Sunday, November 24, 2013

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

This recipe takes a while to make (took me about 2 hours) since all the  ingredients are poached in chicken stock, which is then reduced and turned into the sauce. You could just cook the meat and veggies by other means, but I like all the flavor they impart into the stock/sauce. Makes 4 good sized servings.

4.5 cups chicken stock
2 chicken breasts (15 oz.)
2 cups diced potatoes
2 carrots (1.5 cups) diced
3 celery stalks diced (1 cup)
1 yellow onion, diced
8 oz. Mushroom, chopped
4 tbsp butter, divided
1.5 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp flour
½ teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg

Bring the stock up to a simmer in a medium pot. Butterfly the chicken breasts and add to the stock. Poach for 10 minutes, keeping the stock at a bare simmer, or until the breasts reach an internal temperature of 165°F. 

Removed one of the breasts before I remembered to take a pic.

Remove the chicken from the stock and allow to cool for 10 minutes before shredding with your hands.

Meanwhile, add the potatoes to the stock and cook for about 10 minutes, until they offer just a little resistance to a fork (but not completely mush). Remove with a slotted spoon and rinse under cold water to stop further cooking. Add the potatoes to a large bowl.

Add the carrots to the stock and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the celery and onion and simmer for about 7 more minutes, until the carrots are al dente. Remove the carrots/celery/onions from the pot by placing a strainer over a large bowl (not the one with the potatoes in it) or other pot and pouring the mixture out.

All the carrots sink to the bottom.
 Rinse the vegetables under cold water and add to the bowl with the potatoes. Pour the stock back in the original pot and set to a simmer. Reduce the stock until you have 1.5 cups remaining.

Meanwhile, add 2 tbsp of butter to a large pan set over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Salt to season and sauté for 8 minutes, until the mushrooms have released much of their liquid. Add the mushrooms to the bowl with the other veggies.

Add the shredded chicken to the vegetable bowl, and season with salt, pepper, and sage.

Back to the reduced stock: add 1.5 cups of heavy cream, bring back to a simmer, and reduce for an additional 5 minutes.
While the cream/stock are reducing, add 2 tbsp of butter to a large pan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add 2 tbsp of flour, and whisk, cooking for 2 minutes until the roux starts to get some color.

Add the reduced cream/stock half a cup at a time to the roux, whisking to incorporate. Once all the liquid is incorporated, season the sauce with salt, pepper, and ground thyme. Bring to a simmer, then pour over the filling ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Give everything in your big bowl of filling a good mix. Ladle into four 20 oz. ceramic (oven safe) mugs. 

Roll out a sheet of puff pastry with a rolling pin, flouring the work surface/dough if you think you need to. Mine was about 14”x14” when rolled out.
Using an object slightly larger than the opening of the mugs (mine have lids, so I used those) cut out circular lids, and place on top of the mugs, pressing the overhang of the dough into the mug to affix it. 

Wasn't sure how many servings I was going to end up with.

 At this point you can use the remaining puff pastry to cut out neat designs, like leaves or a dick or something, to place on top of the puff pastry. I started doing leaves, but they looked like crap so I stopped.

Use a fork to poke some holes in the dough to allow steam to escape. Crack an egg into a bowl and give it a good mix with a fork. Brush the egg on to the dough.

Bake the pot pies for 25 to 30 minutes.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Carne Asada Tacos

After having some carne asada tacos from a lunch truck last week, I’ve been craving more. I’m keeping it simple here: marinated meat, salsa, pickled shallots and cilantro. I used Peruvian peppers – aji panca – in the salsa, because I have a ton of them. You could use any pepper really – guajillos or pasilla would work great, as would jalapenos or chipotles (in adobo sauce or dried). 1 pound of skirt steak makes enough for 2 servings, so plan accordingly.

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 dried habanero pepper
½ teaspoon ground coriander (I didn’t have whole coriander seeds)
Small handful of cilantro
4 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup orange juice (I used the Simply Orange orange/mango juice)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
½ cup olive oil
Skirt steak (flank would also work)

Toast the cumin seeds and dried habanero in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about a minute. Add to a coffee grinder and pulse to a powder. Add to a bowl along with the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust flavors accordingly.

Pour the marinade into a 1 gallon Ziploc bag and add the meat. Marinate for 1 to 4 hours.

Pickled Shallots:
5 oz. sliced shallots
1 cup cider vinegar
5 allspice berries
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, cut in half
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon sugar

Place the shallots in a colander or strainer. Boil water in a small pot and pour over the shallots to par-boil them. Drain excess liquid and add to a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Allow to stand for at least 1 hour.

Tomatillo Salsa
5 tomatillos, husks removed and washed
2 cloves garlic
2 Dried Aji Panca Peppers
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon Mexican oregano

Roast the garlic, skin on, in a dry skillet for about 5 minutes, flipping as the sides start to brown. Remove the seeds from the peppers, and toast in the dry skillet for  30 seconds, then flip and give the other side 30 seconds.

Add all ingredients to a blender and puree.

Corn Tortillas:
8 oz. Masa Harina
10 Oz. Warm Water
½ teaspoon salt

Combine all 3 ingredients in a bowl and mix to form a dough. Break the dough into 9 equally sized pieces.

Working with 1 piece at a time, place the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and either flatten with a heavy object and/or roll out with a rolling pin.

Cook the tortillas in a dry skillet set over medium heat. They should take about 1 minute per side.

Place a plate in a warm (like 200F or less) oven and store the cooked tortillas in there to keep warm.

To Finish:
Marinated Meat
Corn Tortillas
Pickled Shallots
Tomatillo Salsa
Cilantro, chopped

Remove the meat from the marinade and wash off any excess. Cut the meat into bite sized pieces, and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a skillet to medium high and add some canola oil. Cook the meat, stirring and flipping, for about 3 minutes.

Place the meat on tortillas with the shallots, salsa, and chopped cilantro.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Pollo Relleno Mendocino (Argentinian-style Stuffed Chicken)

I took the plunge and de-boned my first chicken. It actually wasn’t as bad as I had dreaded, but it does take some patience (Jacques Pépin says you should be able to do it in ‘about a minute’ but he’s just pulling our collective leg). For the stuffing, I followed a recipe in Gran Cocina Latina from an Argentinian winemaker. Apparently the Argentinians love that retro flavor, so what we have here is a giant chicken cordon bleu. I screwed up by burning the skin – I had my oven set to a little hotter than the recipe calls for, and I didn’t keep an eye on it during cooking. The obvious solution is to keep the oven at 400 (what the recipe calls for) and peek in on the bird once or twice and rotate the tray or cover with foil if needed.

De-boning the chicken:
(1) 6 lb. Chicken

I’m not even going to try and explain this in words. I followed Jacques Pépin’s method, and you should to. Here’s a handy-dandy youtube video how-to.

1 onion, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, papery sleeve removed, but left whole
15 oz. water
Bay leaf
1 lemon
1 sprig rosemary
Fresh sage leaves
3 tbsp kosher salt
Black pepper
1 tbsp sugar
15 oz. ice

Sautee the onion and garlic in oil over medium/medium-low heat until the onion softens, 5 minutes or so. Add the water, bay leaf, rosemary, sage, salt and sugar. Stir to help incorporate the salt and sugar. Squeeze the lemon juice into the brine, then add the leftover lemon pieces. Bring to a boil, remove from heat.

Weigh out 15 oz. of ice in a large bowl, then pour in the brining liquid. Stir and allow ice to melt. Make sure the brine is room temperature (or cooler).

Pour brine into 1 gallon Ziploc bag and add deboned chicken. Allow to brine for 8 to 12 hours.

1 lb. ham, sliced thin
3/8 lb. Gouda cheese, sliced thin
3/8 lb. Edam cheese, sliced thin
1 jar of roasted red peppers (or roast 2 red bell peppers yourself)

Lay out the bird on an appropriate surface and layer on the stuffing ingredients. Make little roll-ups of ham, cheese and peppers and stuff them in the leg holes to help keep their shape. Close him up when he’s all stuffed, and follow Pepin’s instructions on how to truss the beast.

¼ cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Lemon juice to taste

Add all ingredients to a food processor and blitz until smooth. Rub all over the skin of the chicken.

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Place the bird in a roasting tray (I placed mine on a trivet of vegetables [carrot, onion, celery, rosemary]; this is great for making pan-sauce afterwards) and roast for 1.5 hours, or until the breasts reach 165°F. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Steak Asturias

A Spanish take on the ‘ol steak with blue cheese. Asturias is located in Northern Spain, and one of their famous dishes is ‘carne gobernada’, which is beef in white wine sauce. Typically this dish is made with tougher cuts of beef such as chuck roast, but we’re gonna ball out today and use steaks. Recipe from

3 New York Strip Steaks (approx. 1” thick)
1 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon paprika
¼ cup dry white wine (I used a Txakolina)
½ cup chicken stock
4 ounces Spanish blue cheese such as Valdeon, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Take your steaks out of the fridge an hour before you’re ready to cook and season liberally with salt (like, really liberally). Allow to sit at room temp for an hour. Wash off any remaining salt, and pat dry with paper towels.

While the steaks are doing their thing, why not have a snack? Since this is Spanish week, I had some valdeon with honey, Spanish chorizo, Ossau-Iraty from the Spanish Basque Country, and some bread and extra virgin olive oil.

The Valdeon we're using for the sauce. Buying extra was a very good idea.

The cheese comes wrapped in Sycamore leaves.

Snacks fit for a king. Spanish chorizo, Ossau-Iraty, Valdeon, honey, a baguette and extra-virgin olive oil.

Since I'm making digressions left and right, here's the wine I used in the sauce. It's from the Spanish Basque Country, and has grassy notes with flavors of pears and lemon zest.
Ok, back to cooking dinner. Heat a 12” cast-iron skillet over high. Rub the steaks with canola oil, and sear each side over high for 2 minutes per side. Place the skillet in the oven, and cook for about 4 additional minutes, until the steaks reach an internal temp between 125 and 130F. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting into them.

Meanwhile, over medium heat cook the onions in a little olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika and cook for an additional minute. Add in the wine, turn the heat to medium-high, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the stock and cook for 2 more minutes. Crumble the blue cheese and add to the sauce, stirring until just melted. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the sauce over the steaks and garnish with parsley and blue cheese crumbles. I served the steak along with roasted potatoes and roasted green beans.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Witch Finger Cupcakes

Only 356 days till Halloween! I meant type this up a while ago, but didn’t get a chance. Even if you don’t feel like making Halloween cupcakes in November (some nerve you’ve got), the cupcake and frosting recipes are fantastic, and perfect for anytime you need a cake fix. This recipe is compiled from the following 3 recipes:

Now, put on some Witchfinder General and let’s get baking!

3 ounces chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacoa), chopped
1/3 cup cocoa powder
¾ cup hot coffee
¾ cup bread flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a bowl and pour the hot coffee on top. Whisk until smooth then refrigerate for 20 minutes to cool.

Mix the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. In a different bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla.

Add the oil mixture into the cooled chocolate mixture, and whisk. Then add that mixture into the flour bowl. Whisk until smooth.

Ladle the batter into a muffin tin lined with cupcake liners. It takes a bit less than ¼ cup for each cupcake.

Bake until the cupcakes are set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack for 1 hour.

½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
8 oz. Neufchatel Cheese (1 package), room temperature
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

In the bowl of a mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together at medium speed for about 3 minutes, until very smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the vanilla extract and mix, then slowly add the powdered sugar with the mixer on. Keep adding until the icing is the desired thickness/sweetness.

Use a spatula to transfer the frosting to a piping bag, and pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Still haven't gotten the hang of piping

Witch Finger Cookies:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup whole blanched almonds
Green food coloring
1 tube red decorator gel

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and almond extracts. Add flour, baking powder, salt and green food coloring and mix.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, if you need to blanch your almonds  (do they sell almonds pre-blanched? If so, BUY THOSE. I had to do it myself), add them to boiling water for 1 minute, the strain and rinse under cold water. Remove the husks, which is SO MUCH FUN. In theory the skins should slide right off, in practice, god speed.

Once the dough is chilled, time to shape the fingers. Grab about a 1 tablespoon hunk of dough and roll it between your hands into a cigar shape. Keeping the dough between your fingers helps give the ridges that look like gnarly witch knuckles.

Use a toothpick to make creases in the fingers. Press an almond into one end of each cookie. Line the cookies up on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake in a 325°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until they start to turn pale golden. Let cool for 3 minutes. Lift the almond off each cookie and squeeze red decorator gel into the nail bed. Press the almond back down for the bloody effect.