Friday, October 26, 2012

Do it the right way: Baked Potatoes and Bloody Marys

Loaded baked potato
This may seem like a silly, almost no recipe kind of post, but I think that lots of people have forgotten how to make "real" baked potatoes. I am guilty of it myself, at times. You're in a hurry, you wash a potato quickly and then shove it into microwave. Edible? Yes. Delicious? NO.
When you've got the time, do it the right way, especially if you've got company coming. The potatoes really do taste so much better done this way.

Company Baked Potatoes
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Wash and dry your potatoes. Rub them lightly with some olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Pierce them 2 or 3 times with a fork. Sprinkle them liberally with some kosher salt. Bake for at least 45 minutes -- it may take as long as 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. Test them by inserting a slim knife; they are done when the blade slides in smoothly and meets no resistance. The skins will be crispy, and the insides fluffy. Delicious!

And while I am on my high horse about doing things the right way, here's the way we make Bloody Marys at our house, without using a mix. It's my husbands favorite cocktail, so it needs to be right!!

Bloody Mary Cocktail for 1
Fill a tall glass with ice about 2/3 of the way full. Pour in 1.5 oz. of vodka, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, 3-4 drops of hot sauce, a pinch of celery salt and a pinch of hot pepper flakes (optional) or Old Bay Seasoning. Squeeze a wedge of lime into this mixture and then fill the glass with V8 juice. Stir well. Garnish with black pepper, celery, olives and a pinch of kosher salt. Voila, a wonderful cocktail! Cheers!
Best Bloody Mary

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Very Best Homemade Rolls

The Very Best Homemade Rolls
A while back, in a holiday post, I wrote about making the "Best Dinner Rolls on the Food Network" for my Christmas Eve dinner (see post here ). They  were good, but even using a bread machine, took a lot of time. The reason for this was that the flour had to be added in increments, so you couldn't really leave them alone while the machine did the kneading for you. In addition to the time commitment, the rolls were slightly hard or crisp on the top, and that wasn't exactly what I was looking for. That experience has sparked the detective in me to search for an easier way to make rolls that had the delicious, soft, yeasty taste that I have memories of from childhood. And, after several tries at different recipes, I think I've nailed it! I found the recipe on and made only one little change. Voila, I've found the perfect roll for your holiday feasts. It's easy, it's delicious, they freeze beautifully and everyone will LOVE them, I promise! Gather up the ingredients, dust off your bread machine and prepare to be praised for your wondrous cooking abilities! These rolls are the bomb!

Very Best Homemade Rolls
1 c. milk
1/2 c. melted butter
2 T. of sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 c. bread flour
2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast (I use the kind in a jar labeled "Bread Machine Yeast")

Put all ingredients into your bread machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer. The ingredients above are listed the way they go into my machine.
Select "dough" setting and turn it on. When the cycle is complete, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 24 pieces ( think I only did 22, chalk it up to my spatial dysfunction!). Shape them into balls. Place on a greased 13" X 9" cookie sheet as shown:

Rolls after they have risen
Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 13 - 16 minutes, until rolls are golden brown. Serve or freeze and enjoy the compliments. Start counting down now and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Chicken Fricasse with Mushrooms

Chicken Fricasse' with Fresh Green Beans on the side
Here's my next installment of cooking like Julia: Fricasse' de Poulet a' L'Ancienne. Roughly translated, this means, Old Fashioned Chicken Fricasse with Wine Flavored Cream Sauce, Onions and Mushrooms. I guess the Ancients were into cream sauce with wine and mushrooms? Who knows.
I must confess that my impressions of chicken fricasse were not memorable. I don't recall having had this dish as a child but do remember hearing it spoken of... in a book? on TV? I honestly don't remember. I came across this recipe while continuing my random experiment of Cooking Like Julia (see here ). My choice was also dictated by the fact that I had a ziploc bag of random chicken parts in my freezer that looked like they needed to be cooked. I scaled down the recipe to feed the two of us, since the offspring are currently off doing their own things.
I kept the spirit of the recipe true to Julia, but added in a little of my own kitchen knowledge, tailoring it to suit our tastes. The final dish was creamy and tasty, with tender chicken and savory mushrooms. This scaled down recipe will make about 3 servings. We like to have one extra for someone to eat for lunch later in the week!

Chicken Fricasse' with Mushrooms
4 - 5 pieces of chicken (I had 2 thighs, 1 breast and 2 wings)
2 T. butter
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
4 baby carrots, sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 T. flour
salt and pepper
1 1 /2 c. chicken stock or broth
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 small bay leaf or 1/2 of a larger one
1 T. chopped fresh parsley
8 oz. cleaned and dried white mushrooms, halved
1 tsp. butter + 1 tsp. olive oil
1 egg yolk
1/4 c. half and half or light cream
a little lemon juice
pinch of nutmeg
fresh parsley for garnish
Prepared egg noodles, risotto or rice
Dry the chicken on a few paper towels. Melt the butter over medium heat, in a heavy skillet ( I used a non-stick one). Add the sliced celery, carrots and onions. Cook the vegetables until they begin to soften. Push them aside and add the chicken, skin side down, to the skillet. Raise the heat slightly and let the chicken cook for about 5 minutes, until skin starts to stiffen slightly and just begins to brown. Turn it over and let it cook for another 3 - 4 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and sprinkle the pan with the flour, a pinch of salt and some pepper. Stir the flour into the drippings so that it is completely absorbed. Cook the flour and veggies a few minutes, and then add the broth and wine. Stir well so that the flour mixture dissolves into the broth. Return the chicken, add another pinch of salt and pepper, the bay leaf and parsley. The chicken should be almost covered by the liquid: You may add a little more broth or water if you need to. Bring the dish up to a simmer. Cover and cook, covered, over low to medium heat for 30 minutes. The chicken is done when the juices run clear when pierced by a fork or knife tip.
In a separate skillet, melt 1 tsp. butter, with 1 tsp. olive oil. When the foaming of the butter subsides, add the halved mushrooms and cook until they begin to brown. When they are browned, squeeze a little lemon juice over and add them to the chicken and vegetables in the larger skillet.
At this point, you may put the dish away to be served later that day or as much as 2 days later. Refrigerate the entire fricasse' covered to be reheated and finished as you like.
To finish the dish, remove any loosened skin from the chicken (this is especially easy to do w/the thighs. I used a boneless skinless breast so had no skin to remove from that). Skim off any accumulated fat from the top of the sauce. (Reheat the sauce if you have refrigerated it.) Beat the egg yolk into the cream with a fork or whisk. Take a spoonful of the sauce from the hot dish and add it into the cream mixture. (This is called tempering -- you do it so that the yolk won't "scramble" when you add it to the sauce in the pan.) Mix in the hot liquid and then add another spoonful. Repeat. Once the cream mixture is heated stir it into the sauce in the skillet, mixing well to incorporate and distribute the cream completely.
Grate in a little fresh nutmeg if desired. I think this gives the dish some depth and flavor. Taste the sauce and correct the seasoning. Remove the chicken from the pan and arrange it over some buttered egg noodles, rice or risotto. Pour over the sauce and garnish with some fresh parsley. Garnish with fresh parsley. I prepared fresh green beans to go along with it, but Julia suggests Petit Pois or asparagus. Broccoli would be good as well.