Sunday, February 28, 2010

Julia Childs' Poulet au Porto

As I've previously posted, my Mom and I made a deal that each month we would both attempt to make the same recipe from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French cooking. Since our first Julia recipe,  Boeuf Bourguignon, monopolized an entire day, I decided to do a little research on the internet hoping that I could find some Julia recipes that were less time consuming. I found an article where Nora Ephron, the director of the movie Julie and Julia, shared her favorite recipes from the book. One was Poulet au Porto, which translates to chicken in wine. I got out my cookbook and browsed over the recipe and decided that with the exception of having to roast an entire chicken this one didn't look too bad! I added this dish to my 30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30 list. I checked with Mom and she agreed to try to "master" this dish in February with me. 

Mom made her Poulet au Porta last week and cheated a little. :) She used chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken and cooked them in her favorite appliance the Rocket Grill to speed up the process. One of the coolest things about this recipe is that you pour cognac over the chicken and set it on fire! My mom enlisted the help of my Dad for this part. The end product of Mom's Poulet au Porto was a winner. My Dad and brother, Brian, got to enjoy this dish and they both loved it. Mom said she will definitely be making this recipe again, which proves this recipe was a true success because I don't think she can say the same about the Boeuf Bourguignon! Here are some pictures of my Mom's Poulet au Porto, which she served with Butternut Squash Risotto:

My Poulet au Porto turned out great as well. I bought an organic chicken that was already in pieces, so roasted it in the oven that way with some olive oil. The sauce for this dish is a multi-stepped, and each step is delicious! The hubby and I tasted it as it progressed. The one thing I am not sure we did correctly was flaming the cognac. It didn't flame very much for us and unfortunately that resulted in a very strong cognac taste. I actually am not sure I would even use the cognac if I do it again  because it overpowered the creamy mushroom taste that I loved about the sauce as I taste tested it. Like Mom, I served my Poulet au Porto with risotto. Next time I might try potatoes on the side. I do think there will be a next time with this dish...the mushroom cream sauce, minus the cognac, is heavenly. 

Julia Childs' Poulet au Porto
Chicken, cream, and mushrooms occur again and again, as it one of the great combinations. This perfectly delicious recipe is not difficult, but it cannot be prepared ahead of time or the chicken will lose its fresh and juicy quality. The chicken is roasted, then carved, flamed in cognac, and allowed to steep for several minutes with the cream, mushrooms, and port wine. Its the kind of dish to do when you are entertaining a few good, food-loving friends whom you can receive in your kitchen..
A 3 lb chicken
1 pound fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup water
1/2 tablespoon of butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup + 1 tablespoon whipping cream
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 shallot, minced
1/3 cup medium-dry port wine
1/4 cup cognac 
Roast the chicken at 350 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours and be sure not to over cook it. Meanwhile trim and wash the mushrooms. Quarter them if large, leave them whole if small. Bring the water to boil with the butter, lemon, and salt in a 2 1/2 quart saucepan. Toss in the mushrooms, cover, and boil slowly for 8 minutes. Pour out the cooking liquid and reserve.
Blend 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cream. Pour the 1 cup of cream and the cornstarch mixture into the mushrooms. Simmer for 2 minutes. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper and set aside.
When the chicken is done, remove it to a carving board and let it rest at room temperature while completing the sauce.
Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the roasting pan. Using a new saucepan, stir in shallots and cook slowly for 1 minute. Add the port and the mushroom juice and boil down rapidly, scraping up coagulated roasting juices, until liquid has reduced to about 1/4 cup. Add the mushrooms and cream and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, allow the liquid to thicken slightly. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper and add lemon juice to taste.
Smear the inside of a fireproof casserole or chafing dish with butter. Rapidly carve the chicken into serving pieces. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and arrange in the casserole dish.
Set over moderate heat until you hear the chicken begin to sizzle. Then pour the cognac over it. Avert your face, and ignite the cognac with a lighted match. Shake the casserole slowly until the flames have subsided. Then pour in the mushroom mixture, tilting the casserole and basting the chicken. Cover and steep for 5 minutes without allowing the sauce to boil. Serve. 

Ashley's note: Then enjoy the deliciousness, drink some wine, and relax (whew!) after a job well done. 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30: Cornish Game Hens with Celery, Carrots, and Potatoes

This may well be the best meal of my (thus far) abbreviated cooking career. I enjoyed making these cornish hens and enjoyed eating them even more than any other dish I've created to date. I had a preconceived notion that cornish game hens were going to be extremely challenging to prepare. I was wrong! All you do with them in this recipe is brush them with a mixture of lemon juice, garlic, spices, and fresh herbs and let them roast to perfection. The roasted vegetables are so savory and a great accompaniment to the hens. I love how impressive and easy this cornish hen recipe is. 

Cornish Game Hens with Celery, Carrots, and Potatoes
Adapted from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook
The juice of a whole lemon
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon snipped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
8 ounces small potatoes, quartered
2 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pound Cornish game hens
In a large bowl combine lemon juice, garlic, oil, oregano, thyme, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Add in celery, carrots, and potatoes and toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to another bowl, reserving the garlic mixture.
Brush hens with some of the reserved garlic mixture. (I put the hens right in the bowl so they soaked up the leftover herbs and garlic too). Arrange hens in a roasting pan. Twist wing tips under the backs. Arrange vegetables in the pan. Drizzle the hens and vegetables with remaining garlic mixture. 
Place the roasting pan in the middle rack of the oven. Roast uncovered at 450 degrees for about 50 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the meat thermometer inserted into the thigh of each hen registers 180 degrees.  **I ended up moving the vegetables to a separate pan to get them really roasted, and speed up the process!
To serve carefully cut hens in half lengthwise. Remove vegetables from pan with slotted spoon. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Scotch A Roos

I don't know why but I've been really craving rice krispie treats lately. When our neighbors invited us over for dinner this week I decided to make Scotch A Roos for dessert. This recipe comes from my family cook book and is credited to Aunt Viv, my late Grandpa's sister. These dessert bars are super easy, super decadent, and will be a huge hit in your house. I guarantee they won't be around for long.  They are great for large crowds since they fill at 9X13 pan.

Aunt Viv's Scotch A Roos

6 cups of Rice Krispies (I opted for the cheaper store brand)
10 ounces of marshmallows
3 tablespoons of butter
6 ounces of chocolate chips
6 ounces of butterscotch chips

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large pan on low heat. Add in marshmallows and stir until melted. Pour in rice krispies and combine throughly. Spread evenly in greased 9X13 pan. Meanwhile melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until melted together. Spread evenly over the top of the rice krispie treats. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30: Lasagna

I've always wanted to make Lasagna but never had, which is why it is on my 30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30 List. I was afraid Lasagna was time consuming and difficult so I browsed recipes carefully. I settled on a super easy and quick lasagna recipe on The Pioneer Woman. It only takes an hour, perfect for week nights when I don't have a ton of time to spend slaving away in the kitchen. This recipe calls for very few ingredients, most of which you probably have in your pantry already. I found during this cooking adventure that lasagna is super fun to assemble! I even got the hubby involved in the layering of the meat, cheese, and noodles. The the best part is that this lasagna tastes awesome!! The hot ground breakfast sausage gives it just a little kick and all the mozzarella  makes this super cheesy. This lasagna recipe is a keeper! Writing this blog just a week after the fact makes me hungry for it again!
The Best Lasagna Ever
from The Pioneer Woman

1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 pound Hot Breakfast sausage
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cans (14.5 ounces) Whole Tomatoes
2 cans (6 ounces) Tomato Paste
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups lowfat cottage cheese ( I had ricotta on hand so used 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese & 1 1/2 cups ricotta)
2 whole beaten eggs
1/2 cups grated or shredded parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound sliced Mozzarella Cheese (I used less than this)
1 package (10 ounces) Lasagna noodles
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add in noodles. *Pioneer Woman recommends adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pasta water - I didn't do this but I'm guessing it's to help with flavor and ensure the noodles don't stick together as they boil.) Cook lasagna noodles until "al dente". 

Meanwhile in a large skillet or saucepan, combine ground beef, sausage, and garlic. Cook over medium heat until browned. Drain half the fat; less if you're feeling naughty. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons parsley, basil, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl mix cottage cheese, beaten eggs, grated Parmesan, 2 more tablespoons parsley, and 1 more teaspoon salt. Stir together well. Set aside.

To assemble:
Arrange 4 cooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of a baking pan, overlapping if necessary. Spoon half the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles. Spread evenly. Cover cottage cheese layer with a layer of mozzarella cheese. Spoon a little less than half the meat mixture over the top. Repeat, ending with meat mixture. Sprinkle top generously with extra Parmesan.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees until top is hot and bubbly. Can also freeze or refrigerate for up to 2 days. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Stuffed Shells

I decided to combine/modify two different stuffed shells recipes for this dish. One recipe comes from my good friend and next door neighbor, Cheryl, who posted a recipe for Spinach & Sausage Stuffed Shells on her cooking blog Two Friends With Spice. The second recipe is from Allison, a former first grade student (now third grade student), who emailed me her mom's stuffed shells recipe because she said it it her most favorite thing her mom made. I thought both recipes sounded good so I went back and forth between them, using some ingredients from both recipes and following both recipe's directions. I guess that it goes to show my cooking confidence has greatly improved because I didn't follow either recipe to a "T", unlike my former cooking self would have. I am proud of the fact that I am now courageous enough to take liberties when I cook and still have things turn out!

How then, to combine both recipes for you, is the conundrum. It just goes to show that you, too, will have to cook using your own judgement and personal assessments.

Stuffed Shells
Modified from Cheryl and Allison/Jody

1 12 oz package jumbo pasta shells
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1 lb Italian Sausage (I used Apple & Chicken Sausage)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
6 ounces of low fat cottage cheese
7 ounces of ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 (14 1/2 ounces) can of Italian styled stewed tomatoes, cut up & drained
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook jumbo shells according to package. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

While shells are boiling, preheat the oven to 375. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about five minutes. Add the sausage to the pan, breaking it into small pieces (I chopped the sausage into bite sized pieces beforehand). Cook until no pink remains in sausage. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat. 

In a large bowl combine egg, cottage cheese, ricotta, half of the parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons of parsley, oregano, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Stir in the onion, sausage, and garlic mixture until evenly mixed. 

Spread a thin layer of the chopped tomatoes in the baking dish. Stuff each shell with some of the sausage and cheese mixture. Arrange in the baking dish, open side up. Spread the remaining tomatoes over the top of the pasta shells. 

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Remove the foil and grate the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake, uncovered for 10 more minutes. 
Note: the top picture of the stuffed shells really doesn't do it justice. I am crossing my fingers that we will get a new camera in the near future so my food doesn't look so blah!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Curried Chicken Salad

My wonderful mother in law taught me this curried chicken salad recipe. It's very easy, tasty, and great for a quick lunch. I prefer using a store bought rotisserie chicken because of the tender and juicy flavor it gives the salad, but you could also use chicken breasts or canned chicken. The measurements are just approximate...this is one recipe where you just eyeball things and flavor to personal taste.

Sue's Curried Chicken Salad

1 Rotisserie Chicken
Half an onion, chopped
Celery stalks, chopped
Curry powder (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
Almonds - toasted in oven until golden brown(I forgot to put them in my ingredient picture)
Salad greens 

Take the meat off the chicken and dice it. Discard the skin (or keep a little on if you're feeling naughty). Combine the chicken, mayo, celery, onion, curry powder, and almonds. Salt and pepper to taste. Spoon on top of salad greens. Can also be served on bread of choice for a yummy sandwich. 

Friday, February 19, 2010

30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30: Sweet Potato Soup

When I received a few sweet potatoes in our recent CSA bag I was elated to be able to cross of another item from my list of 30 things I want to make before I turn 30. I came across this recipe on Simply I am a huge fan of sweet potatoes but unfortunately they are one the few things the hubby won't eat. I thought I might be able to entice my husband to try this soup because the recipe calls for onions, celery, and leeks, all things he does like. I was right! He actually liked this soup and went back for seconds. If I can get him to eat sweet potatoes I know for sure this recipe is a winner.

The author of the recipe said they serve it at Thanksgiving, but I think this soup is great for these cold, gray seemingly endless winter days in February. It's creamy and has nice notes of sweetness from the maple syrup, nutmeg, and cinnamon and earthy flavor from the sweet potatoes. I used a whole onion instead of just a cup and added in more celery and leeks for the hubby.
Sweet Potato Soup

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 medium leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 1/2 pounds (about 5 cups) of red skinned sweet potatoes, peeled, and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 cups chicken stock or broth (can used vegetable broth for a vegetarian option)
1 cinnamon stick 
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups half and half 
1 tablespoons maple syrup
The leafy tops of celery stalks, chopped
Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and saute for about 5 minutes. Add in the chopped celery stalks and leek and saute for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes.
Add sweet potatoes, chicken stock, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg;bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove cinnamon stick and discard. Puree soup (using immersion blender, use a blender and work in batches) until the soup is smooth. 
Add in the half and half and maple syrup. Stir over medium-low heat to heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This soup can be prepared 1 day ahead. 
Serve with celery leaves sprinkled on top.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Girls' Weekend Baked Penne Pasta

My best friends from college & I get together a few times a year. This is quite an achievement considering we graduated almost 7 years ago and we come from 4 different states. Most recently we all met in Indianapolis at my friend Beth's house. Beth made us a lovely baked penne dish one night. I took pictures of the process and Beth shared the recipe with me. This dish is hearty, filling, and cheesy! It's great for a big crowd.

Lots of love to my favorite girls: Beth, Beth, Neile & Jen and here's to hoping Mary can make it next time!! :)

Girls' Weekend Baked Penne Pasta

1 lb. ground turkey
1 1/2 jars of Marinara Sauce
5 - 8 mushrooms
4 garlic cloves
1 lb. penne pasta
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
4 tablespoons olive oil
Mince garlic and slice mushrooms. Heat olive oil in large pan and add in garlic. Cook for a few seconds until fragrant and put in sliced mushrooms. Cook until browned. Keep moving the garlic and mushrooms so the garlic doesn't burn.
Once the mushrooms are soft and brown add in turkey. Season with salt and pepper and a few shakes of oregano, basil, parsley or an Italian spice mix (whatever you have on hand). Brown the meat. Add in 1 1/2 jars of marinara sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile boil the penne according to box.

Once the pasta and sauce are done, pour the sauce over the pasta and mix together. Stir in 1 cup of mozzarella and pour into casserole dish. Top with remaining cup of cheese.

Bake covered in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, removing the lid for the last 10 minutes to brown the cheese. 

Serve with salad, garlic bread, a good red wine, and enjoy!!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I came across this recipe for The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies on one of my favorite cooking blogs, Good Things Catered. My friend and neighbor Andrea came over and helped me make these cookies to take my hubby at work. I did not follow this recipe to a "T"...I must admit that I did not read carefully and didn't cream the butter and sugar separately. I mixed all the dry ingredients together: flour, sugar, etc. Thankfully the cookies still turned out delicious! They were soft, moist, and buttery. I doubled the recipe and made about 6 dozen cookies, which were all gone by the time my husband's shift was over!

The BEST Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Good Things Catered

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted & cooled until warm
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus another yolk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (we used the minis)

Adjust oven racks to upper and lower middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk dry ingredients together and set aside.
With an electric mixer, or by hand, mix butters & sugars until throughly combined.
Add dry ingredients & beat at low speed until combined Stir in chocolate chips.
Roll into tablespoon sized balls and place on place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway though baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are soft & puffy (about 17 minutes).
Cook cookies on sheets until able to lift without breaking and place on wire rack to cool.

Monday, February 8, 2010

30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30: Salsa Two Ways

Homemade salsa is the first item I get to cross of my list of 30 Things to Make Before I Turn 30. I decided to make two different types of salsa for Superbowl Sunday. The first recipe is from my Dearest Auntie Chris, who is a phenomenal cook. This salsa recipe is super easy and only requires throwing a bunch of things together, so it really isn't a true testimony to the excellent cook my Aunt Chris is. Regardless, this salsa is always a hit at our family get togethers. People chow down on it and the people in my Mom's family love to eat!! I love how the fresh chopped cilantro really shines through in this salsa and the crunch of the onion is a great balance to the corn and black beans.

Aunt Chris's Black Bean & Corn Salsa

1 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 small purple onion, chopped
Chopped garlic to taste (I used three cloves because we are big garlic fans)
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
1 jar of salsa

Mix all ingredients together. Chopped avocado may be added too, but the salsa will not last as long. 

The second salsa that I made was an adaptation of a salsa recipe that the mom of a former student, Jody, sent me. It's a bunch of fresh ingredients that make the salsa super delicious.  Another great thing about this salsa is that it keeps for up to 8 days.

Mexican Salsa

32 ounces of canned tomatoes
3 jalapeno peppers (I took the seeds out, but if you like heat, keep them in)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 diced onion
1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano 
1/2 bunch cilantro
Blend all ingredients but the cilantro together in blender or food processor. Add in cilantro last. 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Quick Turkey Swedish Meatballs

This is another recipe from the cookbook the women in my mom's family put together.  Aunt Marlene shared this recipe for Swedish Meatballs and I've made it a couple times. The husband loves it, probably because there is so much meat! This recipe simmers the meatballs in alfredo sauce, but Aunt Marlene told me she also puts the meatballs on hoagies and covers them in marina sauce for a delicious meatball sandwich. The meatballs are super easy and quick and I like them on whole wheat egg noodles, but they would be great with spaghetti or covered with BBQ sauce for an easy appetizer.
Aunt Marlene's Quick Turkey Swedish Meatballs

1 20 oz package of ground turkey
1 egg
2 tablespoons of dried onion bits
1/2 cup of old fashioned oats
Dash of pepper
1 teaspoon garlic salt - I used more since we love garlic
1 teaspoon salt

Mix all together in large bowl and form into 20 meatballs
In a large heavy pan slowly heat 2 15 ounce jars of alfredo sauce (since I couldn't find mushroom alfredo sauce, I also added in 2 cans of mushrooms) Drop meatballs into sauce and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, keeping the pan covered. Turn the meatballs every 10 minutes to cook evenly.
Serve over cooked noodles or rice.
**Note: the meatballs can be made the night before for better firmness. Cover and refrigerate until ready for sauce. 


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