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Not As Good As Pork Cracklins

misadventures in cooking

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Southwestern Spiced Chicken & Black Bean Stew

Sheri inspired me to get out an older issue (March 2003) of Fine Cooking to make Southwestern Spiced Chicken & Black Bean Stew. It was delicious. I think I will make it to go in David & Ashley's freezer the next time I visit them and the twins.

I took Sheri's lead and pulled the chicken off the bone after simmering it. I think it would be weird to serve stew with whole thighs in it. I didn't garnish it with sour cream or fried tortilla chips, as suggested, although I suspect either or both would be good. We had it with a small pan of cornbread, and that was a nice match.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Baby Carrot Cake

I had a hard time getting a good photograph. It was one of those scary situations where you carve off a little bit more to straighten it out, and then that piece needs fixing, and then if you use your finger to clean the icing over there, it would be better. On and on and on until there would be no cake left and still no good picture. Thank goodness it's a baby cake!

These cakes from Small Batch Baking are just the right size! This recipe made enough for 2 layers using my mini springform pans. The amount of cream cheese icing is just enough to frost and fill the layers.

I wouldn't say this is the best carrot cake in the whole world (Sheri's is) but it is definitely good and hits the spot. I omitted the coconut because I didn't have any, and I omitted the walnuts because I felt like it. Like most carrot cakes, it's even better the next day.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Mussels with Smoky Bacon, Lime & Cilantro

I have a copy of Best American Recipes 2003-2004, given to me by Sheri, as many of my cookbooks have been. I didn't have this recipe flagged, but back in December some folks were talking about it and it sounded like something Gary and I would both love. I finally got around to it last night.

OMG. The sauce is to die for. The recipe calls for 3 1/2 pounds of mussels for 4 people, so I bought about a pound and a half for the two of us. But we ate 4 people's worth of sauce. I'm serious. It was that good. I also made a fresh baby loaf of NYT No Knead Bread which was the perfect accompaniment.

I asked the wine guy at Central Market for help with pairing, because the ingredients were throwing me off. He recommended a Portugese Vinho Verde for $9.99, which ended up being quite nice.

Mussels with Smoky Bacon, Lime & Cilantro
Source: Food & Wine magazine
Cook: Michael Romano

Serves 4 (uhhh... see above)

1/4 pound thick sliced lean smoked bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used Central Market applewood smoked bacon)
2 large shallots
1 large jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced into rings, seeds removed
salt and pepper
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped or 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice (I used Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes, which nicely complemented the smoked bacon)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons ketchup
3 1/2 pounds medium mussels, scrubbed and debearded
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Crusty bread

Cook bacon in a large enameled cast iron dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Add shallots and jalapeno, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add wine and ketchup and simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.Increase heat to high and add mussels. Cover and cook, shaking pan a few times until the mussels open, about 5 minutes.With a slotted spoon transfer the mussels to four large serving bowls. Remove the dutch oven from the heat and stir in the lime juice, cilantro and butter. Ladles the sauce over the mussels and serve at once with the bread.

Friday, February 16, 2007

NYT No Knead Bread

This bread has been the rage since it appeared in the New York Times food section back in November. The original article is archived, so you'd need a subscription to get to it, but it has been much discussed in food blogs such as Fanatic Cook, who even includes the You Tube video that you should watch.

There are a couple of long discussions on the Fine Cooking Magazine's Cooks Talk message board about variations to the original recipe, adding ingredients, substituting part whole wheat flour, dusting with cornmeal, etc.

The novelty of the recipe isn't so much the "no knead" part. I have other recipes that don't require kneading. In fact I have a whole book, No Need to Knead. Rather, the novelty is pre-heating a dutch oven and cooking the bread in it, creating an oven in a oven.

Having heard so much about it, and loving bread as much as I do, it was only a matter of time before I tried it. The clincher was Rose Levy Beranbaum successfully making baby loaves using a half recipe in a 2 quart cast iron dutch oven. Hey! I happen to have a 2 qt. le Creuset that I got at the Crate & Barrel outlet store while visiting Sheri.

This has to be the easiest bread recipe in the whole world. Honest. I mixed the dough yesterday afternoon, left it upstairs (where it's warmer) for 18 hours, folded it this morning for its 2nd rise, and baked it. Ridiculously easy. Ridiculously delicious.

Baby NYT No Knead Bread

Minimum Rising Time: About 20 hours (based on room temp 80°F.)
Total Baking Time: 1 hour preheat, 40 minutes baking
Oven Temperature: 450°F.
Makes: 6 1/2 inches wide and 3 inches high round loaf

1 ½ cups (8.25 oz) Harvest King flour (or half unbleached all-
purpose/half bread flour)
1/8 tsp. instant yeast
1/2 plus 1/3 teaspoon (5 grams) fine sea salt
3/4 cup plus one tablespoon water, room temperature (70 to 80°F.)

Whisk together the flour and yeast. THEN whisk in the salt. With fingers or a spatula stir in the water just until all the flour is moistened.

Cover tightly and set in a 70º/21ºC. room for about 18 hours. It will have risen by more than double and be filled with little bubbles.

Flour a silpat. With an oiled spatula, scrape the dough onto the floured silpat. Use floured fingers and a bench scraper to quickly and loosely fold it in thirds first in one direction, then in the other.

Re-flour the silpat and set the dough seam-side-down. It will be 5”x 2”high. Dust the top of the dough with flour, cover it with a plastic dome or bowl , and let it rise in an 80ºF/26ºC. room for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until it is 7" wide and still 2” high.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven and 2 qt. cast iron or enameled cast iron dutch oven (with lid) for a minimum of 1 hour at 450ºF.

Remove the pot from the oven. Sift a little flour evenly over the top of the dough and brush off any excess flour from the silpat. Now lift up the silpat and invert it over the hot pot. Unless you used a ton of flour the dough will be sticking slightly to the silpat which is perfect because all you have to do is curve the two edges of it and hold them together with one hand and gently push the dough away from it with the other.

Cover with the lid and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 20 minutes or until the top is the color you want it to be, rotating it if it is browning unevenly.

Empty the loaf onto a rack to cool completely. It will be 6 1/2 inches wide and 3 inches high.

Gingerbread Muffins

This yummy little muffin recipe came from "Biscuit" on Fine Cooking Magazine's Cooks Talk forum. The directions are a little different from other muffins I've made, but they make perfect sense, so I followed them. Read carefully.

The muffins are tender, not too sweet, and not too ginger-y. I actually like more ginger than most people, and I'd consider adding some minced candied ginger to the batter.

I go back and forth on whether or not I like to use paper muffin liners. Do you?

Gingerbread Muffins
1 1/2 c. unbleached white flour
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. ground dried ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. butter, cool but not room temp
3/4 c. chopped toasted walnuts or pecans (I don't like nuts in my muffins, so I omitted)
1 egg, beaten
3 tbl. molasses
3/4 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
a good handful of dried cranberries, cherries or raisins

Oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners, or spray with baking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, ginger and cinnamon. Whisk briefly to combine. Cut in the butter. Set aside about a quarter of this mixture for the crumb topping. Add the nuts to the floury-mixture remaining in the mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the beaten egg and molasses together. Add the baking soda and salt to the measuring cup with buttermilk in it. Add the buttermilk to the egg and molasses and stir well. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir only until just combined. Add the dried fruit and stir briefly.

Spoon the batter into your prepared muffin tins about half-full. Sprinkle the crumb mixture on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Red Velvet Cake

Happy Valentine's Day!

Gary would have loved it if I'd made his favorite heart cake. But we had one recently for a friend's engagement. And I haven't had Red Velvet Cake in years and years and years.

The recipe from Small Batch Baking says that it makes 2 small cakes using 14 oz. cans after you cut off the tops when a can opener, remove the labels and wash the cans. But I had feeling that the full amount of batter might be just right for one of my mini springform pans. And it was! I recommend that you scoot on over to Michael's and pick up a couple of them. There's nearly always a coupon in Sunday's paper for 40% off. If you own Small Batch Baking, you need these pans!

I had to increase the baking time to 30-35 minutes total, to account for putting all of the batter in a larger pan. Just test with a toothpick, and when it comes out clean, or with a few moist crumbs, the cake is done.

Gary never mentioned the heart cake at all! He seemed very happy with the Red Velvet experiment. We both thought it was very good. The frosting is perfect.