Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Creamy Herbed Potatoes

It's time, once again, to talk about my strange relationship with potatoes. I don't like them unless they're so fried that they no longer resemble potatoes (i.e. potato chips and really crispy french fries). But every now and again, I find a recipe for potatoes that sounds delicious. Like Crash Hot Potatoes. Sounded fantastic. And they pretty much were. And now, there's this recipe that I stumbled across last week. It sounded amazing, so I made it. And it was pretty tasty....but I still don't like potatoes.

Creamy Herbed Potatoes
Difficulty: 3
Takes about half an hour, plus bake time.

You will need: at least two clean russet potatoes (more if you're cooking for more than four people), butter, cream cheese, heavy cream, milk, salt and pepper, herbs, parmesan cheese, onion.
First, dice an onion and remove it to a plate or bowl. Or if your cutting board is big enough, just leave it there. (I only used half an onion because not everyone around these parts really likes onion, but I couldn't even taste it in the finished product, so next time I make it I'll definitely be using a whole onion.)
Then, slice your potatoes as thin as you can possibly go. I registered for a mandolin after seeing this recipe, but we're not getting married for another six months, so I made do with a knife. My potatoes were varied in their thinness, but I think it worked out alright.Next, melt a stick of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. (If you're only using two potatoes, like me, reduce this to about half a stick of butter. Otherwise....well, you'll see.)Then toss in the onion and cook it up a little, about three minutes.

Add in the cream cheese (not all in one huge lump, it'll take longer to melt) in chunks, and stir around to get it to melt.
Next add three-quarters of a cup of heavy cream, and half a cup to one cup of milk, depending on how many potatoes you used (I used two potatoes and a half cup of milk).See how it's still all yellow? That's because I used more butter than I should have and it floated all up to the top. Stir that sauce until it's white. And while you're at it, add a hefty amount of salt and pepper. Remember: you're salting not just for the sauce, but for the potatoes, too. I think I ended up using about two tablespoons, and it was just a little weensy bit on the salty side. So salt it, taste it, and salt it some more. You'll want it to taste a little extra salty. Now's a good time to preheat your oven to 350F.Once it's all good, reduce the heat to low and stir in your herbs. Use whatever you've got. I used chives, rosemary, and parsley. If I'd been thinking, I would have used thyme, too. A teaspoon of each should do it. Stir it in and remove it from the heat.

Prepare a baking dish and toss the potatoes into it. And don't put the pan on top of your laptop. That's a silly thing to do.Pour the sauce over the top of the potatoes and sprinkle some parmesan on top.

Slide that baby into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes at 350F, until bubbly and beautiful.Dig in!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chocolate Pound Cake

It was my birthday on Tuesday, and because Tim knows me better than I know myself, he knew that I wanted a digital camera. It's not that I didn't know I wanted one, but I had completely forgotten about it. And now I've gone hog wild taking pictures of all kinds of things. AND, for the first time ever, all the pictures for this recipe are MINE, and I took them myself. You're welcome to pirate them, but if you do, you have to give me a shout out and tell people to come read my recipes. Without further ado, I present Chocolate Pound Cake!
You will need: Flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, sour cream, milk, unsweetened cocoa powder, honey, water, sugar, unsalted butter, eggs, vanilla, and chocolate chips. Things you should not put in the cake: dish soap, Tim's water bottle, and sponges.

First, prepare a loaf pan with butter or non-stick spray and flour, tapping out the excess flour.

Whisk together two and a quarter cups of flour, one teaspoon baking POWDER, three-quarters of a teaspoon of kosher salt, and one-quarter teaspoon of baking SODA in a medium bowl. I used a fork. In a small bowl, whisk together half a cup of milk and half a cup of sour cream. (The original recipe called for whole milk, but I used 2% because I don't believe in buying something for a recipe if I'm never going to use the rest of it, ever.) Again, I used a fork for the whisking. Yes, I own a whisk, but I didn't feel like using it. Shut up. Next, sift a quarter cup of cocoa powder into a small bowl. I don't have a sifter, so I dumped it in and then used a fork to spread it out a little. Hey, I did the best I could. Add a quarter cup of honey and two tablespoons of boiling water to the cocoa and whisk until smooth. Who can guess if I used a fork to whisk it?
Dump two sticks of room temperature unsalted butter into your mixing bowl with three-quarters of a cup of sugar. (I see no reason you couldn't do this by hand if you don't have a shiny new mixer like me.)

Beat until light and fluffy. Add two eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Then beat in a teaspoon of vanilla. Add in the cocoa mixture....
And beat until smooth. Now's a good time to preheat your oven to 350F.
Next, add in half of the flour and beat until smooth.
Then add in half of the sour cream/milk, and beat until smooth. Repeat with the other half of each.
Stir in half a cup (or more) of chocolate chips and pour into your pan. Smooth the top. Bake at 350F for about an hour and fifteen minutes, until a tester comes out clean. (The original recipe said an hour and eight minutes, and my cake took closer to a hour and twenty minutes. I'd say check it at 5 or 10 minute intervals after an hour.)

This recipe only gets three stars from me because I didn't really like it. It's not quite chocolate-y enough or sweet enough for my tastes. But for those of you who like their chocolate a bit on the subtle side, this is for you. Or maybe up the cocoa quotient.

Difficulty: 3.
Takes about 45 minutes of prep, plus bake time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How to Get Your Man to Propose

Confession time: I pulled this recipe out of a Cosmo article-- "Foods That Can Seduce." It was right next to a list of five sure-fire ways to get your man to consider marriage--a list that included making a big life change that would force him to see you as wife material. To me, and to all the ladies I asked, that sounds like Cosmo is saying, "Want him to propose? Get pregnant." Yeesh.

Anyway, the food is good.
Oven-Roasted Chicken with Pancetta, Roasted Garlic, and Rosemary (adapted from Cosmo to feed two)

Two large chicken breasts
Kosher salt
One-quarter pound slab of pancetta cut into cubes, or four slices (bacon works in a pinch)
One tablespoon olive oil
Four to eight cloves of garlic, depending on how much you like it
A sprig of fresh rosemary

Note: Dried herbs really don't work for this. Go for fresh, and if you don't have rosemary, use something else. And if you have nothing, don't use anything.

Salt and pepper each piece of chicken and set aside. In a medium oven-proof skillet, cook the pancetta until crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400F. Drain most of the fat from the pan and add the olive oil. Cook the garlic cloves until golden, just about a minute and a half, and then put the skillet in the oven until the garlic is soft, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and remove the garlic. Add the chicken and rosemary to the pan, put it back in the oven, and roast about 8 minutes, maybe longer, depending on the size of the breasts. Remove to plate, garnish with pancetta and garlic, and serve with smashed potatoes and green beans. Tasty.

Cosmo also says: "Add candles. Arrange votives not just on the dining room table but also around the room--on counters, side tables, the mantle. The soft flicker of flames makes anyone look sexier." And: "Sit side-by-side. Some guys find eating face-to-face weirdly intense. But sitting on the same side of the table allows both intermittent physical contact and eye contact." And: "Use your hands. Eating with your fingers makes the experience more pleasurable."

Wow, Cosmo. Wow.

Takes about half an hour, longer to make sides.
Difficulty: 3.
Serves two.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Outside-In Bacon Cheeseburgers

Four slices cooked bacon, chopped
About a pound and a half of ground beef
A couple healthy shakes of Worcestershire sauce (About a tablespoon)
Coarse salt and ground pepper, a healthy amount
Two hefty slices of cheddar, or sharp cheddar, or sharp white cheddar, crumbled
Buns, toppings, etc.

Combine beef with Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper. On a foil or parchment lined surface, divide the beef into four equal portions and flatten. Put bacon and cheese in the center of each, and then form the patty into a ball around the filling. Work with it slowly and gently to cover the filling entirely, then gently squish it back into a patty shape. Grill over high heat about 5 minutes per side, prepare buns, and serve.

Takes about 25 minutes.
Difficulty: 3.
Serves four.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chicken & Garlic "Risotto"

Ahh...the miracle of soups.

Four chicken breast halves.
One tablespoon butter
One can Cream of Mushroom (with Roasted Garlic) soup
One can Cream of Chicken soup
Two cups water
Two cups uncooked instant white rice
One cup frozen peas and/or carrots and/or broccoli

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned, about four minutes per side. Remove from pan. Add the soups and water and bring to a boil. Stir in rice and veggies and reduce heat. Add the chicken back to the pan and simmer for about five minutes, or until done.

Mine turned out a little too soupy still, so maybe reduce the water a bit. But very yummy!

Serves four.
Difficulty: 1.
Takes about 25 minutes, more if you have to defrost your chicken. (I did.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Recipes from Mom: Snickerdoodles for Dad

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 latest endeavor.

This one I think actually came from Missouri, from the couple who used to live next to my dad. This is my dad's favorite cookie, and I'll master it if it takes me for freaking ever. These were fun to make, but so didn't turn out too well.

One cup soft shortening
One and a half cups of sugar
Two eggs
Two and three-quarters of flour
Two teaspoons cream of tartar
One teaspoon baking soda
Half a teaspoon salt

Thoroughly mix the shortening, sugar, and eggs. Sift together the dry ingredients and mix with the wet stuff. Chill the mixture for three hours. Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls, flatten slightly, and roll in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 400F for six to eight minutes. Don't overbake. Cookie will be soft but firm as it cools. Makes five dozen-ish. I made four dozen, threw half of them away (they burned, and I couldn't get them off the cookie sheet), and sent the other half to my dad. AND I had most of the dough left over for another batch.

Takes half an hour of prep, three hours to chill, plus baking time.
Difficulty: 2.
Makes a ton.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Did someone say "Enchiladas"?

Yes. Yes, someone said it. It was me. I said "enchiladas." And then I made them. And they were good. (Check out the original recipe @ thepioneerwoman.com)

You will need:
Canola oil
Large can of enchilada sauce (20 ounces or so)
A cup of chicken broth
One onion, diced
Ground beef
Diced green chiles
Salt and pepper
Green onion
Okay. Toss a tablespoon of canola oil in a pan with a tablespoon of flour and whisk together. Betty Crocker calls this a "roux." It just mean "base" as far as I can tell. Let it cook over medium-low for about three minutes, and keep whisking it. Burned flour is gross.

Next, dump in your enchilada sauce and broth, and about half a teaspoon of ground black pepper. (I didn't have black, so I used white.) Let the sauce simmer over low heat while you get everything else ready.

Dice an onion. Saute it in a pan for a minute or two (with canola oil). Toss in the beef and brown it. Drain the fat, then toss in the green chiles. Stir well, and turn off the heat.

In another pan, heat half a cup of canola oil over medium heat, and brown the tortillas in it. Just 30 seconds each side, no more. (I didn't actually do this. I decided I was too good to do it.) Add some cilantro to the sauce, then dip the tortillas in it.

Lay your tortillas flat and assemble them. Meat, minced olives, diced green onions, cheese. Repeat.
Roll the tortillas up and place them seam down in a baking dish. Preheat your oven to 350F.

Coat with the rest of the sauce and top with cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes, until bubbly (and you're so hungry you can't even think straight anymore).

Yum. Yum yum yum.

Makes 6-10.
Difficulty: 3.
Takes about 40 minutes of prep, plus 20 minutes of bake time.