Sauce (1 small bottle)
4 tbs. butter
1 tbs. white vinegar

Heat sauce ingredients together over low heat. If you have a big bottle of Frank's red-hot sauce, there's a recipe on the bottle. This recipe is very flexible so you can have more butter to make it less spicy or add more hot sauce to make it spicier.

If there's no recipe on the bottle, it's almost a 1:1 ratio of red-hot sauce and butter, but with a tad more red hot sauce, and a splash of white vinegar.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tate's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Snow days = cooking days for me.  Or make that cookie days ...

I saw that Cookies with Boys made Tate's Chocolate Cookies from Tate's Bake Shop. Crispy and buttery, these cookies from the famous Southampton, NY bakery capture a pretty penny at gourmet food stores.  They are absolutely delicious -- cookies you crave, particularly when the gourmet food store is closed.

Picture of Tate's Bake Shop Cookies from here

Tate's also put out an eponymous cookbook, which is worth looking at if you're a baker.

Picture from here

It's interesting that this recipe is different in four small ways from the Nestle Tollhouse Cookie recipe: it cooks at 350 and not 375 degrees; it has 1/4 cup less flour; it includes 1 tsp. water; and the cookies cook for 12-17 minutes instead of 9-11 minutes.  These small changes make a big difference in the cookie's ability to spread out and become addictingly crispy on the edges.

I made them -- making my husband go to the grocery store TWICE, first for chocolate chips and then back again for sugar (I mean, who runs out of sugar?) -- and they taste exactly like the store cookies.  Super yummy.

Tate's Chocolate Chip Cookies
(recipe copied from Cookies with Boys blog)
  • cups all purpose flour
  • teaspoon baking soda
  • teaspoon salt
  • cup salted butter, 2 sticks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • teaspoon water
  • teaspoon vanilla
  • large eggs
  • cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

  •  Preheat oven to 350°F.
  •  Grease or line 2-3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  •  In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt.
  • In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugars, then add the water and vanilla. Mix until just combined.
  • Add eggs to the butter mixture and mix them lightly.
  • Stir in the flour mixture. When flour is mixed in, fold in the chocolate chips.
  • Drop 2 tablespoonfuls of the cookie dough 2-inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 12-17 minutes or until the edges and centers of the cookies are golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on wire racks.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

OMG Chicken Wings with Momofuku Octo-Vin Sauce

Ever since I got the Momofuku Cookbook from my brother Ed for Christmas, I've been Momofuku-ing it at home. David Chang, the foul-mouthed, Korean-American chef, and his pirate gang of bad-a** cooks rock.

I've been riffing off many of Momofuku's recipes, including their ramen, shredded pork, pork buns, ginger scallion noodles, tare, and octo vin sauce -- and that's just in the last week.  I haven't made them exactly the way he does, but since the foundation concepts are so solid, the results are terrific and very adaptable to any number of dishes.

In the book is a fried chicken recipe which the restaurant serves with what they call Octo-vin, a vinaigrette of garlic, ginger, soy sauce, oil, and sugar that was originally made for an octopus dish (thus the name).  Since I had made Momofuku's ginger scallion sauce, I used some of that for the Octo-vin sauce.  Instead of frying chicken, I brined and baked chicken wings until they were nice and crispy and then tossed them in the sauce.

I don't know what I was expecting when I bit into a wing, but it was an OMG moment.  Who knew that such a simple mix of ingredients could elevate the humble chicken wing to celebrity status?  Salty, sweet, spicy ... mind-blowingly good.

This is a must try recipe...invite your friends!

OMG Chicken Wings with Momofuku Octo Vin Sauce

Chicken wingettes, as many as you want (we made 2 packs of chicken wingettes)
Brine (8 cups water, 2/3 cup kosher salt, 2/3 cup sugar)
Octo-vin sauce (below)

If you don't buy the wingettes but full chicken wings, cut off the wingtip and separate the drumstick and the wing , or the "two-bone" as my daughter calls it.  If you're not really sure how to cut up wings, watch this handy dandy video.

[Note: If you have the wingtips, don't throw them away but keep them to make Momofuku tare or soup stock.  Freeze them if you don't want to use them now.]

Make the brine in a large bowl or pot, letting the sugar and salt dissolve.  Add the wings and let brine in the fridge for 1-3 hours.

When you're ready to cook the wings, preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Take out bowl/pot of chicken from the fridge and rinse chicken well (I mean really well -- I dump them out into a clean sink and rinse them with the faucet sprayer.  Dry on paper towels and then place on a baking sheet or baking sheets if you have a lot of wings.  Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and put on the middle rack of the oven.

Cook for 20 minutes and then flip over.  The wings will start to brown in the second half of their cooking time.  You can flip them occasionally, so they brown on both sides.  If your oven doesn't heat evenly and you notice some wings are browning faster than others, you can rotate the baking sheet(s) as well.

When they are crispy to your liking (you could cook them anywhere from 45 minutes, where they'll be browned and on the plump side to 1 hour and half if you like them super crispy and on their way to dessicated), take them out and toss with the Octo-vin.  Serve.

Momofuku Octo-Vin Sauce

Note: If you have ginger scallion sauce on hand, you can substitute that for the ginger below.  Also, if you don't have fresh chili pepper, you can use a little red crushed pepper, hot sesame oil, cayenne, and/or ichimi togarashi to taste.

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thai-bird chili pepper or pepper of your choice
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup light soy sauce
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other oil)
1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Mix ingredients together.  I use a mini-food processor to finely chop the garlic and ginger, add the rest of the ingredients, and give a final whir.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cookbook Bonanza for a Cookbook Addict: Is this a Good or Bad Thing?

I was good.  I didn't buy or acquire a cookbook for a long time.  At least six months.  My husband was proud of me for not clogging up yet another bookshelf with treasure troves of recipes I would never make.

Then Christmas came.  And the cookbooks came wrapped in pretty paper from friends and family.  Okay, some came wrapped in a Barnes & Nobles bag hidden in my car and bought by me.  But that's not the point.

I asked for the Momofuku cookbook, which my brother bought for me at the flagship restaurant, signed by David Chang.  Oh this is a good one.  I devoured the stories, and I actually did cook from the cookbook (more to come in future posts).

My friend Bonnie Klein recommended Urban Italian, and the food writing is absolutely delectable. Andrew is also a fellow Clevelander, and I applaud him, Michael Symon, and Michael Ruhlman for raising the town's culinary profile.

My husband gave me The Flavor Bible, which I really wanted.  A reference book, I like this one a lot since it doesn't have recipes but lists of ingredients and complementary ingredients.  For those of us who don't do too well following recipes and like to free flow cook, this book inspires and promotes creativity in the kitchen.

While my bookcases are overflowing now, there's always hope.  I can make a New Year's resolution to not get any more cookbooks.  And we all know how New Year's resolutions work out ...