OWN YOUR KITCHEN with CAPPUCCINO PANNA COTTA

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL MY AMERICAN READERS! 

You will definitely find plenty of T-day recipes (plus leftover ideas) in the food blogosphere, so I will dance to a slightly different tune, and offer you a cookbook review instead…  

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Anne Burrell strikes again with a new cookbook, “Own Your Kitchen: Recipes to Inspire and Empower.”   Knowing that on January 1st my annual New Year’s Resolution of  “No more cookbooks!”  will be in place, I ordered it on the first week of November.  I am obviously quite astute.  😉 However, after browsing “Own Your Kitchen,” I concluded that it would be worth breaking any New Year’s Resolution, no matter what the resulting karma may be.   I couldn’t wait to cook something from it, and with a dinner party approaching this dessert selection was winking at me:  a batch of  her Cappuccino Panna Cotta, that Anne describes in her delightful way:

“My version tastes like a coffee milkshake…YUM!  It’s super cinchy to make but very impressive and a perfect do-ahead… Dress it up with a little chocolate sauce and voilà, it’s fancy!”

Cappuccino Panna Cotta

CAPPUCCINO PANNA COTTA WITH CHOCOLATE SAUCE
(from Own Your Kitchen, re-printed with permission from Anne Burrell & Random House LLC)

for the panna cotta:
4 sheets of gelatin (*)
3 cups heavy cream
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
½ vanilla bean
½ cup chocolate-covered coffee beans, for garnish (I opted for chocolate-covered cranberries)
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for the chocolate sauce:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

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Make the panna cotta: In a small bowl of cool water, submerge the gelatin sheets to soften. They will go from stiff to soft.
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In a small saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, and espresso powder. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise down one side, open it up, and scrape out the seeds with a paring knife. Add the seeds and the hull to the pan. Whisk to combine everything.  Bring the cream mixture to a boil and then immediately turn off the heat.
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Remove the softened gelatin sheets from the water and squeeze out the excess water. Add the gelatin sheets to the pan and whisk to combine. Immediately ladle the cream mixture into four 6-ounce ramekins and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
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Make the chocolate sauce: Fill a small saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring it to a boil.  In a medium heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate chips, heavy cream, butter and corn syrup. place the bowl on top of the pan of water. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Stir until the chocolate has melted and all the ingredients are combined. Remove and use immediately or store in a warm place until ready to use.
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Unmold the panna cotta:  Fill a small saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Run a paring knife around the outside edge of the panna cotta to loosen it. Set each ramekin in the saucepan for 10 seconds. Place a small serving plate on top of each ramekin and flip it over to unmold the panna cotta. If it doesn’t release, put the ramekin in the water for a few seconds more and try again.
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To serve, ladle a couple of tablespoons of the chocolate sauce around the panna cotta and sprinkle with a few chocolate-covered espresso beans.
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(*) If you can’t find gelatin sheets, you can substitute powdered gelatin. To use powdered gelatin in this recipe, first bloom one ¼ ounce envelope in 2 tablespoons water, then add it to the mix. ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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My comments on the panna cotta…   Our desserts tend toward simple rather than extravagant, and  Panna Cotta is the essence of simplicity.  It’s a recipe that you can take in countless directions by changing the flavors in the steeping cream.   The espresso powder in this version performs pure magic with the vanilla, and when the chocolate sauce joins it, the party reaches perfection.   And, because chocolate-covered cranberries never hurt anyone, I invited them too.  😉   The fact that you can prepare the panna cotta the day beforehand makes it great for entertaining.  I measured and placed all the chocolate sauce ingredients in a double-boiler, except the butter and cream that I kept in a small bowl in the fridge.  When the dinner wound down I cooked up the chocolate sauce, unmolded the cold panna cotta, and assembled each individual serving.  The softness of the cool panna cotta against the warm sauce, and the little crunch of the cranberries was out of this world!  A perfect end for any special meal, and as Anne pointed out, simple to prepare.

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OWN YOUR KITCHEN, my review…

ABCover

If you were hooked on Anne’s FoodTV show  (and can’t quite understand why they don’t bring her back for new episodes….) you’ll love her new book.    If you’ve never watched her show, the outcome will be exactly the same!. 😉 “Own Your Kitchen” is an extension of her personality,  highlighting the fun aspects of cooking, but also loaded with culinary knowledge from her many years as a successful chef.   My favorite cookbooks not only feature nice recipes, but also share a little background about each one.   Is it a family recipe?  Is it something that the author recreated from a vacation, or maybe from a restaurant meal?  What makes it so special that I’d want to hurry to the kitchen and prepare it?   On the other hand, I don’t  need a philosophical treatise tagged to a Bolognese sauce.  Anne Burrell achieves just the right the balance between food and entertainment.

Like many cookbooks, the overall organization of  “Own Your Kitchen”  is divided into courses, but in a flexible, amusing way:  Firsts, Seconds, Brunch, Sandwiches, Sides, and Desserts.  She precedes each recipe with what I’d call a  “teaser paragraph,” that reveals interesting info about it.  In the recipe itself she highlights (with a “HINT!”) steps to prepare ahead of time, or even the day before, that will help those who are not seasoned cooks.   Lastly, after the recipe you’ll often find remarks called Anne-notations, in which she suggests possible changes, how to make that recipe your own. It’s the “inspire and empower” aspect of the book.

Now, for a brief virtual tour of “Own Your Kitchen,”  I’ll describe my two favorite recipes from each chapter.

FIRSTS
Tomato Salad with Shrimp and Black Volcanic Salt.  
Simple has never looked so decadent and luscious.  With just a few ingredients,  she re-created a recipe  enjoyed on a trip to Hawaii, a place so dear to my heart!  Of course, I had to place an order for Black salt, and this salad will be on our table whenever great tomatoes are back in season…

Ricotta Flan with Bacon, Corn, Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula Pesto.    In Anne’s words:  “…this lovely little flan says, “Hi, ricotta, you shy girl, come out and be the superstar!”  😉  You can make your own ricotta (she shows you how), or use store-bought, but this recipe would be amazing to start a dinner party, or to enjoy as a light meal.

SECONDS
Cornish Game Hens with Pancetta-Rosemary Crust. 
She developed this recipe years ago, while working in a restaurant in New York where “her paycheck kept bouncing and she was frustrated and broke.”   She left that place, but took this gem of a recipe with her.  Wise girl! I wonder if the place still exists (I bet it doesn’t) and how they feel about losing Anne as a chef.  Ha! Their loss! Come to think of it, that’s the type of recipe that has her trademark all over, using an ingredient (pancetta) in a completely unexpected way. I love it!

Balsamic-braised Brisket with Bacon and Mushrooms.   I almost picked this recipe as my first to cook from the book, because I remember it from her show on TV.   She actually wrote that the filming crew attacked the meat once the show was over.   I can imagine the scene…  Her personal endorsement:  “one of my favorites of all the recipes I’ve ever written.”  You can bet I’ll be making it during the cold months ahead of us.

BRUNCH
Farro Granola.  
To deal with the harsh texture so common in granola,  Anne uses a clever twist on the grains of farro before adding them to the other ingredients.  Fascinating, Mr. Spock, fascinating…

Homemade Ricotta.   Making ricotta from scratch has been on my list of things to do for years!  Shame on me!  Maybe this cookbook will finally push me in the right direction.

SANDWICHES
Killer Turkey Burger.  
I remember this burger from her TV show too.   She was so tired of bad turkey burgers that she took matters into her own hands, and made a great version.  In typical Anne Burrell fashion, you will find an ingredient you would not expect in the mix.  😉

Tallegio Grilled Cheese with Bacon and Honey Crisp Apples.   Her upscale version of a classic, adding crisp apples to a strong cheese and smoky bacon.  Comfort food, in sandwich form…

SIDES
Shaved Raw Cauliflower with Caper-Raisin Vinaigrette.  
  I just know this will be a winner!   She shaves the cauliflower, then takes it in the direction of ceviche.  Yeah, baby… Much to my beloved husband’s consternation, I can’t have enough recipes for cauliflower…

Yukon Gold Potato Pancakes.    These are NOT your regular potato pancakes.  Trust me, Anne adds her usual twist to the recipe, and these pancakes will top any other version.

DESSERTS
Cappuccino Panna Cotta.  
Today’s post, a winner all the way…

Sticky Toffee Pudding.     I’ve been meaning to make this dessert forever,  as I’ve never had it but it sounds incredibly tasty.   Anne’s description of her own experience in a London restaurant will convince you  to bake a batch right on the spot.

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My job is to empower you to become the best cook you can be and learn to own your kitchen. Why? Because cooking is fun and delicious.
(Anne Burrell, Own Your Kitchen)

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She definitely succeeds in doing that. First, there is no doubt she brings the fun aspect of cooking to the forefront. Diluting a sheet of gelatin in water and feeling its textural change? Fun! Making and cooking dough? Fun (and satisfying)…  Cracking the salt crust on a whole fish at the table?  Fun! Mixing bread and sausage with your hands to make a stuffing?  Fun, of course!  But, she is also a natural teacher who is able to stress what really matters in a technique. With her trademark phrase “Brown food tastes good!“, she makes sure that cooks take their time to do that first step so common in stews, braises and even roasts: BROWN your food, do it nicely, do it well. That step alone will make a huge difference in the quality of your dishes. But that’s just one example, there’s a lot more to learn from her.

The holidays are coming up, so if you want to give someone a great cookbook, order a copy of “Own Your Kitchen“. Now, if you are like me and insist on making New Year Resolutions that involve a self-inflicted moratorium on cookbooks, hurry up and get a copy for yourself: 2014 is just about to say hello…

Disclaimer: I do not accept requests or any type of compensation to review cookbooks or products. I am not affiliated with amazon.com or any other company. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I like to make this point clear.

ONE YEAR AGO: Chicken Parmigiana, the Thriller

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THREE YEARS AGO: Tartine Bread:  Basic Country Loaf

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Pugliese Bread

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: POTATO CRUSTED ITALIAN MINI-QUICHE

Spinach Mini Quches
November is waving goodbye,  I try to stay positive and upbeat even though the weather is getting colder and colder.  No matter the temperature outside, the last Monday of the month brings with it a warm feeling: it is Reveal Day for members of The Secret Recipe Club.  After getting an assigned blog in secret, we have about 3 weeks to pick a recipe, cook, compose a blog about it and post at the exact same time as everyone else in the group. This month I was paired with Curious Cuisiniere, a blog hosted by Sarah and Tim, a young couple with a smile as bright as the sun on a summer day in Brazil.  If you don’t believe me, check their beautiful photo…    I love it when a couple has so much fun cooking and exploring different flavors and cuisines, so I was pretty excited to act as a virtual stalker of their site.  Before I go into the recipe, let me share with you a great quote from  their blog:

Life gets rough.  The kitchen gets hot.  But there will hopefully always be something tasty that results, someone to share it with, and lessons learned along the way.

Perfect!  I wish I had written that myself…  😉   During the stalking phase, I selected 6 other recipes as strong contenders:  a Sweet Potato African Peanut Soup, a tasty Coconut Fish Curry,  a Sesame Chicken Salad (with an interesting method to coat the chicken pieces), Oriental Burritos.  a Sweet Chicken Tajine, and finally something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time, Pretzel Rolls.  But, with a dinner party approaching, I settled on the cute mini-quiches.

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POTATO CRUSTED ITALIAN MINI-QUICHES
(slightly modified from Curious Cuisiniere)
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for the crust
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
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for the filling
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 shallot, finely minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon salt
dash of nutmeg
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
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Heat your oven to 350F. Place diced potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil potatoes until soft. Drain all but ¼ cup of the cooking liquid. Mash the potatoes with salt and pepper to a very smooth consistency. Spoon roughly 1 teaspoon of mashed potatoes into the bottom of each section of your greased mini muffin tin. Press to the bottom and slightly up the sides to form a ‘crust’. Bake potato crusts for 20 minutes or until they start to get golden.
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In a medium bowl, combine dry spinach with shallot, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Toss to mix well. Reserve. In a small bowl beat the eggs and milk until well combined. Season with a little salt and a dash of nutmeg.
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When your crusts come out of the oven, immediately measure or pour roughly 1 Tbsp egg mixture into each cup. Add ½ tsp of spinach mixture and ½ tsp mozzarella cheese to each cup as well. Top off with additional egg mixture if needed.  Bake mini-quiche 15-20 minutes at 350F, or until they have set and are firm to the touch.  Let the quiche cool for 5 minutes in the pan on a wire rack before removing the quiche from the pan to cool on the rack.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  I only have one mini-muffin pan that holds 12 muffins, so I had to bake these in two batches. That turned out nicely, because in typical Sally fashion,  I disregarded the instructions to use 1 teaspoon of mashed potato in the first batch, and added more.  That is no bueno, folks.  The layer of potato turned out too thick, never quite crisped up, so the first batch looked sad. Not very brown at the bottom. The photo above shows the correct amount of potato, which interestingly enough is exactly what the recipe called for!  So, do as specified and save yourself some grief.

I also thought it was a good idea to add the spinach to the milk-egg base and mix it. No bueno hits again: the spinach just floats and you are forced to mix it in and do all kinds of tricks and messy maneuvers to get equal amounts of spinach in each mini-muffin. Crass language will be heard. Once you follow the recipe as written, there shall be no problems.

Using mashed potatoes as the base was a nice change to the regular quiche. The use of milk instead of heavy cream also lightened up the recipe compared to the classic.  I can see variations using sautéed mushrooms, my sister in Brazil wants to make it with sautéed zucchini, all sorts of goodies can be incorporated, just like a normal sized concoction.

I had a great time this month, and invite you to check the productions of my fellow Secret Stalkers from Group D.  All you have to do is go poke a blue frog. There is one smiling at the end of this post, waiting for your click…  😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Beetroot Sourdough for the Holidays

TWO YEARS AGO: Cod Filet with Mustard Tarragon Crust

THREE YEARS AGO: Soba Noodles: Light and Healthy

FOUR YEARS AGO: Potato-Rosemary Bread

PUMPKIN HUMMUS

Starting around Halloween, the food blogosphere turns into a pumpkin-fiesta, matching the phenomenon so common in grocery stores too: everything that can be made with a pumpkin flavor will be.  Dog food? Yes.  Potato chips? Yes, siree. Candles for your bathroom?  Of course!  Pumpkin Pie Vodka? You bet! It can be a bit much.  But, now that the pumpkin fever has subsided a little, I feel it’s safe to come out and play.  Let me share with you a pumpkin hummus that we enjoyed recently.  I’d love to give credit to the source, but I have no idea where I got it from.  I wrote down the ingredients in a piece of paper and ended up modifying it a bit for my own taste.  Actually, if you google pumpkin hummus, you’ll find many versions out there, including this one from Sue’s site. She blogged about it just a few days ago, proving that great minds  hummus alike.. 😉

Pumpkin Hummus

PUMPKIN HUMMUS
(a variation from internet sources)

1 can chickpeas, drained and peeled
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp tahini
1/2 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cayenne pepper
drizzle of olive oil

Place chickpeas, lemon juice, water and tahini in food processor. Process until really smooth, let the machine run for a couple of minutes, scrape the sides of the bowl,  process again. Add the pumpkin puree’ and seasonings. Process. With the motor running drizzle a little olive oil. Taste and add more lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and salt if needed.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Hummus is a mandatory appetizer at our home.  It doesn’t matter if we are having a dinner party for a few friends, or a departmental get-together to welcome a guest speaker, we always include this super versatile chickpea dip, either as the traditional type, or some fun variation.  Making hummus from scratch is easy, and it adds a nice touch.  This is a photo of the appetizer course of our first dinner party post-hellnovation.  Everything ready,  our friends were about to arrive, and we were in Kitchen Nirvana Land…

appetizers

Apart from the pumpkin hummus,  I made the batch of crackers you can see on the green plate: Cheddar and Fennel Seed Crackers, recipe to be featured soon in the Bewitching Kitchen. Think of a shortbread type concoction with a sharp, salty nature, and a very mild fennel taste.

Back to the hummus.  My version has two modifications that deviate from most recipes around. First, it doesn’t take any garlic. Second, the amount of olive oil is minimal.  When I savor hummus, I like the taste of chickpeas and tahini to be dominant, and that’s pretty hard to achieve if using raw garlic.  So I omitted it. I suppose adding roasted garlic could be a nice alternative.  In my handwritten note, I noticed that the original recipe called for 1/3 cup of olive oil. I added just a tablespoon, and still could detect the flavor of the oil, not too overpowering, but definitely present. One third of a cup would have ruined it for us.  But, different folks, different strokes, you should modify this version as you see fit.  Just don’t skip the pumpkin, ok?   😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Beetroot Sourdough for the Holidays

TWO YEARS AGO: Cod Filet with Mustard Tarragon Crust

THREE YEARS AGO: Soba Noodles: Light and Healthy

FOUR YEARS AGO: Potato-Rosemary Bread

SUPERNOVA MEETS WOK

My wok is 18 years old, it was one of the first gifts I received when I moved from France to the US, back in 1995.  Thank you, dear friend, you know who you are…  😉  I used it a lot in Oklahoma, even though our stove was not powerful enough to bring the best in stir-frying.  The wok patiently waited for me inside a box when we traveled for two sabbaticals, and into the box it went again when we moved to the Little Apple and co-existed with an electric stove that even Benjamin Franklin would consider sub-par.  Once Supernova was installed, I went to the basement to retrieve my old friend, apologized for the neglect inflicted upon him, and said his loyalty would be compensated: he would meet a superstar and they would live happily ever after…   Happy to report that it was love at first flame!

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HOISIN CHICKEN WITH CASHEWS
(inspired by Fine Cooking magazine & Barbara Tropp)

2 Tbs peanut oil
1 medium shallot,  sliced
2 Piquillo peppers, sliced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch chunks and velveted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 oz. snow peas, trimmed
Crushed red chile flakes
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/3 cup hoisin sauce diluted with 2 Tbs water
1/3 cup roasted cashews

The day before or a few hours before your meal, velvet the chicken using this method. Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the shallot slices and cook for 2 to 3 min. Add the Piquillo peppers  (I buy them jarred) and cook until both the pepper and onion are browned around the edges. Remove the vegetables from the skillet; set aside. Pour the remaining 1 Tbs. oil in the skillet. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, add it to the oil, and cook, stirring frequently, so that all sides brown, 2 to 3 min. Stir in the snow peas and sprinkle in some red chile flakes. Add the ginger. Reduce the heat to medium low and stir in the thinned hoisin sauce. Simmer for 1 min. to wilt the snow peas and finish cooking the chicken.  Sprinkle with the cashews and serve over rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

served2Comments:  Velveting the chicken makes this type of stir-fry so much better that it’s worth investing the small amount of work to do it.  Since the chicken can stay in the egg white mixture for up to 24 hours, you could conceivably do it the evening before you intend to make it for dinner.  I prefer to do this preparation either when I wake up, or if time allows, at lunch time. Piquillo peppers are from Spain, so their use in this dish qualifies as “fusion-cooking”.  In reality, I had an open jar in my fridge and wanted to use it up.  So there. 😉

What I love the most about this recipe is the simplicity of the finishing sauce, a mixture of hoisin and water, no cornstarch to deal with.  The snow peas barely got in touch with any heat, so they stayed bright green and with a little crunch that was perfect to add that extra something to the dish.  A real keeper for a weeknight, there were only three little pieces of chicken left, which made for a super light lunch next day. But, at least I did not have to share…

Hoisin Chicken with Cashews

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FOUR YEARS AGO: Korean-Style Pork with Asian Slaw

POMEGRANATE CHICKEN THIGHS & CARROT MASH

chickencarrot
I am feeling quite generous these days, so you’ll get two recipes in a single post. It turns out they went so well together, that it would be sad to separate them.  The source of inspiration for the chicken was a blog I found not too long ago, and started following right away: The View from Great Island, hosted by Sue. Her photography is beautiful, and I’d be happy sitting at her dinner table anytime! The mashed carrot was in  the latest issue of Fine Cooking magazine  as an option for Thanksgiving side dish. Roasted asparagus rounded our meal quite nicely.

Pomegranate Chicken ThighsPOMEGRANATE AND LIME CHICKEN THIGHS
(adapted from The View from the Great Island)

for the chicken
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1 tsp salt
4 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
for the glaze
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

To marinate the chicken, put the yogurt, pomegranate juice, salt, and chicken in a large zip lock bag. Massage everything until well combined. Put in the fridge to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Set the oven to 300 F.  Remove the chicken from the marinade, place the pieces skin side down on a large baking dish, and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour at this low temperature.  Remove the foil, if there is a lot of liquid accumulated in the dish remove most of it and discard.  Turn the pieces skin side up, cover with foil again and bake for another 20 minutes.  At this point, prepare the glaze by combining all ingredients together.   If too thin, gently warm it on a small saucepan to thicken it a little.  Watch it carefully because it can burn due to all the sugar.

Remove the aluminum foil from the baking dish, increase oven temperature to 425 F.  Bake for 15 minutes, once the skin starts to get some color brush the glaze all over the chicken thighs and bake for 10 more minutes or until very dark.  You can also broil the pieces at this point, but pay attention to prevent it from burning.  Serve with lime wedges.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Carrot Mash1

    CARROT MASH WITH ORANGE AND MINT
    (adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

    2 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
    salt
    1 oz. (2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces
    2 Tbs. almond milk, unsweetened
    2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
    1 tsp dried mint
    1 tsp finely grated orange zest
    Put the carrots in a large saucepan with enough cool water to cover by at least 1 inch. Add 1 tsp. salt and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and cook at a gentle boil until the carrots can be easily pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes.

    Drain well in a colander, letting the steam rise for a few minutes. Meanwhile, heat the butter, almond milk, oil, mint, orange zest, and  1/2 tsp salt in the saucepan over low heat until the butter melts.

    Purée the carrots in a food processor until smooth and then add them to the pan, stirring well to combine.

    Adjust seasoning and serve.

    ENJOY!

    to print the recipe, click here

    Comments: My main modification of the chicken recipe was to adapt it to my favorite method of cooking chicken thighs: low and slow followed by high and fast.  I like the way the meat gets super tender and the skin super crisp.  You should stop by Sue’s blog and check her version too.  She actually made the glaze from pomegranate juice, reducing it with sugar. Since I had a bottle of pomegranate molasses, I followed a slightly different path.  The full idea is to have a reasonably thick glaze to coat the chicken.

    orangezest

    The carrot mash: my only tweak was to use almond milk instead of heavy cream.  I love almond milk and use it every chance I get.  A lot more orange zest went into the recipe then called for, because the music playing got me carried away with the Microplane. Such a cool gadget!  Phil thought it was slightly too orange-y and not enough carrot-y, but when we had leftovers next day that flavor had mellowed down considerably.  As to a side dish for Thanksgiving, I was a bit shocked by how little puree 2 pounds of carrots produced… If you will be feeding an army of people, be ready to peel a ton of carrots and scale this recipe up by a factor of 3 or 4.  😉  Still, a delicious option, bright color, bright flavor, it will shine on your Thanksgiving table next to that big bird.

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    ARTICHOKE-SAFFRON SOUFFLE

    The inauguration of the Supernova oven demanded a special recipe.  Soufflé had been on my mind for a long time, so all I needed to do was pick a flavor.  A parenthesis is necessary. I’d lived for 16 years in a place that did not have frozen artichoke hearts for sale in any grocery store. I was in a state of permanent frozen artichoke withdrawal syndrome, only relieved during sabbatical experiences like the one in Los Angeles.  The move to Kansas last year marked the end of my frozen artichoke misery.  I now keep those cute little bags in our freezer, and never run out of them. End of parenthesis.  Having said all that, artichoke was a natural option to flavor my soufflé. To make it even more special, the bechamel base would be flavored with saffron. Artichoke hearts. Saffron.  Case closed.

    Artichoke Saffron Souffle1

    ARTICHOKE-SAFFRON SOUFFLE
    (from the Bewitching Kitchen, following Julia Child’s basic method)

    6-cup mold, buttered and sprinkled with grated Parmigiano cheese

    3 Tbsp butter
    3 Tbsp flour
    1 cup hot milk
    good pinch of saffron
    1/2 t salt
    1/8 t pepper
    4 egg yolks
    5 egg whites + pinch of salt
    3/4 cup artichoke hearts, sautéed slightly in olive oil
    1/8 cup Fontina cheese, grated

    Heat the milk almost to the point of boiling, add the saffron and let it rest for 15 minutes. Melt the butter, stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, don’t allow it to brown.  Remove from the heat, and when the butter stops furiously boiling, add the saffron/milk all at once. Return to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes more. The sauce will thicken considerably. Season with salt and pepper.

    Remove from heat, allow it to cool for 5 minutes or so,  and add the egg yolks, one by one, mixing very well after each addition. This sauce can be prepared to this point and refrigerated; bring it to lukewarm before continuing. If you decide not to refrigerate it, then dot it with butter, cover it with a plastic wrap and go work on the egg whites.

    Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm peaks form – depending on your mixer or the strength of your biceps it will take 2 to 5 minutes. Add 1/3 of this mixture to the sauce, to thin it slightly – add the prepared artichoke hearts and the Fontina cheese, mix well.  I like to keep the artichoke hearts in chunks, but if you prefer you can cut them in very small pieces.

    Now, add the remaining egg whites and fold into the sauce. You don’t need to mix it until it is all incorporated and totally homogeneous, because the “lift” of your souffle’ depends on the air present in the beaten egg whites. If you deflate it, you won’t have a well-risen souffle (it will still taste good, though).

    Fill the souffle’ mold to 3/4 of its volume, place it in a 400F oven, reducing the temperature immediately to 375F. Cook the souffle’ for 30 minutes – do not open the oven door during the first 20 minutes. If you like it moist inside, serve after 30 minutes. I prefer to cook for 5 additional minutes, then the texture inside is perfect, not too dry, not too creamy.

     ENJOY!

    to print the recipe, click here

    composite(click to enlarge)

    Comments:  A friend of mine recently asked me what I would do to get some drama into my life now that the kitchen hellnovation is over.  Rest assured, Drama and Sally go hand in hand. Birds of a feather. Two of a kind.  Peas in a pod.

    I am not a soufflé-novice, and in fact it is one type of dish I’m pretty comfortable making, even for company. However, since the timing is so important, I normally prefer to make soufflé just for the two of us.  I suppose it’s acceptable to throw a hysterical fit screaming at the husband to come sit at the table “RIGHT NOW!” but guests might be put off and never accept another invitation.  Anyway,  I was pretty confident making my concoction, prepared the bechamel based infused with saffron, sautéed the artichoke hearts, whipped up the egg whites.  The oven was on, the beautiful blue indicator light had turned off, sign that Supernova had reached proper temperature.

    Huge smile, I opened the oven door, and the smile became a shriek of horror followed by a  “NOOOOOOOOO!”  that could have awaken the dead. I forgot that we had assembled all the racks the day before, and there was no space in between them, so the only thing that could go in would be a sheet pan. Drama? You bet. Beloved husband tried to help but I advised him to leave the premises and take all canines with him. He complied.  That’s when I stopped thinking rationally.  I quickly put oven mittens on both hands, grabbed one of the racks, pulled it out, ran frantically around trying to find a spot where it could rest without burning any surface, re-arranged the other racks and finally placed the souffle dish inside. Slammed Closed the oven door, and noticed that the indicator light was back on.  And on it stayed for quite some time (sigh).   In other words,  instead of going into a 400F oven, my production went into an environment that was more like 300F. Clear soufflé-abuse. I kept staring through the oven’s window, knowing that the first 15 minutes pretty much decide the fate of your souffle as far as rising goes.  Mine was struggling.  In retrospect, I should have waited for the oven to reach proper temperature, and only then placed the souffle in.  The base is actually very forgiving, it can wait for a while before baking.  I knew that, but I wasn’t thinking.   Lesson painfully learned.

    However, as I’ve said many times before, taste matters more than looks. And this was one tasty soufflé, my friends! Artichokes and saffron: a pair made in heaven, like peas in a pod, birds of a feather, Sally and Drama. 😉

    serving

    ONE YEAR AGO: Cinnamon-Wreath

    TWO YEARS AGO:  Yeastspotting 11.11.11
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    THREE YEARS AGO: Oven-baked Risotto
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    THAI-STYLE PESTO WITH BROWN RICE PASTA

    As someone who owns a disturbingly high number of cookbooks, subscribes to several cooking magazines, and downloads cookbooks on her iPad on a regular basis, I am aware that those should be my main source of inspiration for dinners. Surprisingly, one more time I will blog on something seen on FoodTV.  Go figure. Rachael Ray enticed me with this pesto, especially through her description of how floral and complex-tasting Fresno peppers can be.  I had most ingredients around, all I needed to grab at the grocery store was the bright red Fresno pepper.  Quick to put together, this turned out as a very delicious pesto.  Not sure about the floral, though. Read on…  😉

    Thai-Style Pesto

    THAI-STYLE PESTO WITH BROWN RICE PASTA
    (adapted from Rachael Ray)
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    1 pound brown rice spaghetti
    1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
    1 cup fresh baby arugula leaves
    5 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
    2 tablespoons tamari
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 lime, juiced
    1 Fresno chile, seeded
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
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    Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water, add the pasta, and cook until al dente.Place the basil and arugula leaves, 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, tamari, garlic, lime juice, and chile into a food processor. Pulse into a paste. Drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil. Pour the pesto into a large bowl and reserve.  If the pesto seems too thick, reserve a little bit of the pasta cooking water, and use it to thin the pesto right before incorporating into the cooked spaghetti.
    .
    Drain the pasta, add to the pesto, and toss to combine. Garnish with the remaining 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds.
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    ENJOY!
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    to print the recipe, click here

    ingredients

    Comments: Rachael Ray’s title for this show was “Thai Tonight”, and she served the pasta with a stir-fry of chiles and chicken over shredded iceberg lettuce.  I had some iceberg lettuce in the fridge, but went with grilled flank steak.  I simply seasoned the lettuce with lime juice and a tiny bit of grapeseed oil, added some Campari tomatoes that were feeling ignored and risking the cruel fate of a compost pile. The grilled steak rested on the bed of this improvised salad.  A simple main dish to allow the pasta to shine.

    meat

    I did not have a lot of basil available, so I used baby arugula to compensate, I like its sharper nature. Now, let’s address the floral component of a Fresno chile.  When I plated the dish, I told Phil that next time I would use two peppers to make it more colorful, because “Fresno is all about flavor, not real heat.”  After the second forkful of pasta, lips burning, taste buds fried, we were both grateful that I used only one!   😉  Either Rachael’s tolerance for heat is a lot higher than mine, or I managed to pick a mutant pepper with unusually high levels of capsaicin at the grocery store. But, the interesting thing is that after a while we more or less got used to the heat and the sweat dripping from our foreheads, and thought the level of spice was just right.  So I say be brave, grab a Fresno (make sure you seed it) and go for it!

    Rachael used brown rice pasta as the starch component.  Traditionally, one would choose the regular, white rice noodles associated with Thai cooking, and of course they work great for this type of dish.  But I loved the slightly firmer texture of the brown rice spaghetti.  Nowadays I use whole wheat pasta almost exclusively, but both brown rice and quinoa pasta have their spot in the Bewitching pantry.

    platedDinner is served!

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    ONE YEAR AGO: Shrimp with Spicy Orange Sauce

    TWO YEARS AGO:  A Simple Appetizer (Baked Ricotta)

    THREE YEARS AGO: Sour Cream Sandwich Bread

    FOUR YEARS AGO: Pasta with Zucchini Strands and Shrimp