Cheesy Artichoke Rice

I hate the way when you look up “cheesy rice” and you get “minute rice” and non-cheese cheese slices. Ugh. That is just not right. And that is also not cheese either.  Who does this?  I ran out of orzo and thought to make a rice recipe that would work for my lunches at work. I prefer home-made lunch to restaurants, with some exceptions.  You know, things I just don’t make (Indian food) and that I know other people do a much better job than me. But pasta dishes, rice dishes, when lots of cheese or mushrooms are involved – I think I got this. No, I know I do. D&D_2081

So my thoughts on this are:

I need lunch for tomorrow.
I have no vegetable or chicken stock (unreal!) and I’m not going to the grocery store at 8:30pm. Nope.
I have lots of rice.
I have quite the variety of cheeses.
I have scallions that are mostly okay.~
Always have onions and garlic.
Lemon zest

With all that in mind, I’m going to figure out what to make tonight and here is what I did.
2 cups H2O
1 cup long grain rice
lots of salt

Cook like you always make rice – if you need a tutorial this is how it goes: Thank you The Kitchn.

Once you remove it from the heat, add 3 Tbs of unsalted butter while it steams on the back burner — important: lid on, heat off.

Unsalted butter
Olive oil
Small yellow onion, diced
3 good sized cloves of garlic, minced
artichoke hearts, drained & quartered (not marinated)
~ the scallions were past there “best buy” date at this point – too bad. But the onions and garlic made up for it.

In a saute pan, melt 2 Tbs unsalted butter and one small yellow onion diced and a good pinch of kosher salt. Saute on low-ish heat until soft. Then add three cloves (less or more as you prefer) minced and let them sit on the top of the onions  – you don’t want them to burn. Stir them in a bit and then remove from heat.

Now, here is where things get interesting – I opened a can of artichoke hearts and quartered them and added them to the onion mixture with a little glug of olive oil and let everything simmer until it was a cohesive mix of veg that was soft – that seems to be key.

D&D_iPhone_image1As mentioned – I have cheese options – so I pulled out all the cheese that had already been opened. Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, Manchego  – so the decision is which one or which combination to use. I used some Manchego because it is melty but it grates like a cheddar, but just a little softer and the Dog (Hood) really likes it. And then the Pecorino – for that salty flavor – a great sheep’s milk hard cheese. Not too different, really from Parmigiano, but not the same either. Manchego is another sheeps’ milk cheese from Spain – from the La Mancha region. So I guess this is the Spanish sheep milk cheese recipe.

I have to say cheese, for me, matters not if it from a cow, a goat, or a sheep. I just love cheese in a stupid sort of way. That is probably obvious by now.

But when I do it again, I will put some sharp cheddar in the mix. This time I added lemon zest at home and took that lemon to work for the juice for my lunch leftover hacks. Excellent.

I think that just might be the key to a great lunch hack at work. I always have a fresh lemon and a bit of grated Pecorino or Parmigiano in the fridge there – it really makes all the difference in the world. From boring leftovers to something special.

Butterscotch Pudding – Gourmet

D&D_1886I love homemade pudding and it really could not be much easier if you get right down to it. There are two schools of thought to this – the egg yolk version or the cornstarch version. They both have the merits and to be honest, I am not sure I have a preference excepting that the egg version can leave you with some egg bits in it and that is never good eats.

1/2 packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbs plus 2 tsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whisk together brown sugar, cornstarch, and 1/4 tsp salt in a heavy medium saucepan, then whisk in milk and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently, then boil, whisking, 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla. Pour into a bowl, then cover surface with buttered wax paper and chill until cold, at least 1 1/2 hours.

2 June 2017 – just trying to be normal for a little while, but this is a difficult time for me. I am not sure it is working at all. Nope, not likely. But the pudding is pretty damn good. At least the best that I can expect.

Yes, while I am posting this in August, my June was quite difficult.  We will say lupus and be done with it.

Oh, I totally forgot, I made little mini cups of pudding for the office and I could not keep myself away from them … but I did my best and I think the rest of the office enjoyed them. At least I hoped so.

D&D_1905

Pecorino Chicken with white wine, & lemon butter sauce 

I have been making this for so many years.  It was in a David Rosengarten newsletter, I can’t believe I have never posted it. Dear lord, this has been so many years. I have altered it over time to reduce steps and streamline, but the flavor remains one of my favorites. Honestly, as much as I love the whole recipe I would be just as happy with the jasmine rice and the pan sauce. That way I have my favorite part and leave the chicken to the boys and a lot of the time, I do just that. It makes a great lunch with a little more finely grated pecorino and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Lots of fresh lemon. No, I am not kidding. This is a thing you must do. Yes. do. D&D_2052

My version:
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino
1 cup dry white wine or one of those cute little individual bottles – that is just what I do.
1 1/2 cup vegetable or no salt chicken stock
2 lemons, sliced, seeds removed (duh)

Cut each chicken breast in half or in three pieces or so if that works better and place between two pieces of waxed paper. Pound with kitchen mallet until about 1/2″ thick, or at least until they are all even thickness.

So spread out another piece of waxed paper for the prepared chicken.  Place the flour on another piece of waxed paper and and some black pepper.  In a medium bowl, whisk an egg until combined and then on another piece of waxed paper spread the finely grated Pecorino.  Dip the chicken pieces in flour, then in the egg, and then press into the Pecorino.  Let sit on the additional piece of waxed paper until ready to saute in a bit of olive oil. Letting this sit is a good thing.

In a non-stick saute pan, add a bit of olive oil and let it simmer a bit – you want it hot, but not crazy. Add each piece of coated chicken and saute until each side is medium brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. At this point, add stock and simmer for a bit  – really reduce it until it is almost gone. Then turn the heat up and then add the wine. Now, add the lemon slices and let them simmer. Squish the lemon rounds and then remove them.

Add the chicken pieces again and let them simmer, but don’t turn them because you want part of the chicken to be a bit crunchy. Turning would defeat that purpose.

While this is going on make at least a couple of cups of jasmine rice. Because it will be the best part, at least to me, of the dinner.

Let the chicken simmer for a bit and then check to make sure it is cooked through. Then serve.  ~~~ A bit of rice, a piece of Pecorino chicken and a good bit of pan sauce.

You can see why I love the rice and pan sauce bit – well, if you cannot, I can. Amazing. Oh, and a little extra lemon is never a bad thing. Neither is a bit of extra finely grated Pecorino.  Sigh.

Original Recipe:
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 heaping tablespoons of finely grated Pecorino cheese
4 tablespoons very finely chopped parsley
1 egg, beaten well
Flour for dredging
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
6 thin, round slices of lemon, seeds removed
2 tablespoons butter

Cut the chicken breasts into 6 pieces of roughly equal size. Place the pieces between sheets of waxed paper, and pound with a mallet until they’re thin. Season with salt and pepper. Place cheese and parsley in a wide, shallow bowl. Slowly add the beaten egg, whisking until it’s smoothly incorporated. Place the flour on a wide plate. Dip the pounded chicken in the egg mixture. Remove, letting excess egg drip off. Place each cutlet in the flour, and coat lightly. Remove from flour and hold them in a single layer.
Add the olive oil to a saute pan large enough to hold the 6 cutlets in a single layer. Place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cutlets. Saute, turning once, until the cutlets are golden on the outside, just cooked on the inside (about 2 minutes per side). Remove the cutlets, and hold them in a single layer.
Spill the oil out of the saute pan. Return the pan to high heat. Add the white wine, and reduce it to 2 tablespoons. Add the chicken stock and the lemon slices. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove the lemon slices. Keep boiling the sauce until it’s reduced to 1/2 cup. Turn heat to very low. Swirl in the butter until the sauce is thickened. Add the reserved chicken, turning them until they are coated in sauce. Divide cutlets among 2 plates, pour remaining sauce over them, sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, and serve immediately.

Recipe courtesy of David Rosengarten

Vanilla Taffy

I have never posted this recipe. It is a family recipe that is so special to me. It may mean nothing to anyone else – probably will not. But this is one of those handed-down recipes for something not many people make at all … and there is a story to it.

My mom made this every winter, not every Christmas because this recipe depends on the weather. There has to be low humidity and in the South that usually will only happen sometime between late December and late February. So this did grace the Christmas Eve party on occasion -yes, but there was no guarantee. It is North Florida after all. We oftentimes wore shorts on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This was a recipe from my mom’s mom, Daisy, and my mom would describe how Daisy made it in the winter* and then to get the taffy hard they would toss it in the snow. We never were able to do anything like that, but it is kind of cool to understand where a recipe really comes from.

To be honest, I have never seen a recipe like this. Most people, when they think of taffy, think of salt water taffy which is soft,  but this is not. We (me and the Boy) have taken to calling it crack because when you pull it right and put enough air in it, it gets opaque and, well, looks like crack – at least the kind I have seen on Cops  (read: have no practical experience in the real stuff, but from TV, I can totally see it).DD_9068

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla

Necessary – candy thermometer – not kidding. Necessary.

Place sugar, water, corn syrup, and cream of tartar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Then cook without stirring until candy thermometer reaches 266 degrees.

Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter and stir until dissolved. Pour onto sil-pat lined baking sheet. When still hot, but cool-ish enough to pull, pull small bits in cords until opaque – you will burn at least your thumbs, but probably a couple of other fingers in the process. Twist into ribbons and lay on wax paper-lined baking sheet. When hard, break into pieces (just drop on baking sheet and see what happens) and wrap in cut waxed paper, or if you want to be fancy, wrap in pieces of parchment. We used waxed paper growing up, but I have taken a liking to parchment in the last few years.  

*They also butchered a pig each winter. Something I completely understand, but an not likely to be involved in.

2016 – Tomato Soup with Spinach and Mozzarella

Shortbread

Shortbread is an odd little cookie if you ask me. It is not sweet, much, and can be a bit difficult to work with, but I am a fan. Although it is not the first thing I would go for in the baking/cookie department. I think is pretty much amazing with tea though, I guess that is because it is a Scottish biscuit in origin. And I have to say, I do sort of mess with the general idea of shortbread – see: vanilla and sanding sugar.dd_1583

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted*
1/2 -3/4 tsp vanilla (optional, well, not really)
Sanding sugar (optional, nope, not really)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until slightly lighter in color and smooth. Sift confectioners’ sugar and salt over a piece of waxed paper. Beat with butter until light, fluffy, and smooth. Add a bit of vanilla if preferred.

Sift flour over waxed paper. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Scrape soft dough onto plastic wrap. Cover with more plastic wrap and pat until a bit thin. Rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour – it needs to be firm to the touch.**

Using flour, roll out shortbread dough until it is 1/4 inch thick. Use your favorite cookie cutters (my mom’s) or a biscuit cutter and put the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cool the cookies in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle with sanding sugar or whatever sugar you feel inclined to use.

Bake until the tops are golden, about 12-14 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

* confectioners’ sugar always needs to be sifted. It is just a given.

** I chilled overnight because I am kind of lazy that way. Well, not really. Here’s the deal – I make a dough one night and bake it later, usually the next day. It works because I can do each step – make and then bake the next day – because during the week my baking occurs after work. I also justify this by the fact that I have read that cookie dough gets better with a bit of time in the fridge. Sure – that works for me – after all I’m making cookies during the week, not just on the weekend.

I have had this recipe in my cookie binder, yes, I have that, for a long time and I think trying to find the source of this recipe when the title is only “shortbread” is nigh on impossible. So I won’t but will thank the gods that be for a pretty good recipe that I messed with just enough to make be really happy.

 

Amazing Roasted Mushrooms

I follow several food bloggers and one that I really admire is Kevin’s Closet Cooking. I really have an affinity for Kevin. His recipes are pretty simple, not lots of ingredients, not too many steps, but these are the kind of recipe that I like. I like that he is kind of all over the place. From one day to the next, you never know what you are going to get and for me, that is really great. A challenge, trying something different, something outside of what you normally make – yeah, I really like that.

D&D_1542It does not take lots of ingredients or lots of directions to make something that tastes really good, at least to me. None of this means I do not adjust Kevin’s ideas to my own. It is cooking and experimenting, after all.

I am a huge fan of mushrooms. That said, I do not like raw mushrooms at all. Ugh. So gross. I love to saute them. Funny how that changes the entire equation. There are so many dishes I love cooked mushrooms in. Pasta with asparagus and mushrooms with a sauce of mascarpone cheese, lemon, and lots of real (read: imported and expensive) Parmigiano-Reggiano. I make a great vegetarian pate with mushrooms – so good on toast with fresh lime juice. I could just go on and on, and I expect that I will. That is just me. You do not spend a decade as a vegetarian and not have recipes that still make you stupidly happy. Many of my recipes are on the vegetarian side. That makes me happy, but I do love a good steak every now and again. And bacon, and um, sausage … here we go again. Pretty much any version of pork.

8 ozs crimini mushrooms, washed and stem removed*
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp dried thyme or not as you prefer
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggino

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray just to avoid sticking. Place cleaned mushrooms in the baking dish and spoon the butter, garlic, and thyme mixture over the mushrooms. Season with kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper.

Bake for 10 minutes.**   Remove from the oven. Add the breadcrumb Parm mixture*** and press down and bake until lightly golden – 8-10ish minutes. Garnish with chives, parsley, or scallions. And a splash of lemon juice would not go amiss.

*I cannot help it, I just remove stems from crimini and button mushrooms. Maybe not necessary, but I have always done it. You could also use button mushrooms for this recipe. I just went with what was on sale this week.

**This is one of those dishes you need to serve right out of the oven … with a little bit of cooling time so you do not burn yourself. That said, I think you could put it all together in a baking dish a day ahead and then fire up the oven for the first 10 minute part, so that makes it dinner party friendly. I did it over two days and really was wonderful.  Cover the slightly baked mushroom with foil and let them get close to room temperature before putting them in the fridge and then finishing the dish when you want the next day. I do love recipes that give me flexibility.

*** You might have extra, but I wanted to be sure I had enough and now this gives me an excellent thought – what to do with the rest. It is in the fridge for now, but the possibilities are pretty much everywhere. Maybe some kind of crostini. So Kevin, what do you think?

 

Mac n Cheese – the best ever

This is another no recipe thing – but in the tradition of Michael Ruhlman – it is a ratio –
though I am not good at math. There it is. My mom made the best mac n cheese ever. We never had anything out of a Kraft box (ugh — so gross). I do think I picked this up my osmosis (cannot believed I spelled that correctly on the first go – woo hoo!). I really don’t remember paying that much attention to how my mom made it, but I knew how to do this by instinct  – again, in my head it was osmosis.

So this is a total ratio thing, but to me the easiest way to tell someone how to make it is to show them how to make it. It can be a little vague otherwise. This was the subject of one of the early Wednesday Cooking School nights for the Boy. It is one of his favorite things, not surprising, since it also one of my favorite things. It is also vegetarian, which means I had it in the freezer while waiting for him to be born and I remember distinctly that I had some the night I came home from the hospital with him.D&D_1397

I have this lovely ceramic dish from Portugal (I did not go there to get it, but did buy it from a store in Durham, NC) and it is a pretty dish and I bought two because of that. But here is where the ratios come into play. No matter what dish you have, to make mac n cheese for whatever sized dish you have measure out dry pasta* in the dish to about the half way full. Once you cook the pasta, then it will fill the dish — see, a ratio – who knew from math? But I knew that before Ruhlman (still love you guy).

Now here is the next ratio – fat to flour – also knew this before Ruhlman. I always prefer to have more cheese sauce than I need, so for my pan (need to measure and figure out how big that dang this is). I start with 4 Tbs of unsalted butter, which I melt over low heat and then add basically the same amount of all-purpose flour and a bit of salt and pepper. Then cook the flour for a minute or two, stirring the whole time. It  would be a good thing if you had taken your whole milk out prior to starting this and I probably should have said that before now. But as long as you add the milk a little at a time, it will be okay. Some people warm the milk in a sauce pan, but my mom never did, so I don’t either.

Here’s the thing – when you first start adding the milk it will look like a clumpy mess with the butter mixture. You really are making a light roux and then you are going on to make a bechamel sauce sort of. Anyway. Use that whisk to eliminate lumps, but pretty soon you need to switch to a good spatula (Get it Right spatulassee this link, and this one, then there is this one, and .. well you get it.)  because you don’t want the milk to scorch on the bottom of the sauce pan – that would be a disaster (i.e. start over – no other choice, nope none).

So again, this is where it is where it is so much easier to show than explain, but the ratio, is about the same amount of cups of milk as butter – in this case 3 1/2 to four, but add a bit at a time. Let simmer over low heat and let thicken over time.

Then the cheese comes into play. In my case, always extra sharp cheddar, white or yellow, your choice, but once the bechamel thickens it is time to take it off the heat and add the grated cheese, setting aside a bit to put on the top. Add the cooked pasta (you did that already, right? Dumped the pasta you measured in the pan into a nicely salted pot of boiling water and cooked until al dente) to the sauce and tip into the baking dish, top with a little extra shredded cheese and cover with foil. But in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5 – 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly.

You need to let it cool a bit before diving in, but that is a necessary thing.

So to you from me – My Mom’s not-recipe for the best homemade mac n cheese.

*I typically use penne or rotini, but elbow is good too. Some pasta that will hold the cheesy goodness of the sauce.