Tuesday, December 9, 2014

never bake while tired (or, that time I used flour instead of powdered sugar. or, nonny's icebox cookies).

I had been craving cookies for a few weeks. Specifically my grandmother's icebox cookies, which are kind of like a shortbread-sugar-cookie hybrid (more short than sugar), and pretty much the best ever. When I finally got around to pausing Gilmore Girls (Netflix, I'm not sure whether to kill you or hug you) long enough to be a productive member of society for 10 minutes, it was 10pm on a Sunday night when I definitely had to be at work the next day.

Perfect time to bake some cookies, right?

The beauty of this dough is that it takes about 30 seconds to throw together, and I always have the ingredients on hand. The hardest part is remembering to take butter out of the freezer to thaw, since we don't have a microwave.

Once the cookies were done, Danny and I enjoyed a few while watching the last episode for the night (or was it?). I kept thinking, "does powdered sugar lose its flavor over time? Because it tastes really bland!" The cookies tasted just fine, but the dusting of sugar on top could have been left off.

When I went into the kitchen to wrap up the remaining cookies, I looked around at the counters and it hit me: I had absolutely, definitely, positively just dusted a whole batch of cookies with all-purpose flour. The powdered sugar had been put back in the pantry after making the dough, and even though the container for the flour is a completely different size and shape, I somehow did not even notice I was using the wrong powder for the finishing touches.

And that is why you never bake when tired.

Luckily the flour was easily wiped off, and the cookies were re-dusted with powdered sugar, and all is now well with the world. The end.

Icebox Cookies (makes more than you probably need, but less than you probably want)

1 cup chilled unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks

Preheat the oven to 350*. Cream the butter and sugar until incorporated and fluffy. Mix in egg yolks and vanilla, then flour, until dough is formed. Break the dough into a few smaller dough balls (this will depend on how much you want to make at a time), and roll each ball into logs about 1.5" thick. Wrap the logs up and chill in the freezer until firm, about an hour (or refrigerate for a few hours). Slice logs at an angle to make cookies, about .5" thick. Place cookies on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until slightly golden. Dust with powdered sugar. Eat while hot if you're crazy like me and just can't wait, or let them cool if you're a normal person. Careful not to inhale while eating, as powdered sugar causes coughing fits. Not that I know from experience, or anything.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

ricotta gnocchi

Ricotta gnocchi. 

Doesn't it just sound super schmancy?

When I was in Italy with my family last month, one of our mornings included a cooking class at a local restaurant. After learning about the chef's philosophy about using homegrown ingredients and touring the farm on the property, we made our way to the kitchen to cook. 

Side note: I am still trying to get over the fact that the clover we tried on the farm tasted like cucumber. I mean, it's a flower kind of. Talk about mind blown. 

When you hear "ricotta gnocchi", you might think " potato gnocchi with ricotta sauce" or something similar. In actuality, it's gnocchi made of cheese. I know, I know. Crazy talk! But it worked, it was easy, and it was delicious to boot!


See? Looks totally normal. 

The beauty of making gnocchi with ricotta instead of potato is that you're not contending with the starches in the potato, trying to beat out the sticky guminess as you perfect your dough and shape the pasta. And don't worry, the pasta doesn't taste like cheese. 

My favorite prep for this pasta is to throw together a pesto and toss it all together in a pan for a minute or two to get everything nice and saucy. Simple, delicious, and because it's green it's healthy, right? 


Ricotta Gnocchi (serves 3-4)

50 grams flour (pasta flour is preferred, but AP will work if you sift it first), plus extra for dusting and in case you need more for dough consistency
250 grams ricotta, strained
1 egg yolk (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix flour into ricotta in stages to help avoid lumps. Add the egg yolk if you want to add color to make the gnocchi look closer to potato gnocchi. The dough should be slightly tacky, but not sticking to your hands sticky. Once it's reached this consistency turn it onto a floured surface. Roll it into a log (or multiple logs, depending on space constraints) about .75"-1" in diameter. Cut the log into .5"-.75" pieces (basically you're looking for gnocchi-sized pieces here, no need to get out the ruler!). Press each piece into the back of a fork and roll it into a curl, if you want the ridged look. The benefit of the ridges is they hold more sauce! Everyone loves sauce. As you're rolling out the pasta, make sure to flour as necessary. Place each gnocchi on a floured plate or in a floured bowl, and as you need to layer the pieces make sure to flour as you go. You don't want them to stick together, and the extra flour won't affect the finished product. 

While you're rolling out the dough, get a pot of salted water boiling. Turn it down to a low boil when you're ready to drop the pasta in so you don't scald youself! Carefully drop the gnocchi into the water and cook about 1-2 minutes, until the pasta floats to the top. Remove them piece by piece as they're ready, and drop into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. At this point you can store the pasta until you're ready to make your meal. 

To reheat, you can either cook again in boiling water until the gnocchi float, or you can just toss into a pan with your sauce of choice for a couple minutes, until hot. Buon appetito!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

savory chicken and waffles with crispy panko-cheddar crumbles and bacon

After a string of takeout meals and way more pizza than anyone should consume in a three day period (if that's even possible), I thought today might be a good day to make something tasty at home. The kicker? I didn't want to go to the store for ingredients, and figuring out something to make with what I had on hand was proving difficult. 

Bacon, eggs, Greek yogurt, cheese, frozen chicken. When you already had eggs for breakfast, that list doesn't sound too promising.

The one thing I kept coming back to was waffles. 

It might help to mention that my family's waffle recipe is a savory sour cream waffle. Considering Greek yogurt can often be used as a substitute, I suppose it makes sense. 

Of course, when you have a fiancĂ© who gave up sugar for Lent, you have to be creative when doing a breakfasty food for dinner. While I grew up eating pancakes and waffles plain with my hands (as much as my parents tried to get me to use a fork it just never took. I don't eat toast with a fork, why would I use one for a plain waffle? Because logic), I realize most people prefer their carby goodness drizzled with syrup and whatnot. 

At this point, I thought maybe I could put the chicken to good use, too. Chicken and waffles, people! We like to keep bags of Trader Joe's flash frozen chicken thighs on hand, which are awesome in a pinch because you can cook them straight from frozen. You know what they're not good for? Fried chicken. 

Enter: crispy bacon crumbles and panko-crusted cheddar. Yes, yes please. 

This dinner was surprisingly easy to throw together, and we felt pretty fancy eating it! Bonus points for having leftover waffles for breakfast tomorrow. 

Savory Chicken and Waffles with Bacon and Cheddar crumble

1 batch waffles (see below)
1 boneless, skinless chicken thigh per person
3 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 cup cheddar, chopped or shredded
1 cup panko
4-5 scallions greens, chopped

Preheat oven to 375*. Season chicken with salt and pepper, bake for about 30 minutes if fresh, 40-45 minutes if frozen. While the chicken is cooking, fry bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel, leaving the bacon fat in the pan. Mash the panko and cheese together, and drop the mix in the bacon pan. It really helps to have a good non-stick pan for this so the cheese doesn't stick. Let the panko crisp up for a few minutes before stirring the whole thing around, breaking it into pieces as you go so it's kind of crumble-like. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture is nice and golden. 

For the waffles (makes 6-7): 
1.25 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder 
3 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups sour cream (ideally. You can use Greek yogurt but it won't have quite the same tang! Consistency-wise it's an even trade, though)
Pinch of salt

Mix dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Beat egg yolks and egg whites separately I used a fork for the yolks, but you want to beat the whites to a soft peak. Mix egg yolks, sour cream and butter into the dry mix until well combined and smooth. Fold egg whites in and give that batter some body! Once everything comes together, cook the waffles in your waffle iron to the doneness you like. I usually do a bit past medium. If you get the waffles cooking about 10 minutes before the chicken is done, they should time pretty well. If you don't need all of the waffles, they freeze well!


When the chicken and waffles are both done, assemble your plate by topping a waffle with a piece of chicken, and finally topping with the panko-cheese crumbles and bacon. Sprinkle scallions over top and drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

diner-perfect home fries

Potatoes are one of my favorite foods (hi, have we met?). There's nothing quite like a plate of well-done home fries, topped with a couple over easy fried eggs. The thing is, I never seem to be able to get my home fries juuust the way I like them. Sure, I can get them crispy, but in a roasted potato kind of way, not a diner home fries kind of way. It's just not the same. 

I'm realizing I've just been doing it wrong all this time. The trick? Cook your potatoes before home frying it up!

Cut a potato into 4 pieces and put into a pot of water, fully covered. Bring to a boil, then let it go for about 10 minutes. You want it to be just fork tender. Remove them from the water when done, and roughly chop. Heat some oil in a pan over medium-high heat and throw your taters in. Let them crisp up on the bottom before turning, at least 5 minutes. Cook to desired doneness, salt and pepper to taste. Personally, I love some Cajun seasoning in there. Dig in!