25 February 2010

Pollo al Mattone, aka brick (sorta) chicken

One time in college I made dinner for me, my roomie, and a boy. The boy said to me, "Cornish hen? Oooh fancy. That's, like, stuff they serve at weddings." I remember being kind of amused and confused at the same time because I grew up eating it as a quick weeknight meal. And the idea of eating one per person? Absurd. We had one hen for 3 people, with some veggies and rice or Stovetop on the side.

My usual cornish hen preparation involves butter, salt, pepper, and an oven. Sometimes I'll shove sliced lemon up it's butt, too. Sometimes it's some smashed garlic cloves. Roast in the oven until done. But this time... I caught crazy-haired Anne Burrell's show on Food Network and saw this. First, the spices are some of my favorite. Second, it looked so easy! Therefore, I had to try it, and yay! I slightly burnt it (I've been burning a lot lately, ugh), but it's not good to eat the skin anyways right, so I just went for the meat, which was perfectly moist and tasty!

Pollo al Mattone
adapted from Anne Burrell

4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3/4 tsp paprika (I used a mix of 1/2 tsp regular and 1/4 tsp Hungarian)
1 tsp cumin
olive oil
1 cornish hen, backbone removed and butterflied (recipe calls for 2)
kosher salt and ground black pepper
Special equipment: 2 pans that can be put into the oven. I used my 2 cast iron pans.
Combine the garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and juice, paprika, and cumin. Drizzle in olive oil until it makes a paste. Put hen into a big bowl, massage it with the the paste. Cover and refrigerate/marinated overnight or up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 400. Coat the bottom of the other pan with some oil and heat over high. Season the hen generously with salt and pepper. Make sure hen is open, legs tucked under, and lay into pan skin side down. Spray the bottom of another pan with oil - since I used cast iron I wrapped it in foil first then sprayed. Place that pan on top to weigh down the chicken. (This one is called brick chicken because you could wrap a brick in foil and put in the pan to weigh it down. The cast iron was heavy enough for me. ) Cook til the skin just starts to brown, about 5 minutes. (This is also the part I lost track of time, thus slightly charring it, whoops.)

Put the entire thing - chicken sandwiched between pans - into the oven and cook for about 15 minutes. Check to make sure it's done (juice runs clear). Remove chicken from pans. Now. This is where I stopped. I didn't make the sauce - I was lazy, not gonna lie. But just in case you want some, click the link above for her full recipe.

I ate the chicken as is. There was just the right amount of heat from the red pepper, and neither the paparika or cumin was too overpowering. Delightful. Roasted potatoes or cauliflower go well with it. I imagine some couscous and sliced almonds would be a great side, too.

19 February 2010

steamed mussels

For us Catholics out there, Lent started this Wednesday. Bring on six and a half weeks of reflection, giving up something, and meatless Fridays. Meatless doesn't mean no seafood, though, so for this first Friday of Lent, I tackled something I've often eaten, but never attempted to cook: mussels.

Here's the nifty bits about this meal: 1) It easily serves two, maybe three. I split this meal with my roomie, that lucky duck. 2) It's cheap! I got 2.5 lbs for $4.99, No joke. (Oh Wegmans, let me count the ways...) 3) It's pretty quick to make. So what should I make with it? I asked the guy at Wegmans for some good ideas for sides and he was quick to suggest the baguette, or roasted asparagus, or roasted potatoes, or a ceasar salad (seriously, I love Wegmans, and no I don't get paid to say that). I opted to go with the easiest option and sliced up a baguette to sop up the sauce.

Now I'll admit, dealing with live animals makes me kind of squeamish. And you KNOW they're alive because you tap on the open ones, if they're close... well, I wanted to apologize to it for it's hot and steamy (and tasty) death. Not only did the living thing get to me... as we all know I'm a baker. I like set measurements and a defined process. But i couldn't find a recipe that I really loved for this, so I winged it. I was definitely out of my comfort zone, but they turned out pretty good. They were cooked to perfectly plump. The sauce wasn't the best I've had in my life considering I didn't actually season it... many recipes called for some kind of herb - parsley or tarragon or thyme. I didn't have any so left them out. I thought it was missing SOMEthing (probably those herbs, heh) but couldnt put my finger on exactly what, but still entirely satisfying.

Not the clearest picture, but the best one I got this time around. I just really wanted to eat!

Steamed Mussels

2.5 lbs mussels, scrubbed and debearded
2 tbsp butter plus 1 tbsp
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 plump cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon - zested and the juice, divided
1 glass non-sweet white wine, something you'd want to drink
little bit of salt

Make sure the mussels are debearded. I rinsed them in a big bowl after, too. Make sure to discard any that are open and don't close when you tap them against the sink - they're dead already, and not by my hand!

Melt the butter with the olive oil over med-low heat in a large pot. Add in onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the zest of a lemon and half of the juice, and the glass of wine. Bring it to a boil and simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Put the mussels in the pot and close the lid tight. Let it cook for 3 minutes or until cooked, shaking once or twice in the process. Peek in - if they are opening up, they're done. Take them off the stove.

Put the mussels in a large bowl and cover to keep warm, leaving the mussel liquid in the pot. Bring that back up to a simmer. Add butter and the rest of the lemon juice. Let simmer until sauce reduces a bit - add salt to taste. Pour over mussels.

Slice up a baguette and enjoy!

15 February 2010

my first yeast bread!

Well, besides the cinnamon rolls, haha. But those were sweet (and awesome) and covered in sweet cream cheesy goodness (drool). Sweet breads are an entirely different ball game in my opinion - they're desserts, special occasion events. This... this is real I could eat this every day bread!

Hmm I'm noticing a bread theme lately. Guess that's what happens when you get almost 5 work days (plus the weekend) off due historic amounts of snow -- plenty of free time to let this rise, braid, and then let it rise again. The baking was the shortest part of the process, I think. I also could have looked around for my dough hook for my mixer to make this go quicker, too, but since I had the time, I opted for the hand kneading method. Best way to get a feel for this. And there's something SO satisfying about working with your hands.
So this recipe for buttermilk honey bread makes 2 loaves of white bread. You can make it in loaf pans, but I opted for the prettier version: It's just a simple 3-braid coiled into a bun. (By simple, I should say that I watched this video several times to get an idea of how to do it.) I should have watched my oven a bit closer because I toasted the top more than I'd have liked, but it wasn't enough to burn it. Next time - and yes there'll definitely be a next time where I'll probably add a touch more honey because I like things sweet (like me, HA!) - I may even try a 6-braid loaf. Daring :)
prebaked, eggwashed loaves:

Buttermilk Honey Bread

from Rosa's Yummy Yums

3/4 C warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 C buttermilk, room temp
2 Tbsp butter, melted
3 Tbsp honey, heated a bit so it's runny
1 Tbsp kosher salt
6 C flour
egg + 2 tbsp milk, beaten together for egg wash

Pour warm water into a small bowl, sprinkle yeast and sugar on it. Let it sit until it foams - about 10-15 min.

In a really big bowl, combine buttermilk, butter, honey, and yeast mixture. Add salt and 2 cups of the flour. Using a wooden spoon, beat hard to combine. Add 1/2 C flour at a time, beating hard until shaggy dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until soft and smooth and not overly sticky.

Spray a glass bowl with cooking spray and place dough into it, Turn dough over so oiled side is up. Cover with a cloth towel and leave in a warm (like cozy room temp) place to rise until double in size - about 2 hours.

Turn dough out onto slightly floured surface and genlty press down with fist. Split into 2 pieces. Split each piece into 3 pieces and roll out into long ropes. Braid, then coil. Repeat with other piece. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise for another 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place loaves far enough apart to allow for some rising while baking. Brush tops with egg wash. Bake approximately 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown.

Other than fresh with butter and jam, this is really great sliced, toasted, and topped the same way, too.

10 February 2010

snow day banana bread

Today makes 3.5 work days in a row that the federal government was closed due to the Blizzard of 2010 (of which round 2 kicked in today and dropped even MORE snow on us, yay!), therefore my office was closed. The sleeping in has been really great... but to be honest, I'm starting to get a little stir crazy. I haven't been out much in the last few days except to shovel and then for a few hours for dinner and hanging with Ang. yesterday. And for that matter, going out with Ang.... it was really weird being surrounded by other people again! I miss my routine. But in the mean time, I'm not one to waste *that* much time... I've been baking. A lot. And despite the frigid blizzard winds and snow outside, my house is warm and smells like heaven thanks to the goodies.

Like this banana bread! I split the recipe into 2 8x4 loaves, mixing one with mini chocolate chips. I think regular size chips would have been better, but either way, they were moist and banana-y and awesome.

Banana Bread

3 very ripe medium bananas
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 C buttermilk
1/4 C apple sauce
1/4 C canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 C brown sugar
1 1/4 C all purpose flour
1/2 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
handful of mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325. Spray 2-8x4 tins with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, mash bananas. Mix in the eggs, buttermilk, apple sauce, oil and vanilla. Sift in the brown sugar, flours, salt and soda. Mix well.
Pour half the batter into one pan. Mix the chips into the remaining batter, then pour into the second pan.
Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until a thin skewer inserted comes out clean.

You could also make this in one 9x5 loaf pan, and increase the cooking time until it is done.

06 February 2010

snovernight cinnamon rolls

Snowmageddon. Tsnonami. Snowpocalypse. Snowcano. And... snOMG that's a ton of snow. Mother Nature dumped between 2-3 feet on the DC metro area in about 24 hours, leading all those cute little snowriffic phrases. Or you could just call it the Blizzard of 2010, but that's not nearly as fun, right! I heard the average snowfall a *year* in DC is like 20", so this is quite the special happening. Wanna see?

Because I haven't touched the back with a shovel yet, here's a good idea of just how much we're talking about: That's a car under that tree, poor girl.
The snow weighed down quite a few trees in the area:

Knowing that we'd be snowed in over the weekend, I wanted to make something that I had otherwise never quite had time for: the overnight - excuse me, SNOvernight (I can go on and on with these, folks) cinnamon rolls from Alton Brown. Look at them proofed and ready to bake with all that snow outside...

Actual hands on time was probably 20-30 minutes, and then the rest is rising or baking, during which I was either shoveling or sleeping. I also didn't want to bother looking for the dough hook for my mixer, so I just knead it by hand. They turned out to be nice and fluffy, albeit a bit burnt because I wasn't paying close attention to baking time... but once frosted, they were the perfect reward for a hard morning's work.

Snovernight Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from Alton Brown

1/4 C sugar, split
6 oz. buttermilk, split
1 packet active yeast
4 egg yolks
1 egg
6 tbsp butter, melted
4 C flour (approx)
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 C brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
3 tbsp butter, softened

Warm up half the buttermilk and stir in half the sugar and the yeast. Let sit until it gets bubbly. In a large bowl, whisk together the rest of the buttermilk, sugar, egg yolks, egg, and butter. Add in the yeast mixture and stir. Add salt and 2 cups of the flour, and use a wooden spoon combine, stirring until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead for about 5-8 minutes, adding flour as necessary to get a soft and moist but not sticky texture. Lightly oil a large bowl, and put dough in it. Spin it around to coat with oil, then cover with a cloth and allow to rise for 2-3 hours - it should double in volume.

Mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. Butter a 9x13 glass baking dish.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a rectangle. Roll into an 18x12 rectangle, the long side closest to you. Evenly spread the softened butter onto the dough, leaving a 1/2" line free at the top edge. Spread the cinnamon-sugar mix over the dough, leaving about a 3/4" border at the top edge. Starting at the long edge closest to you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. If it's a bit uneven in thickness, gently squeeze til it's even. Using a serrated knife, cut into 12 even pieces. Arrange rolls cut side down into the baking dish, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and put into the fridge overnight. Sleepy time.

The next (snowy) morning, take the plastic wrap off the dish and put into the not-turned-on-yet oven on the middle rack. Place a shallow pan on the bottom rack, and fill about halfway with boiling water. Close the oven and allow to proof for 30 minutes - the dough will puff up a bit. Take both the rolls and the pan with the water out.

Preheat oven to 350. Bake cinnamon rolls about 25 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. (I baked at 30 and the burned a bit, so watch them,)

2 tbsp butter
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
2-3 tbsp milk
powdered sugar to the sweetness you want (I just kept adding byt the tbsp-full until it got there
While the rolls are cooling, prepare the icing by blending all the ingredients together. Once it's to the sweetness you like, slather them on the cinnamon rolls and enjoy.

02 February 2010

what can you do with just 1 egg?

It's snowing again - second time in 4 days. Today I was prepared - rented The Hurt Locker (which is AMAZING by the way, is far superior to Avatar and I hope it wins best picture) and have a fully stocked fridge. See, Saturday caught me off guard, and I was sitting at home bored out of my mind. Normally I go on a baking spree when I get bored, but I was looking in my fridge at ONE egg. What on earth could I bake with one egg? (Besides shortbread, which I wasn't craving. Cravings dictate what I make, oh, 95% of the time.)

While I didn't have the ingredients to make a warm and comforting chili, I still wanted someting comfort food like. That I could make with one egg. Lucky for me, I had corn meal in my pantry and I whipped up these muffins. I even "healthed them up" by using whole wheat flour and no oil. I think those adjustments made them a bit denser, but they totally balanced out the slathering them in butter :)

Corn Muffins
adapted from Allrecipes.com

1 C stone ground white cornmeal
3/4 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 C apple sauce
1 C milk

Preheat oven to 400. Grease a muffin pan.
Mix together all the dry ingredients, then gently stir in the wet ingredients until combined. Use an ice cream scoop to dish out into the muffin pan.
Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.