Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Birthday Barbecue

Last weekend was my husband's birthday. To celebrate we went to our country house. When I write "country" I mean Westchester (Goldens Bridge to be exact). And when saying "our house" I mean my in-laws' place.

After an afternoon spent with friends at their indoor pool (hey - everyone needs a break from 3 days with the in-laws no matter how well you get along) we had a great barbecue for dinner that night followed by vanilla cupcakes with a super easy whipped milk chocolate ganache.

I have recently developed a love affair with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. We're a dark meat family so I tend to buy chicken parts. And, by accident, I bought a package of the boneless, skinless thighs from Trader Joe's a few weeks ago. Eureka. They're incredibly flavorful, pretty much impossible to over cook and take way less time to cook than bone-in meat. For us city-folk without access to a grill the broiler works well for cooking them. But they're much better when cooked outside on a grill. Really - what doesn't taste better cooked on a grill. Outside.

My MIL had planned on making some form of noodles for Mike's birthday (in Chinese culture (or maybe just my in-law's culture) traditionally eating long noodles on birthdays and the New Year are said to grant you longevity) so I went with an Asian theme for the marinade and threw this together that morning. I let the thighs marinate for about 10 hours but a shorter time would work as well. I brought them up to room temperature while the grill heated up and about 20 minutes later they were grilled to perfection. After eating one for lunch today I can also truthfully say they are quite delicious cold as well.

And, of course, I don't have any pictures. Sigh.

Ginger, Garlic, Soy Chicken Thighs
Yields 4-6 servings

1 cup soy sauce
3 TBS hoisin sauce
1 tsp dark sesame oil
1 TBS rice wine vinegar
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6)
  • Combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well to combine. Taste and adjust flavors to your liking (sweeter - add more hoisin; saltier - add more soy, etc.).
  • Place chicken and marinade in a Ziploc bag and marinate in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.
  • Broil for 5-6 minutes per side or grill for approximately 10 minutes per side. Cooking time really depends on your oven/grill.
  • Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting into the meat so the juices don't run out.

Whipped Chocolate Ganache
Yields approximately 2 1/2 cups - enough to ice 18-24 cupcakes depending on how generous you are with icing

10 oz (just shy of one bag) milk chocolate chips
8 oz heavy cream
  • Place chocolate chips in a bowl large enough to accommodate both the chips and the cream.
  • Bring the cream just to a boil (either on stovetop or in microwave oven).
  • Pour the cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  • Whisk to combine well and be sure all chips are melted. The ganache will be thin but shiny.
  • Cover and chill until ready to use.
  • Just before you are ready to ice the cupcakes whip the ganache with an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy and the consistency of icing (think peanut butter consistency).

Monday, May 18, 2009

I Am a Baaaad Blogger

So much for that. I promised myself I would put something up here at least once a week.

Last weekend I had a blast teaching a cooking lesson for a great group of women: a mother and her 3 adult daughters. After the lesson I had a lot going through my mind - the complex and beautiful relationships between sisters and between mothers and daughters; what cooking together means; how food unites us; how people come to cooking and what it means to cook for someone, etc.

Basically a bunch of thoughts that are *waaaay* too deep for my superficial little vanity project (this here blog o' mine).

Since I can't really make sense of what I originally planned on writing, I'll share with you some of the recipes we made that day. This will be the first of 5.

I came up with this recipe a few years ago for Thanksgiving. I had finally managed to wrestle the holiday from my mother's grubby paws (well, they had to be in town for a wedding so instead of the annual trip to mecca, er, I mean Florida, we celebrated Thanksgiving in NYC). After a lovely morning at the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade I knew we'd be hungry long before dinner was served. We always make so much cranberry sauce and I figured this was a good way to put the extra to good use. And, really, what doesn't taste good with melted brie on top? Every time I make this cranberry sauce I have to remind myself to make it more often. The crystallized ginger adds a nice kick and is an unexpected flavor. It's delicious as a spread for sandwiches (try it with curried chicken salad), on pancakes, or drizzled over ice cream as well. It also freezes nicely.

If you don't have the urge to make cranberry sauce you can substitute raspberry preserves or a fig spread in its place.

Puff Pastry with Cranberry Ginger Sauce and Brie
Yields 30 single bite portions

1 12-ounce bag cranberries
3/4-cup sugar
1/3 cup orange juice (the juice of one orange - Valencia work well in this recipe)
1/3-cup water
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup (about 2 ounces) minced crystallized ginger (easily found in health food stores)
2 packages pre-made puff pastry/phyllo cups - Athens Foods Mini Phyllo tart shells (do not thaw)
8 oz Brie, rind removed, cut into 1” cubes
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine first 6 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan.
  • Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until cranberries pop, stirring occasionally, about 10-12 minutes.
  • Cool mixture entirely. If you're in a rush place it in a bowl and place that bowl in a larger one filled with ice and cold water and stir until chilled. Mix in crystallized ginger. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
  • Place shells on a baking sheet.
  • To assemble – place a dollop of cranberry sauce into each shell. Top with a cube of brie and cook for 8-10 minutes, until cheese melts.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Who You Callin' Shrimp?

While I'm no longer a WOHM (work out (of) home mom), it's still a challenge to get a nutritious and delicious dinner on the table on a weeknight. As a SAHM (stay at home mom), with my lunch dates, spa visits, manicure appointments, bon bon eating and the other assorted trappings associated with my life of leisure, cooking sometimes falls by the wayside*.

Although pasta gets a bad wrap (Carbs! Carbs! OHMYGOD THE CARBS!) it still falls in the nutritious category in our home. If you add a lot of other 'stuff' to the pasta, the pasta itself is almost secondary to the dish. It is also quick, easy and (ding, ding, ding!) recession friendly.

This recipe became a weeknight staple early on in our marriage. It started out as a vegetarian meal (Did I mention I used to be a vegetarian? Yeah - more on that another time) but evolved into this dish a few years ago. It's extremely simple to make, requires only one pot and is very versatile. Don't like shrimp? Leave it out. Don't have tomatoes? Use another vegetable. And so on and so forth. Throw together a simple green salad and you've got a meal in about 25 minutes. Take *that* Rachael Ray!

*Written with tongue planted firmly in cheek

"Mediterranean Pasta" aka Pasta with Shrimp, Tomatoes, Olives and Feta
Yields 4 entree sized portions

8 oz (1/2 box) of pasta (any shape will do - we like whole wheat rigatoni)
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, sliced or chopped
3/4-1 lb shrimp, deveined and with the shell off (leave the tail on - it helps prevent the shrimp from shrinking)
1 pint grape tomatoes sliced in half
1/4 -1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced or chopped (use more or less if you want - we like it super briny)
1/3-1/2 lb feta cheese, crumbled (I use French feta as it tends to be less salty)
salt and pepper to taste

  • In a pot large enough to accommodate the finished dish, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until it is al dente (or to your desired degree of doneness).
  • While pasta is cooking chop garlic, de-vein shrimp (if you don't buy them de-veined like I do), slice olives, crumble feta.
  • When pasta is done, drain, reserve about 1/4 c of the water, rinse in cool water and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in the pasta pot over medium heat and toss in the garlic. Cook for about one minute - don't let it burn.
  • Toss in the shrimp, raise the heat, and allow the shrimp to cook until just about cooked through (mostly pink on both sides - about 3 minutes over high heat).
  • Add in the tomatoes and cook for about a minute (until they start to burst).
  • Remove from heat and add in the olives and the feta. Stir to combine well. Add in some of the reserved pasta water if the mixture gets too thick.
  • Season with salt and pepper.