Archive | September, 2010

More Blueberry Madness: Backyard Blueberry Pie & Buttermilk Pudding Cakes

28 Sep

With the last of my blueberry harvest, I decided to make my neighbors a blueberry pie. I had seen one being made on TV recently and got the itch to bake a pie. I decided to use a recipe I found online as a skeleton and then change it up a bit. You can find my Backyard Blueberry Pie recipe here.

The crust came out beautiful and the filling was super jammy and fresh. I know my neighbors loved it!

Here's my pie before going into the oven. I love how the crust looks already!

Post oven, the filling was bubbling away and the crust was nicely browned.

Even after that pie, I still had leftover blueberries. I took out a cookbook I bought earlier this year at school, The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down-Home Flavor, and decided to look for a recipe that I could use blueberries in.

I met the Lee brothers earlier this year at school when they came and gave a cooking demonstration. I really enjoyed their fun, easy-going take on food and cooking, and how a lot of their dishes are perfect for entertaining. I decided to make Buttermilk Pudding Cakes with a blueberry lemon compote (instead of the sugared raspberries the recipe called for). I used the same Blueberry Compote that I used in my FCI Menu Project. The recipe couldn’t be easier and I love making individual desserts – they’re nicely presented to guests and keep overeating at a minimum because they’re already portioned! The recipe yields 8 pudding cakes – you can see them in my standard muffin tin below.

When flipped out, they should be golden brown all around and ready to be topped with fruit, whipped cream, powdered sugar, ice cream, etc!

Here’s my finished cake with the blueberry lemon compote. I think the combination of the tangy buttermilk cake with this topping went great together. The Lee Brothers made this dish on Martha Stewart’s show and now the recipe (and a video of them making them) are posted here. Try this recipe next time you’re having company over – you won’t be disappointed. Enjoy!


Poulet Roti Grand-mere (Roast Chicken Grandmother-Style)

21 Sep

Last week Jason and I spent a night at his mom’s house and I thought what better way to pass some time while she and Jason were at a meeting than by making dinner for us all! I decided on a classic French dish we made over and over (and over) again in school, Poulet Roti Grand-mere, which means Roast Chicken Grandmother-style. Any dish with “Grand-mere” in it has the same 4 garniture: glazed pearl onions, bacon lardons, sauteed mushrooms and potatoes rissoler. It took quite a while to prepare everything, but in the end, we had a wonderful dinner. This is one of those dishes that I’d save for a Sunday afternoon when you have plenty of time to prepare it. It’s great comfort food perfect on a cool Fall or Winter day.

First, I prepped and trussed my whole chicken. I haven’t trussed a chicken in a while and was happy for the practice! After prepping my chicken and seasoning it with salt and pepper, I heated a large oven-proof pan on high heat on the stove and added a Tbsp of olive oil. When the oil was very hot, I browned the chicken on all sides. During this process, I started preparing my mirepoix of carrots and onions. I added the chicken trimmings and gizzards to the pan and put it all into a 425 degree oven. After 10 minutes, I added my mirepoix and cooked the entire mixture for another 30 minutes, basting every 10 minutes.

Here's my chicken ten minutes into being cooked. It's starting to brown nicely and I've just added my mirepoix of vegetables.

You know the chicken is done when the juices run clear and when the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees F.

Here's my roast chicken after 40 minutes in the oven - I love the color and the skin is so crispy!

While my chicken roasted, I started prepping and cooking the items for the Grand-mere garniture. This consists of cooking pearl onions glacer a brun (brown glazed), sauteing bacon lardons until crispy and rendering their fat, sauteing white mushrooms in the rendered bacon fat until browned, and cooking potatoes cocotte rissoler. Cocotte refers to the shape of the potatoes. Cooking potatoes rissoler is a 3-step process. First you cook the potatoes in salted boiling water until just tender and then let them air dry. Next, you saute them in oil until evenly brown and crispy on the outside. Lastly, you add butter to the pan and finish them in the oven, tossing frequently until done.

Here's 3 components of my Grand-mere garniture going at once along with my Jus de Roti.

When my chicken was done, I let it rest for 10 minutes before carving it. I used the pan drippings and mirepoix to make the Jus. First I removed any excess oil and caramelized the vegetables on the stove top. Then I deglazed the pan with white wine to get up all the sucs (brown bits) in the pan. Next I added chicken stock, strained the vegetables out and let my sauce reduce to a thick consistency. After that I adjusted the seasoning with salt and pepper. I carved my chicken into 10 pieces (4 pieces of white meat, 6 pieces of dark meat) and started plating!

Here are the 10 pieces of my chicken, ready to be served.

The dish came out wonderful – moist and really flavorful. We enjoyed it all with a bottle of white wine from the Hudson River Valley. For those of you who want to try this recipe out at home (and I suggest you do), I’ll be posting it on my Recipes page ASAP.

The finished dish: 2 pieces of chicken with the grand-mere garniture and jus de roti!

Dinner with Friends

14 Sep

Saturday afternoon I was in the mood to make a big dinner – something homey and warm since it was all of a sudden Fall. I invited my friend Michaela over and decided to try two recipes from one of my new cookbooks, Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition, from Barbara Lynch. She is one of my favorite chefs (who I would love to work for) and she has several fantastic restaurants in Boston.

I’d be elated to serve any of the dishes in this book for the most important dinner party – or dinner for just Jason and I on a weeknight – they’re all versatile and delicious. I decided on a dinner menu of Chicken Liver Pate with traditional accompaniments, Tomato Mozzarella Salad and Butcher Shop Bolognese with Homemade Fettuccine.

To start things off, I had to do some grocery shopping to pick up a few things that we needed – specifically meat and cheese! I conveniently (read: dangerously) live close to The Wine and Cheese Cask and Savenor’s Market. The Wine and Cheese Cask is pretty self explanatory and Savenor’s is an amazing butcher shop with local produce and other specialty items. They have three retail locations around Boston and sell to many Boston restaurants. I bet I’ll be BFF with these guys in no time!

Besides in school, I had never made chicken liver pate, but it turned out to be pretty easy and damn tasty! I can’t speak for Jason and Michaela, but I loved it. Again, fancy enough for a large group of VIP dinner guests but easy enough for dinner for two. Plus, I had to get chicken livers for my bolognese (the secret ingredient) and had extra that I couldn’t let go to waste! Here are my chicken livers being sauteed with the shallots.

This recipe is super easy and starts off by sauteing the livers in shallots that were sweated in grapeseed oil.

After the livers are cooked to rare/medium-rare, they are mixed with a port reduction, salt, pepper and a little cream cheese for complexity and texture. Everything is blended to delicious spreadable perfection!

Here's my finished pate with sides of cornichons and whole grain mustard. I served grilled bread on the side as well.

The bolognese starts with a mirepoix of vegetables. To that, the chicken livers are added (diced small – a brunoise as well) and then the ground meats are added. I used ground veal and lamb though the recipe calls for veal, lamb and pork.

Here is my mirepoix of veggies to start my bolognese - carrots, celery and onion, all cut in a small (brunoise) dice.

All the meat has been added to this dish - now all it needs are the liquids and time to simmer ever so slightly.

Once the meats are browned, chicken stock (I used my homemade stock), wine and chopped tomatoes are added – easy as that! I simmered my sauce for almost 3 hours on very low to concentrate the flavors, texture and color.

Here's my sauce right before I plated it. The color and flavors are more richer and darker.

While my sauce was brewing, I started on my pasta dough. I started making my own pasta a while ago and it’s one of those things where once you make your own by hand, see how easy it is and how much better it tastes – you’ll never go back to the boxed stuff (if you have a choice that is)! I don’t use a recipe either – it’s all about the feel of the dough. I start with eggs. A note about the eggs: I used 3 whole eggs this time. I typically use just egg yolks to get a richer pasta but wanted something a little lighter so I used the whites as well. To that, I add some extra virgin olive oil and salt. Once that’s mixed together with a fork, I start adding my flour gradually. Most people do this the opposite way and add their wet ingredients to their dry, but I do it the other way around. How much flour you use depends on several things – the humidity, the freshness of the eggs, the type/freshness of the flour, the temperature, etc., which is why it’s hard to give a measurement. I knead it all together until I have the elasticity and feel I’m after, then wrap in plastic and let rest for at least 30 minutes. I used All Purpose flour for this dough, but I’d suggest using “00” (double zero) flour if you can find it. 00 refers to the how fine the flour is ground – the most highly refined in this case. You’d have to go to an Italian specialty store to get it or King Arthur has an Italian-style flour similar to 00.

While the dough was resting, Michaela and I prepared the Tomato Mozzarella Salad. All our ingredients were so fresh – it was a perfect first course! We alternated layers of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, placed a chiffonade of basil on top, seasoned with salt and fresh ground black pepper and then topped it all with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil. It takes 5 minutes and makes for a beautiful presentation.

Now that our salad was done, it was time to roll out the pasta and get it cookin’. I have a small manual pasta machine my friend Amy gave me a long time ago. It’s been the gift that has kept on giving ever since! I learned from one of the chefs at school how she rolls out pasta and have used her technique ever since. Each piece of dough goes through the machine at it’s thickest setting several times to ensure all the dough is cohesive and smooth – folding it like an envelope each time. Then, you decrease the settings and roll the dough through to get the thickness desired. I typically go to the second to last setting so that I can see my fingers through the dough, but it’s not paper thin. Finally we cut the dough – I used the medium-sized cutter which made fettuccine.

My fettuccine right before going in the water.

Cooking fresh pasta is faster than you can imagine. 2-4 minutes is all you need until it is al dente. To plate this dish, I sauteed the cooked pasta in a pan with some of my bolognese, then topped it all with a generous portion of grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a few basil leaves to garnish.


It was a delicious dinner – great food, wine and friends. I can’t wait to have more people over for dinner! 🙂

Farmer’s Market Finds and Journeyman

11 Sep

I was so excited for the farmer’s market this weekend. We enjoyed our market goods so much last week I couldn’t wait to get more. Since we got the lay of the land last weekend, I started to get the idea of which purveyors sold what. I started though doing my typical walk through the market scoping out what looks good before I decide what to purchase. We ended up with a pretty good basket of goodies:

We bought lots of veggies - Japanese eggplant, yellow onions, shallots, green bell peppers and a cubanelle pepper.

More veggies - tomatoes and golden beets. I can't wait to use these!

Of course I had to get a big bunch of basil for a few of my dishes this week.

My plan is to make a caponata with the eggplant, peppers and tomatoes this week, plus a roasted golden beet salad with feta cheese. I may make a pesto with the leftover basil – have to see how long it keeps for. Basil is one of those things that doesn’t keep fresh long after you take it home.

Not sure how many of you are familiar with Union Square in Somerville, but it’s a pretty up and coming square, very close to both Harvard and Inman Square in Cambridge. We happen to live very close to it and have witnessed a lot of new restaurants and shops going in since we bought our house 3 years ago. There are even plans to put a T stop in Union Square in 2010. Jason got an email this past weekend from Urban Daddy announcing a new restaurant in Union Square called Journeyman. The description from Urban Daddy sounds AMAZING – here’s what they unveiled:

Behold: Journeyman, the brand-new, tucked-away Union Square locavore-cathedral, soft-opening this Wednesday and now accepting reservations for big groups. Walking up to Journeyman feels a little like you’re trespassing in a mechanic’s garage. It’s located on a short, dead-end street, and there’s no signage out front save for a metal beam sticking out of the ground with “Journeyman” cut into it (incidentally, we understand this is also how the band Journey got started).

But after some keen usage of your phone’s GPS and a little bit of testicular fortitude, you’ll walk inside and breathe in the minimalist SoHo-artist-loft-style interior (high ceilings, bookshelves), where you and about 35 of your friends will be able to hold a massive, multi-course feast. (Think of it as a permanent dinner party space, with a professional kitchen.)

As for what you’ll be feasting on: the menu changes daily, and they use only local ingredients. Think pigs from North Face Farm in Duxbury, fish from Cambridge-based New Deal Fish Market and herbs from a huge, floor-to-ceiling vertical garden housed right in the dining area. And to drink: small-batch organic wines and local beers, also constantly changing.

Are you kidding – THIS PLACE IS RIGHT IN OUR BACKYARD!! Almost immediately we logged online to the reservation site. The reservations for this weekend are all booked already but we got a reservation for September 26th! I’m so excited. I’ve seen some pictures of the space on Facebook and it looks pretty cool. I love that it only seats 35 people and the menu changes weekly depending on what’s good and in-season. They’ll offer 3, 5, and 7-course omnivore and vegetarian menu options – sweet! Aside from the excitement around this new place, we had a great weekend and I’ve got some excellent recipes to share – keep an eye out for them!

Perfectly pickled

11 Sep

I’ve always wanted to make homemade pickles, especially since I started making my own canned fruit preserves and compotes. It’s a great way to preserve in-season fruits veggies you’re not going to eat right away. When it comes to pickling – canning more specifically, you have to be very careful about boiling your jars long enough to get a good seal on your jar, packing it up to a certain point with liquid, etc so that you can keep your cans in dry storage practically forever (vs. in the fridge). But since I was only doing a small batch and wanted pickles for immediate consumption, I looked for a recipe for refrigerator pickles. I searched online and found a recipe for refrigerator dill pickles. I started with the cucumbers we bought at the market last weekend:

I’m a fan of tweaking recipes and trying different ingredient ratios, but I wanted to follow this recipe exactly for my first time making pickles. I mixed all the herbs and spices together, mixed the liquids together and put everything into my glass Ball jars on top of my cucumbers. Something I read online that I did differently than the recipe was soak my cucumbers in ice water for 2 hours prior to putting them in the jars – this ensures a crisp pickle. I LOVE ball jars – I’ve made jams and compotes in them before. They’re pretty and make great homemade gifts filled with something delicious.

Here's a closeup of my pickles in the jar - you can see all the herbs and spices inside.

Here's my entire batch of pickles. 4 small cucumbers cut into spears filled 2 jars and 3/4 of a 3rd jar.

I made these pickles 5 days ago and just tried them today (for the 2nd time). I wanted to see how the time affected the pickling and the taste. They came out great! They’re definitely sweeter than I typically like my pickles (because of the brown sugar in the recipe), so I think I’ll change that next time around, but they are really tasty. Briney and herby – yum!

Herb Grilled Chicken & Homemade Stock

9 Sep

At the farmer’s market last weekend, Jason and I purchased a whole chicken from Stillman’s. Stillman’s is a small family-owned farm in Hardwick, MA that raises meat and poultry using sustainable and local practices. Their philosophy on their website really struck a cord with me, so I wanted to repost it here:

Our farm offers conscientiously raised, grass-fed and pastured, hormone-free meats and poultry. We believe in raising our animals in a manner that is humane and respectful, a respect that extends not only to our animals but to our land as well. Our sustainable, more holistic approach to animal husbandry yields better tasting, safer, and more nutritious meats and poultry.
This is our Conscientiously Grown philosophy.

It would be great if all farmers took this approach to growing, but alas, you need to seek out the ones who do, and a farmer’s market is usually a great place to start.

Back to my chicken… Now that I know how to break down a chicken, we thought we might as well get a whole one and use it for a few things. First, I removed the neck, back bone and breast bone, so that I had a “flat” chicken to work with, and bones for stock!

Here's my deboned chicken, perfect for grilling in one whole piece.

For my chicken stock, I blanched the bones in water first (to remove all the blood), drained that water, then started the bones again in fresh water. Once boiling, I added my vegetables – onion, carrot, celery, leeks, thyme, parsley, dill, bay leaf, garlic cloves, and whole black peppercorns.

My vegetables are all cut mirepoix, which means they're roughly all the same shape and size. This term is used a lot when prepping veg for stocks and sauces.

I simmered this mixture for 2 hours until full-flavored. I then strained the stock into quart containers and discarded my bones and vegetables. This yielded 2 1/2 quarts of beautiful golden chicken stock. There’s no fat or salt in this stock – that will all be added to taste in the dishes I use the stock in. I hate using canned/boxed stock because of all the sodium it has it in already.

I love the golden color of this stock - it will be perfect in future recipes.

While my stock was cooking, I started prepping the chicken for the grill. I made a marinade/paste of roughly chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, dill), 3 diced garlic cloves, 1/2 lemon sliced, olive oil, salt and pepper. I mixed that all together in a bowl.

The marinade ingredients were roughly chopped and the consistency was more like a paste than a liquid.

Next, I seasoned my chicken with salt and pepper, then rubbed the marinade all over both sides of the chicken. This marinated in the refrigerator for 4 hours.

I covered the dish with plastic wrap and let all the flavors meld together for a few hours.

Jason fired up the grill on high. He took off some of the big pieces of lemon so they wouldn’t burn on the grill. We placed the chicken on the grill (the hottest section) skin side UP, then placed the shallow pan that we used to marinate it on top, so that it kept the chicken flat on the grill and weighted it down. For a 3 lb chicken on high heat, we grilled it 8-10 minutes on the first side, flipped the chicken carefully, put the pan on top again, then grilled it another 8-10 minutes. For the last 8 minutes of cooking, we grilled up some sweet potatoes (lightly tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper) and the other half of the lemon that was used in the marinade. We kept the lemon half whole and grilled it cut side down. When the chicken was done, I covered it loosely with foil and let it rest for 5-10 minutes to let all the juices redistribute through the meat. We could hardly wait that long to dig in!

The result: a beautifully grilled chicken, crispy on the outside and unbelievably moist on the inside, with all the flavors of the marinade.

This is the chicken right off the grill, along with our grilled lemon half.

Jason did a fantastic job grilling and said it was one of the best chickens he’s ever had – that’s quite a statement! It was definitely a combination of his grilling, my marinade and the quality of the chicken. After I portioned the chicken into 10 pieces, we squeezed the grilled lemon over top. This chicken could easily serve 4 people. We each had a piece (or 2) of chicken and plenty of leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day. I made a delicious chicken sandwich the next day with some of the leftovers.

Here's our chicken cut into 8 pieces - plenty to go around for a party of 4.

Next time you’re in the mood for chicken, try cooking a whole one. If you’re intimidated by deboning it yourself, your supermarket’s butcher may be able to do it for you, or feel free to contact me and I’ll walk you through it!

What To Do with Leftover Corn

9 Sep

Corn on the cob is one of those things that people usually make more of than they need. With all the other side dishes at cookout, a lot of people pass on the corn. My mom made corn on the cob Sunday and had a lot leftover. Instead of throwing it out, I took it home to come up with some new recipes.

Jason and I had turkey burgers the other night and I thought what would be better than a Summer Corn Salad. First, I seasoned the corn with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and chili powder. I wanted a lot of flavor so I seasoned aggressively.

Then, we grilled the corn on medium-high heat until all sides were slightly charred. Since the corn was already cooked, I only needed to warm it up and get some color on it – this didn’t take long at all.

While Jason grilled the corn, I prepped the rest of my salad. I halved cherry tomatoes, diced avocado and chopped parsley. Note: If I had cilantro, I would have opted for that over the parsley, but I used what I had on hand. When the corn was done, I cut it in half so I had two pieces with flat ends, and with a chef’s knife sliced the kernels off the cob. In a large bowl I mixed my corn, tomatoes and avocado. To that, I added the juice of half a large lime, about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped parsley. It was delicious – the cool creamy avocado paired great with my smoky charred corn and the tomatoes and lime added some brightness and acidity. A perfect pairing with our turkey burgers and definitely a recipe to keep in mind for next summer!

I still had more corn leftover and wanted to do something on the sweet side with them. I thought of cornbread, corn muffins, corn ice cream… you get the idea. I landed on Corn and Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes (click on the link for the full recipe). I love pancakes and thought it would be a great way to start the day. I never have buttermilk on hand but needed it for the Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries and didn’t want the rest to go to waste, so I used it in my pancakes.

These pancakes were out of this world! Local Massachusetts maple syrup and fresh blueberries on top finished the dish.

I like my pancakes on the whole grain/nuttier/healthier side, so I used white whole wheat flour and that along with buttermilk, corn and blueberries was heavenly. I didn’t use a lot of sugar because the blueberries and corn were naturally sweet. These cakes were nutty, light, and full of great textures. The key to fluffy pancakes is not flattening them with your spatula while in the pan, and only turning them once, allowing them to rise and then keep that height.

Take a look at the inside of these pancakes. They were chock full of corn and berries and this photo shows how thick each cake was.

I highly recommend trying them out next time you’re in the mood for pancakes. The last thing I did with my leftover corn… gave it to Rick! It wasn’t seasoned initially, so it was perfect to slice off the cob and add to his dry food. He loved it!

What do you do with your leftover corn? The possibilities are endless.