Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Oh Yes Fried Chicken

First, go out and buy yourself a pair of tongs and a iron skillet. Then, loosen the top button on your pants. Then, and only then, you should tackle this recipe.

Four chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise, OR a pound of drumsticks, OR about a pound of whatever kind of chicken you want.
Half of one large onion, sliced.
One quarter cup of a mix of herbs: parsley, thyme, tarragon.
Half a teaspoon of paprika.
Half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (red pepper).
Two cups of buttermilk.

Put the chicken in a bowl and toss the onion on top. Cover with milk, toss the herbs and spices on top, stir a little, and let the chicken soak at least eight hours and up to two days. (Mine soaked about 22 hours.)

Two cups of canola oil
Two cups of flour
Garlic salt
Onion salt
Cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
Whatever other herbs and spices you'd like.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat, until a pinch of flour sizzles on contact. In a heavy paper or plastic bag, mix the flour, herbs, and spices. (I didn't put measurements because I always think it takes more than recipes say. The original called for a half teaspoon of each, but I loaded in about a teaspoon and a half to a tablespoon of each, plus various spices not listed.) Drain the chicken in a colander, remove the onion, and put the chicken in the bag and shake. Using your tongs, put the chicken into the pan and let it cook about ten minutes on each side. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Recipes from Mom: Ham and Cheese Roll-ups

On a recent trip I took home, I went through the oodles and boxes and swamps and piles and mountains and stacks and days of recipes collected over the last 30 years by my mom and dad. I came away with a couple good ones to try. This recipe is one I remember from childhood, so I couldn't wait to try it out.

This is more or less what they look like. Uncooked.

Two cups Bisquick
One cup shredded cheese, your choice
Half a cup of water
Mustard or mayo, or both.
Six ounces thinly sliced cooked smoked ham

Mix Bisquick and water until dough forms. Shape into a ball and knead fifteen times on a flour-covered surface. (I recommend you put a sheet of tinfoil on a cookie sheet, grease and flour it, and use that as your kneading/rolling surface.) Roll into rectangle and spread with mustard/mayo. Sprinkle on the cheese, and then cover with the ham. Trust me. Don't put the cheese on top. Roll up tightly long-ways. Wrap in a slice of greased and floured tinfoil (see?) and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Heat oven to 400F. Cut into twelve slices, place on a greased and floured cookie sheet. Bake until golden, 20-25 minutes.

For the love of Mike, grease and flour everything. I spent twenty minutes trying to get these things off the pan because I didn't grease and flour. And I learned from my mistake.

The boring stuff:
Takes a little more than an hour, start to finish, including chilling and baking time.
Difficulty: 3.
Serves three-four people. I think this actually works better as a snack than a meal, but that's just me.

Update 2013: When I make these now, I use refrigerated pizza dough, I get thick-sliced ham from the deli counter and cube it, and I line my baking sheet with parchment paper.  Super simple, super yummy.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Recipes from Mom: Rosemary French Bread

...Otherwise known as a recipe just for Smellen.

On a recent trip I took home, I went through the oodles and boxes and swamps and piles and mountains and stacks and days of recipes collected over the last 30 years by my mom and dad. I came away with a couple good ones to try. Here's my first undertaking.

Rosemary French Bread

Active dry yeast
Two cups warm water
One tablespoon milk
Four teaspoons salt
One tablespoon sugar
One tablespoon shortening
One tablespoon olive oil
One tablespoon grated parmesan
One tablespoon minced garlic
One tablespoon rosemary (I used way more than that and a combination of fresh and dry. If you use fresh, be sure to chop it first, otherwise it'll tend to want to come out in the kneading.)

Dissolve two packages (about 5 teaspoons) of active dry yeast in two cups warm water. Stir in milk, salt, sugar, shortening, rosemary, olive oil, parmesan, and garlic. Add five-seven cups of flour (basically as much as you can get in there--I did five) and knead until stiff, smooth, and elastic. (My dough never really got smooth, but it was definitely stiff and elastic.) Cover with a towel and let rise for 90 minutes. Punch down and let rest five minutes. Divide into two equal parts. Let rest 10 minutes. Flatten and shape into oblong loaves, taper ends. Place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let rise two hours. Slit loaves lengthwise and bake at 400F for 25 minutes.

I didn't have cornmeal, so I greased and floured my cookie sheet. I also completely forgot to slit them. But OH WOW, this bread smelled so good and the first little taste practically melted in my mouth. Big ups to Mom, who totally knew what she was doing when she wrote down this recipe 20 years ago. Post script 2009: I inherited a baguette pan from my parents, so I use that to make this bread now. It's superbly useful. But by all mean, bake it on a baking sheet if you gotta.

The original recipe noted that it made three loaves, but I only made two. In retrospect, I should have gone for three, but it just didn't look like I had enough dough there. But I did. And if you go for the two large loaves, and you don't want them to fuse together, you should probably bake them separately.

The boring stuff:
Makes three skinny loaves, two fat loaves, four small round loaves, twenty small crusty rolls, or any combination thereof.
Difficulty: 2.
Total prep time: 45 minutes
Total rise time: Three and a half hours.
Bake time: 20-25 minutes.

P.S. It occurred to me that I haven't really addressed the latest development in my life here. Tim and I got engaged two weeks ago and we're very happy and excited about our happy and exciting future together! We're planning an April 2009 wedding. Whee!

Right before the flour goes in.Mixing in the flour.
After the first rise.
Right before going into the oven.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tim's birthday is tomorrow. I'm looking forward to some yummy burgers and cookies (because that's what he wanted). Lots of new recipes are in the works for you guys (one is percolating in the kitchen right now), but we're off to California for a wedding next week, so you'll only get my Monday night extravaganza, and then you'll have to wait. Sorry. But for now, here's my secret to making every dish amazingly delicious:

Are you ready for the secret?

It's a good one, I promise.

Here it comes....

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pot Roast

Here's the thing about this pot roast. It reduced a grown man nearly to tears. If Tim hadn't already made up his mind to marry me, this would have put him over the edge. In fact, this pot roast may very well have spurred him into a shiny-ring-buying frenzy of activity. At any rate, Tim's just fallen in love with me for the millionth time because of this pot roast. Thank you, Pioneer Woman. You will need salt, pepper, beef broth or stock, four carrots, two onions, one large or two medium potatoes, fresh or dry rosemary and thyme, olive oil, a two or three pound chuck roast, and garlic. Heat a large pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Pour a nice coating of olive oil into the pan, and let it heat up. Meanwhile, salt your roast. Liberally. Using whatever salt is available to you. (I used Mediterranean Sea Salt in a grinder. But regular salt is good, too.) Next, apply pepper. Liberally. Better if it's fresh ground, but regular black pepper is fine. It's all good in the hood. Here's my master plan for doing this whole salt-and-pepper dance: Unwrap your roast, season the top, and then slip a plate on top. Invert, remove the styrofoam plate from the now top of the roast, and season that side. Voila! Easy as pie. Grab your onions. Slice and peel. Mmm. By now, that olive oil is probably starting to smoke. Good. Grab your tongs (I cannot emphasize the importance of tongs in this recipe), and stick your onions in the pot. Oooh...sizzle. Let them brown for about a minute, then flip. Let the other side brown a little. Remove your onions and put them on a plate. Ignore them for the next five minutes. That'll teach the onions to sizzle so loudly. Chop your carrots, and toss them in the pot. Let them brown, and pull them out. Show them the same coldness you're giving the onions. Slide the roast into the pan. We're going to sear it on each side. Let the roast get nice and yummy brown, then flip. Both sides should get nice and brown. Shouldn't take more than a minute on each side. Then pull it out and put it back on its plate. Now we're going to deglaze the pan. Mmm. Pour about a cup of beef broth into the pan, take your whisk, and scrape all that nice yummy brown stuff off the bottom of the pan. nice. At this point, it's important to note that I diverge from the original recipe and photos. I think I made the right choice. (Tim thinks so too.) So here's what I did. I pulled out my Pyrex casserole dish and an oven bag. I stuck my roast in the bag, put the bag in the dish, and carried on. If you don't have an oven bag, and your pot is oven safe, just put the roast back in the pot. Pour the pan juices into the bag (very carefully), and arrange the onions and carrots. At this point, peel and chop your potatoes, and stick them in there as well. Pour in some more broth so that the meat is about half covered. Take a couple sprigs of rosemary and submerge them in the juices. Do the same with a couple sprigs of thyme. Put your roast in a 325F oven. If it's 3ish pounds, it'll need to cook for 3 hours. For a 4-5 pound roast, it'll need 4 hours. Let it go for two hours and fifteen minutes at 325F, and then reduce it to 300F for the last 45 minutes. I believe the phrase Tim used was, "that meat just dissolved." I gotta admit, I thought it was pretty good, too.

The boring stuff: Serves two with leftovers or three-four with no leftovers.
Difficulty: 2.

Takes 20-30 minutes of prep time and 3-4 hours of cook time.

Postscript 4/8/8: I made this recipe on the 31st....and Tim proposed on the 5th. So if you're looking to get hitched, might I recommend this recipe? It worked for me!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Homemade Bread, At Last

It really isn't fair for me to keep this recipe all to myself. It's just too good. So, at long last, here's exactly how to make fresh, warm, tasty, nutritious, delicious, preservative-free homemade bread. But first! A scary story about why I'll never go back to store-bought bread.

I purchased a loaf of bread a couple days before I decided to give this recipe a go. It sat on the top shelf of my cupboard, unnoticed, as I made several more loaves. Two months later, it was still there...and it looked fresh, felt fresh, and was free of any visible mold. Um...gross. Nothing should stay fresh that long. It's just not right.

Without further ado, bread. Recipe and pictures courtesy of The Simple Dollar.

You will need all-purpose unbleached white flour, sugar, salt, butter, milk, active dry yeast, non-stick spray, a wooden spoon, two big bowls, a clean towel, and a bread pan. (You can get away with using one bowl, but you have to be willing to stop and wash it halfway through.) First, warm your bowl. The easiest way to do this is to fill the bowl with hot water and then dump it out. (If you absolutely can't stand to waste that much water, I think it's okay to not warm the bowl.) Pour in one packet of yeast (if you're using a jar of yeast, it's 3 teaspoons) and mix according to the package directions (probably it will tell you to mix in one cup of warm water). Stir until there are no lumps. Add one quarter cup of milk. Stir. Melt a tablespoon and a half of butter in the microwave and add that to the bowl. Stir. Add one teaspoon of salt and five teaspoons of sugar. Stir. You should now have a brownish-yellowish-grayish liquidy mess. Mmmm..... Add two cups of flour. Stir until it's a gooey, clingy mess. Keep stirring and adding flour until the dough is still slightly sticky, but it doesn’t stick to your hands in any significant way. Also, it should largely clean the sides of the bowl, leaving just a thin layer of floury stuff. It’ll look something like the above. I usually end up using about three cups of flour. Flour a flat, clean surface in your kitchen. Plop the dough onto the counter and start kneading. Punch it, slap it, twist it, stretch it, whatever. Just keep it moving. Do this for ten minutes. When your ten minutes are up, shape it into a ball. Coat another large bowl with non-stick cooking spray, plop the dough in, cover it with a clean towel, and put it in the warmest spot in your kitchen. (Mine goes on top of the fridge.) Let it rise for an hour. Clean up everything (except for your floured surface), go read a book, play with your kids, take a walk. Come back in an hour. Before the rise and after the rise:

Pull the dough out of the bowl and punch it flat. Smooth it out into a vaguely rectangular shape. It should be as long as the bread pan and about one and a half times as wide. Roll it up and tuck the ends underneath. Coat your pan with non-stick spray and plunk the dough in, seam-side down. Cover it with your towel and put it away to rise for another hour. Clean up your floured area, wash your hands, play a game of cards, make your bed, put your laundry away. Come back in an hour. About ten minutes before the rise is over, come back and preheat your oven to 400F. Look how pretty the bread is, and then pop it in your oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, pull it out, remove it from the pan, and let it cool. You should let it cool at least an hour before you slice into it, and let it cool completely before you store it.

Note one: This recipe is simple to double. You get two loaves for almost exactly the same amount of time. One loaf will keep for about ten days (give or take). They respond really well to freezing--they'll last a month in the freezer and then another ten days in the cupboard.

Note two: It's a crime to put anything besides real butter on homemade bread. You've just gotten rid of countless preservatives, so go out and buy some organic sweet cream butter (or Tillamook), and indulge. If you happen to have homemade jam, apply liberally. This bread makes pretty fantastic toast.

Note three: Once you get comfortable, experiment. Use different flours. Switch the salt for garlic salt and add Italian herbs for a tasty dinner bread (side note: the first loaf I ever made had herbs in it, and Tim used it for PBJ the next day. It wasn't bad).
Finally: homemade bread is simple, delicious, cheap, and far more healthy than store brands. There is nothing to lose.

Note four: When I first started making this bread, I made two loaves at a time and used my metal bread pans. Now I'm doing one loaf at a time and using my pyrex bread pan, which is a little smaller than the metal ones. I find my bread rises higher in that one, which makes for big, beautiful sandwiches. The metal pans gave me a short, slightly wider cut. Just not as good. So choose your bread pans wisely!

The boring stuff:
Makes one loaf.
Difficulty: 2.
Prep time: 30 minutes.
Rise time: Two hours.
Bake time: 30 minutes.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I can't even tell you how amazing these cookies are. This is one of my "secret" recipes, but it didn't seem fair to withhold it since it's available on the back of nearly every bag of chocolate chips in the country.

Yes, that's right. I use the Nestle Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I have no shame!

You will need:
Two and a quarter cups of flour
One teaspoon baking soda
One teaspoon salt
Two sticks of butter, softened (I always soften mine in the microwave. They end up a little melted, but it's all good.)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
One teaspoon vanilla
Two large eggs
Chocolate chips

I NEVER put nuts in my cookies, because that's not where nuts go.

Preheat your oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the baking soda, salt, and flour. Add the chocolate chips. Drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes. Let cool two minutes before removing from the cookie sheet. Enjoy with a tall glass of cold milk.

The boring stuff:
Makes about 36 cookies, depending on how big you like them.
Difficulty: 1.
Takes about half an hour, including bake time.

Friday, April 4, 2008


I have never made such a satisfying, delicious mess. Making the butter was easier than I thought possible. Storing the butter, on the other hand, was so much harder than I'd ever dreamed. But don't be scared! My monumental failure will help you succeed.

You will need one pint of the highest quality heavy whipping cream you can find. Fresh, local, organic, pull out all the stops.

And that's all. You'll also want a medium-sized mixing bowl and an electric mixer. You could do it by hand, I suppose, but I can't even imagine the biceps you'd need for a job like that.

It's a simple process. Pour the cream into your bowl, and start whipping. It quickly becomes whipped cream, and then it breaks into white-ish curds. And then, it turns golden, clumpy, and buttery. It begins to stick to the mixer and the bottom of the bowl....buttermilk. The whole process takes about ten minutes. I stopped whipping every minute or so to look at what was happening and scrape the sides of the bowl. It was fascinating.

So you've got a bowl of butter and buttermilk. What now?

I can't emphasize this enough: GET CHEESECLOTH. Invest in it. Love it. Cherish it. Use it. Transfer the butter to the cloth and squeeze out the buttermilk. You can save the milk for use in later recipes. (Mine ended up in the sink, because I didn't have cheesecloth. I used a combination of my hands (oh-so messy) and a plastic bag (less messy) because I was a fool who didn't buy cheesecloth.)

Once you've squeezed out the buttermilk, you're going to get messy. Pick your storage container of choice. (Mason jar, tupperware, etc...basically anything with a lid that can be sealed tightly.) Open it. Dig in. Using your hands, pull out walnut-sized bits of butter and press them into your jar. The point here is to make sure there's no air in there. Once it's all packed in, top your butter with a layer of cold water, and put the lid on tightly. The water will keep out any extra air. To use your butter, simply pour the water off and put a fresh layer on when you're done.

The end. I think I've been clear and precise here, but comment with any questions you might have.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Mystery Biscuits!

I don't know why they're called Mystery Biscuits. The recipe and the pictures come from the Pioneer Woman, creator of all things tasty and wonderful (responsible for such recipes as the apple pie and the Marlboro Man sandwiches). I think I'm in love with her. You will need one and a half cans of flaky biscuits (I'm assuming you used half a can for the chicken pot pie, but if you didn't, use a full two cans. Or just one), two sticks of butter (or just one, if you're using one can of biscuits), and three-five ounces of bleu cheese (depending on how much you love or hate bleu cheese). Crumble the cheese using a fork. You can also find it pre-crumbled, probably. Put the butter on a cookie sheet with sides and dump the cheesy crumbles over the top. Cut each stick of butter into three or four pieces to ensure even melting, and place the cookie sheet in a 350F oven for just a couple minutes. All it needs to do is get a little melty. This really shouldn't take more than two minutes. Don't go far. Keep your eyes and ears open. Once it melts, stir a little to ensure even distribution. Meanwhile, slice your biscuits into fourths. And then dump them into your cheesy, buttery goodness. Roll the biscuits in the goodness, spread out on the tray (you'll have to bake in two batches), and bake at 350F for 8-12 minutes. Mmm...delightful. And so mysterious!

The boring stuff:
Makes a ton of mystery biscuits. Like, a ton.
Difficulty: 2
Takes 15-20 minutes. Ish.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Chicken Pot Pie

Oh yes. It was good.
This recipe is adapted from a recipe on the Food Network website.

About one and a half breasts of chicken.
One carrot.
One stalk of celery.
One small onion, halved and sliced.
Half a stick of butter.
One-quarter cup of flour.
Half a cup of milk.
Salt and pepper for seasoning.
One more large carrot, chopped.
One-quarter cup of peas.
One can of flaky biscuits. (You'll only use half, but you can use the rest to make Mystery Biscuits.)

*Special note: You will need two ten-ounce ramekins for this recipe. Ramekins are round, white oven-safe dishes. You can see one in the top photo. I bought two at Fred Meyer's today for $5 each. I imagine you could make one big pot pie in a pie pan, were you so inclined, but I won't be held responsible if it doesn't work out the way you want it to.

Place your chicken in a large pot. Add cool water, salt, half your onion, a chopped carrot, and a chopped stalk of celery. Bring to a boil, and then reduce and simmer for half an hour to forty-five minutes. Remove the chicken, let cool, and slice into bite-size pieces.

While the chicken is cooling, preheat your oven to 400F and slice the rest of your onion. In a large skillet, melt your butter. (The original recipe called for six tablespoons of butter. I used five, but I think four is all you need.) Add the rest of your onion and sautée over medium heat for about ten minutes. Add your flour and cook for another minute while stirring. Stir in the milk. Stir in one cup of the chicken water or store-bought chicken stock (I used stock). Add the chicken. Stir in the carrot and peas and cook for about a minute. Season with salt, pepper, parsley, and thyme, to taste. (I also gave mine a nice shake of Lawry's seasoning salt.)

Spoon the mixture into your ramekins. Press two flaky biscuits together to form one large round biscuit. Press onto the top of the pie and seal the edges. Repeat for the other one.
Slice a vent in the top of the pie using a knife or fork, and place in your oven for 15-25 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Let cool at least 5 minutes before serving, and keep in mind that you just pulled these out of a 400F oven. They're freaking hot. Tim and I put the ramekins on plates so we could eat.

And finally, a word of advice. These bad boys will want to bubble over and leak. Seal the edges of the pie very well, and then put your ramekins on a cookie sheet. That way, if they do leak, they won't cause a smoky, burning mess in your oven and set off your smoke detector (not like that happened to me or anything).

Super delightful, excellently tasty. Serve with Mystery Biscuits and a salad.

The boring stuff:
Serves two, but can be easily manipulated to serve more. You just need more ramekins.
Difficulty: 3.
Takes between sixty and ninety minutes, depending on how good a multi-tasker you are. I started cooking at 6:15 and we didn't eat until almost 8:00, but I was also waiting on Mystery Biscuits.

P.S. If someone in your house doesn't like peas or carrots or whatever, they can be added to each ramekin individually. It'll all cook in the oven, so it's totally kosher.