Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chantilly Potatoes

When I was growing up, there was one dish that I demanded my mom to make for the holidays.  That dish was called Chantilly Potatoes.  It is a wonderfully decadent casserole of mashed potatoes, topped with a layer Chantilly cream, and finally, a layer of cheddar and parmesan cheeses.  Digging into it was such a treat.  I have updated that dish with some tips from this year’s Thanksgiving edition of Bon Appetit.  The article had some great ideas for creating some truly flavorful mashed potatoes.  I particularly liked their recommendation of heating the milk with aromatics.  It gives the potatoes a wonderful flavor. 

5 lb Yukon gold potatoes
1 cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, peeled
8 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
.66 ounce container of chives, chopped
2 ½ cups whipping cream
2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375.  I like using Yukon gold for mashed potatoes because I can get away with not peeling the potatoes. Dice the potatoes and place in a large pot filled halfway with cold water.  Add 3 tablespoons kosher salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender.  Meanwhile, gently heat the milk, cream, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, and sprig of thyme in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Don’t let the mixture boil.  Once the mixture is very hot, take off heat and let the aromatics infuse the milk for 20 minutes.  Strain out the aromatics using a slotted spoon.  Mash the cooked potatoes with the butter and infused milk.  Stir in chopped chives.  Grease an 8 x 8 baking pan and a 9 x 13 pan.  Spread the mashed potatoes evenly into the prepared pans.  Whip the 2 ½ cups cream using an electric mixer.  Spread the whipped cream over the potatoes, and top with the cheddar and parmesan cheeses.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top gets a nice golden brown color. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chocolate Almond Bark

Yay, we are now firmly in my favorite days of the year – the holiday baking season!  At no other time of the year is it perfectly acceptable to bake dozens of various combinations of sugar, flour, and butter into heaping piles of cookies, cakes, and muffins, etc.  In addition to the baking, I love to make chocolate candy.  Dipping various things into melted chocolate is both easy and fun, like having your very own chocolate fondue party!  This year we made chocolate-covered pretzels, Ritz crackers dipped in a combination of chocolate and peppermint extract, and this chocolate-almond bark.  It is a bit unconventional, but I like the subtle savoriness produced by roasting the almonds in a little Worcestershire sauce, smoked sea salt, and cayenne pepper.

½ cup chopped raw almonds
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon Worcestshire sauce
pinch cayenne pepper
8 ounces candy making chocolate (I used Ghirardelli’s Candy Making & Dipping Bar, Double Chocolate Flavor and really liked the results)

Heat oven to 160 degrees.  In a medium bowl, mix ½ cup chopped almonds with the Worcestershire sauce, cayenne and sea salt.  Place on baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.  Let the almonds cool.  Melt the chocolate using a double boiler or in the microwave (be sure to use low heat) and mix the almonds into the chocolate. Spread into wax-paper lined 8 x 8 inch baking pan.  Sprinkle a pinch more of the sea salt on the top and let cool.  Break into bite-size pieces. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Roasted Radish and Carrot Medley

This is super simple, but it is a tasty side dish for a weeknight meal.  The ruby red of the radishes and the vivid orange of the carrots create a vibrant and colorful vegetable medley.  I love the way the spiciness of the black pepper plays off the sweetness of the carrots, and the sweetness of the fresh basil plays off the peppery taste of the radishes.  Lemon juice gives the medley a boost of brightness.

2 bunches radishes, tops removed, halved
1 cup baby carrots
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450.  In a bowl, toss the vegetables with the olive oil, salt and pepper and then place in 8x8 baking pan.  Roast for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables reach the desired tenderness.  Drizzle lemon juice over the vegetables and toss with fresh basil. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Smoked Paprika Dip

This hummus-like dip is filled with the earthy, smoky, redolent spices of smoked paprika, cayenne, cumin, and coriander. The smoked paprika gives the dip a beautiful rusty red color, making it festive addition to a holiday spread.  Not only is this complex and flavorful, but it comes together in just a few minutes.

1 15 ounce can cannellini or Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In small bowl, mix smoked paprika, cayenne, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Place beans, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and mayonnaise in food processor and puree.  Stir in the seasoning mixture.  Serve with pita wedges or crackers, or whatever else floats your boat.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dan Dan Noodles

Sometimes you just want that taste of spicy.  You crave something to get your adrenaline going, to perk up your taste buds, and to give you a bolt of energy.  We’ve been seeing and enjoying these noodles in local Chinese restaurants over the last couple years for their unique, and highly addictive, taste, and we just couldn’t resist the urge to try and perfect our own recipe.  These noodles represent the surprisingly harmonious combination of aromatic, creamy, umami, and spicy flavors.

2 leaves bok choy, julienned
1 celery rib, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
2 scallions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground chicken
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
dash white pepper
 2 teaspoons peanut oil
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 teaspoons chile paste
1 teaspoon honey
1½ teaspoons oyster sauce
¾ cup chicken broth
12 ounces cooked spaghetti

additional sauce:
2 teaspoons chile paste
2 teaspoons tahini
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey

Using a fork, mix chicken with soy sauce, rice wine and a bit of white pepper.  Heat oil over medium high heat in wok and brown chicken, sprinkling the cinnamon as it cooks.  In a bowl, whisk tahini, vinegar, broth, chile paste, honey and oyster sauce.  Once chicken is cooked, turn heat to low and add garlic.  Cook for about a minute, or until it becomes fragrant.  Add the tahini mixture and chicken broth, simmering until the sauce thickens.  Add the bok choy, carrot, celery and scallions.  Add the cooked spaghetti to the meat mixture.  Whisk the additional sauce ingredients in a bowl and coat the spaghetti and vegetables.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Orange Honey Madeleines

Proust’s famous remembrance of the madeleine misses something profoundly important about these cookies.  Madeleines are about savoring – but not just the end result.  Madeleines also require savoring the process of making them.  Madeleines require just a bit of patience, of enjoying the process of browning the butter, of beating the eggs, of buttering and flouring the pan oh so carefully to make sure you get all the ridges in each scallop.  They are about savoring the image of the batter sitting in the madeleine tins before they make their way into the oven, and of waiting for them to cool once they have come out of the oven.  Madeleines are about making that pot of tea and sitting down with the plate of madeleines that have just been dusted with powdered sugar and the perfectly brewed cup of tea and then finally, savoring each cake-like morsel.

½ cup unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the pan
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon honey, plus more for drizzling
½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for greasing the pan
½ cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 eggs
pinch sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter the madeleine pan and dust with flour, removing excess flour. Melt the butter unsalted butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Throw in the whole cloves.  Cook until brown specks form on the bottom of the pan, about 3 to 4 minutes. Set browned butter aside and remove cloves. 

Using electric mixer, beat eggs and salt.  Then add ½ cup powdered sugar and ½ cup flour and beat.  Place honey in small microwave-safe bowl and warm for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the orange juice and orange zest and then beat the mixture into batter. Add browned butter and beat to blend. Spoon 1 tablespoon batter into each prepared madeleine mold. 

Bake madeleines until golden brown tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes in mold then gently tap madeleines out of molds. Place on rack to cool.  Dust madeleines with powdered sugar and drizzle with honey, if desired. 

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