Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blueberry White Chocolate Bread Pudding

best use of white chocolate ever !
I made this tonight to go with the whole Filet Mignon dinner, but this bread pudding is so amazing that it really deserves its own entry. It's an adaptation of Emeril's White Chocolate-Cherry Bread Pudding, with a few serious is that I use dried blueberries instead of dried cherries (we're big blueberry fans around here), and the other is that I use....bagels.

Yes, bagels. Calm down...this is a Culinary Orgasm, I promise:). The bagels are how this actually started - at my old job, the father of the owner used to bring us breakfast every day (god I miss that man), and Fridays were Bagel Day. He used to get upset if no one brought the leftover bagels home, and very often I ended up with them. Staring at the bag one Saturday morning, I started to wonder if it was possible to make bread pudding out of them. The answer is yes...yes yes yes yes YES !!! Bagels are actually perfect - they're sturdy enough to hold their texture when soaked and baked, but soft enough to let all the flavors and custardy goodness of the pudding in. Just make sure you use a plain or sweet type of bagel....this isn't the dish to throw the "Everything" ones in ! 

The other thing that may seem odd about this dish (if you've even stayed with me this far !) is the white chocolate. As I've mentioned before, I am not a fan of white chocolate...I don't even consider it chocolate. However, what it is...sweet and creamy, with a smooth mouthfeel - is actually perfect in a pudding or custard type really enhances it.

I have made this for many a family party, and it always meets with rave reviews....try it; you won't be sorry !

my well-used Pampered Chef stoneware :)

Blueberry-White Chocolate Bread Pudding

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 2 tablespoons, melted
4 large eggs
4 cups heavy cream
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
6 cups 1/2-inch cubes day-old bagels (plain, egg, etc...)
6 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1 cup dried blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 10 X 14-inch baking dish with the room-temperature butter.

2. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the cream, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the bread, chocolate, and dried blueberries and stir well, then mix in the melted butter. Pour into the prepared dish.

3. Bake until firm when pressed in the center, about 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack until just warm, about 20 minutes. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Filet Mignon with Boursin Sauce, Rosemary Roasted Potatoes, Italian-Style Spinach

sorry, this was the only pic I could grab !
Readers, I am certifiably insane - no two ways about it. The day after a concert (which was fantastic, BTW) I'm so sore and exhausted that I have every excuse to lay about and be waited on - or, even better, to go out to dinner. But I woke up with both an extreme urge to nest, and a craving for BEEF. What choice did I have but to get my ass in the kitchen ??

I know one of the reasons I was craving beef was my email...on Friday, I received an email from the Pampered Chef . The last party of theirs I went to was years ago, but somehow I recently ended up on their mailing list, which kinds of annoys me...but I can't seem to bring myself to unsub. I have a love-hate relationship with the Pampered Chef - I really don't like most of their cookware, their knives seem to be junk, and they have gadgets for a lot of things I'd rather use a good knife for. But some of their equipment I absolutely love - my stoneware gets a heavy workout, my grater and my batter bowl are always drying in the dish rack, and there's some other stuff that I have to admit is the real deal.

The recipes crack me up - they're so busy pushing their products that it makes it hard to follow the actual steps needed. ("In Small Micro-Cooker®, melt butter in microwave on HIGH 1 minute. Using Deluxe Cheese Grater"...well, you get the idea.) Occasionally, though, a recipe will surface that has good enough bones to stand on its own once you remove the sales speak. Such was the recipe for filet Mignon that arrived on Friday. A bit of translation - and conversion from pre-made mixes to real world ingredients - made this one a winner. All it needed with it were some simple potatoes, and something green...a perfect Sunday supper.

Filet Mignon with Boursin Sauce 
1 tsp vegetable oil
4 beef tenderloin filets (5 - 6 oz each)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper 
1 tsp minced garlic (dried) 
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 pkg Boursin cheese 
1/4 cup chicken broth

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 1-3 minutes or until shimmering. Season filets with salt, pepper and garlic. Cook undisturbed 3-5 minutes or until browned. Turn filets over; cook another 3-5 minutes (for medium-rare) Transfer filets to platter and cover with foil (they will cook a tiny bit more under the foil) and let rest while you prepare sauce.

Return skillet to heat and add shallot; cook about a minute or until softened. Add wine to deglaze pan, stirring up browned bits with a wooden spoon. 
Add cheese; cook and stir 20-30 seconds or until cheese spread is melted and smooth (use whisk if needed). Add broth and cook an additional 30-45 seconds or until heated through. Serve filets with sauce  (there will be plenty; it's also good on potatoes or vegetables).

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

 2 pounds small potatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 - 2 sprigs rosemary, cut into 1 inch lengths
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Scatter potatoes in roasting pan in a single layer. Drizzle oil over potatoes; scatter rosemary into pan, and season with a few pinches of salt and grinds of pepper. Roast undisturbed for 20 minutes; stir and roast another 20-40 minutes, until golden on the outside and cooked completely through (stirring every 10 minutes or so.)

Italian-style Spinach

1 pound baby spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet with a lid, saute garlic in olive oil (uncovered) until just starting to go golden. Add spinach and's fine if you have to press down a little; spinach cooks down quickly. After about 5 minutes stir well, getting up the garlic. Let cook another 5 minutes or so, or until done to your liking. Stir in lemon juice, salt and pepper.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chicken Soup, Silver Palate style

soup is good food...
Just a quick blog entry to let you know that I am, in fact, alive :). Busy time of year for's time for one of my other hobbies to take center stage for a bit, singing and concert management for the Newton Community Chorus. Our Winter Concert is this of course, what happens this week ? I get an absolutely brutal cold, of course...damn plague carriers I live with !! I feel like my head and lungs are full of cold, wet oatmeal and I can hardly open my eyes. Definitely not C.O. material.

I know if there's any substance in this world that has a chance of getting me in shape to sing by Saturday, it's the chicken soup from the Silver Palate Good Times as exhausted as I am, I made a pot when I got home instead of giving in to the urge to snuggle with my pillows and blankie. I love chicken soups of all kinds, and I do all sorts of variations on simmering chicken frames for hours with a medley of delicious items. This soup is a little different - chock full of veggies (including lots of leeks...I have a serious leek obsession) and noodles for staying power...but it's made with boneless skinless chicken breast, and comes together in under an hour. I swear, you can feel yourself ingesting health and well being with every bite.

I am including the recipe here with my own very well tested modifications - I have made this more times than I can count, and it is nothing short of spectacular every time. Basically, I use more of the leek and more chicken than called for...change the proportions and timing a bit...and I go through less steps and use less dishes. Much as I love the SP, I usually see no need to use as many pots and pans as they call for...who has time to clean all that stuff ? I can hear my bed calling from here...

Chicken Soup, Silver Palate style

4 leeks, white and tender green parts only
water to cover leeks
2 T cider vinegar
2 sticks unsalted butter
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 t kosher salt
1 t fresh ground black pepper
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock
1 c white wine
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast (4 good sized pieces)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups fine egg noodles (uncooked)
4 oz fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths
3 T chopped Italian parsley

Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, and rinse well (leeks trap mud like crazy). Soak for 15 minutes in a bowl with water to cover, to which you have added the cider vinegar.

Once the leeks are soaking, start the chicken poaching in the stock and wine - bring to a boil, turn way down and barely simmer for about 15 minutes, or until just done. Remove the chicken when done to let it cool.

Chop the leeks, the carrot, and the celery. Melt the butter in a large stockpot, and gently saute the veggies for about 10 minutes, then season with the salt and pepper. Add the stock in which you poached the chicken, the mushrooms, and the green beans. Let simmer for 5 minutes, then add the egg noodles. Cook for another 5 - 10 minutes, or until the noodles and the veggies are done to your liking.

Shred the chicken and add to the pot with the parsley. Heat through, add salt and pepper if needed, and serve.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

not the best picture - it's really saucier !!
There are probably a million variations on this dish...all (okay, most) of them delicious. I mean, even the names are confusing - most people would call this Chicken, Broccoli and Ziti, or Chicken, Broccoli and Penne...but since the variation I usually make is the cream sauce one - and since I don't always use ziti or penne - Chicken Broccoli Alfredo it is. Except...there are probably a million versions of Alfredo sauce too. Technically, mine is a cream or white sauce, since it starts with flour and butter. I have to do it that way, because Mark likes "Alfredo" sauce super thick. All I can tell you is that whatever you want to call this works for me...and that's what this dish does : works. It's been a staple here for years for a good reason - everyone loves it.

see ?

There are actually two ways to make this at my house...method du jour depends on how much time and/or kitchen help I have. I give you the very slightly more involved version first...this is easy enough to do on your own, but very enjoyable to do with help. Tonight Mark sauteed the chicken and broccoli, Alex grated the cheese, and I made the sauce and pasta. I love family kitchen night :).

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

1 pound pasta
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cream
salt, grated nutmeg and/or cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
4 cups broccoli florets
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced into 1/4 inch thick chunks
2 tsp minced garlic
olive oil for pan
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, make sauce : melt butter in good-sized saucepan over medium heat and whisk in flour. Whisk in milk, a little at a time, then add cream all at once and whisk well. Simmer 5 - 10 minutes, whisking often, until thick. Add seasonings to taste....definitely salt, a small sprinkle of nutmeg, and a few grains of cayenne (you're not trying to make the sauce spicy - just warms up the flavors. Although if you do like spicy, you can add a good amount of chipotle and make a very different - but still tasty - dish. ).

While sauce is simmering, make chicken and broccoli : heat oil in a saute pan, saute chicken and garlic (seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper) together until done, then saute broccoli in the same pan until done.

Combine pasta, sauce, chicken and broccoli in large bowl or pot. Pass extra Parmesan at the table.

Optional Method

The other way of doing this, if you're somewhat pressed for time...make pasta and sauce as directed, but add the broccoli to the pot with the pasta for the last minute or so of cooking, then drain everything together. Leave the chicken breasts whole, and when you start the pasta start the chicken poaching in a separate pan (cover with chicken stock, bring almost to a boil, turn down to a really low simmer for 20 minutes or so until done). Drain, and cut up the chicken before mixing with the other components of the dish.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chicken & Dumplings

oh, how I love snow days :) Almost two feet of snow and still snowing !! The hard part, of course, is deciding what to make...blizzards make me crave warm comforting stew-type concoctions. The problem this week, though, is that we'd done lamb stew and jambalaya over the weekend, and have been eating both for days...what to make that wasn't anything like them ?

Chicken and dumplings is a dish that I've always liked the idea's a little out of my bailiwick, not super common in New England, but then again I'm not exactly known for sticking close to home culinarily :) I have a crockpot Chicken and Dumplings recipe (included in my Crockpot Conversations blog entry) which works really, really well..but since I was going to be home all day, I wanted to try something a little closer to the traditional. So, of course...traditional, Southern...who ya gonna call ? Paula Deen, of course. Everything looked fine to me until I got to the bottom...canned cream of chicken soup ? Oh no...kissing cousins with cream of mushroom soup, which the fantastic Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook calls the Voldemort of the cooking world : That Which Shall Not Be Named. Clearly, not what I was I checked in with Simply Recipes . Much, much better....well, except I didn't have any bone-in chicken, so I wasn't making my own stock. I did have chicken thighs, though, and stock ready to go....combine the two recipes, tweak and adapt for what I had on hand, and throw in some of my own touches...folks, we have a winner !!! Chicken and vegetables swimming in a rich, unctuous base with well-developed flavors...light, fluffy dumplings... happy shovelers and snowbound people. Yep, I love snow days :)

A note on the peas...I would have added them if I had them, though I list them as optional as some folks don't like them - and the dish was perfectly fine without them. Also, if you are like my sister and adverse to dark meat chicken, go ahead and make it with boneless skinless breast...won't be quite the same, but SOME people prefer it that way :)

Chicken & Dumplings
2 leeks, white and tender green parts only, chopped
Vegetable oil for pot
4 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
5 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried leaves)
4 carrots, sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced
8 – 10 pearl onions, peeled and quartered (or halved, depending on size)
½ cup green peas, frozen (optional)
6 tblsp butter, unsalted
6 t tblsp flour
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste


2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup buttermilk
2 tblsp melted butter

To make the chicken: swirl some oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté the leeks for  5-10 minutes or so, until they start to soften and brown a little. Throw the chicken in with the leeks, add salt and pepper , and let the chicken start to brown too. Add the stock and bay leaf and bring up to a simmer. Add the carrots and simmer 5 minutes, then add the celery and onions. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the carrots and chicken are just about done. Add the green peas.

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Let this roux cook a few minutes, stirring the whole time, until it starts to brown. Now take a ladleful of the stock from your chicken and add it to the roux, whisking the whole time. Repeat this a few times, until you’ve added 3 cups or so of the stock. Add the mushrooms and the cream, and let simmer a few minutes while you pull the chicken apart – just go in there with two forks and shred it right in the pot.  Stir the mushroom mixture back into the Dutch oven with the chicken, add the parsley, and stir well. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Make the dumplings: sift together the dry ingredients, then add the buttermilk and melted butter. Mix this gently until it just comes together and you can pinch off pieces –  larger than a grape but smaller than a walnut, slightly flattened (don’t over-handle the dough though, you want to keep them light). Have the stew at a slow simmer, and drop the dumplings on top –spread out as much as you can. Put the lid on, and let them simmer for 15 minutes – no peeking ! Test with a toothpick after time is up, and if they still have any raw doughy parts let them go another 5 – 10 minutes.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mark's Jambalaya

Oh yeah baby !!

As I've mentioned, my husband Mark is as crazy a foodie as I am - and an unbelievable cook. His input is sprinkled throughout this blog...along with a few - but not many -  of his recipes. He's a much more unstructured cook than I am, which is a fantastic thing...until someone asks him how to make something. He knows in his head how to do it, but that doesn't really translate well into a written recipe. When he decided to make jambalaya today, though, I knew I had to shadow him and to get the whole thing down - this is hands down his most requested recipe, the one everyone has wanted for years. The recipe has never existed in written form....until now. Poor his credit, he was very patient with me :)

Jambalaya, for those who aren't familiar with it, is a Creole dish...a New Orleans classic consisting of chicken, sausages and ham, seafood, rice and vegetables, sort of similar to the Spanish Paella. The etymology of the name is unclear - a strong theory bases it on "jambon" or "jamon", the French and Spanish words for "ham". Ham is usually a component, along with other pork products like sausages...but there's so much more going on there that it would seem odd to name it after the ham (then again, it wouldn't be the same without it). There's also a reference to "jambalaia”, meaning jumble or mishmash, in an 1878  Provençal dictionary. Wherever the word came from, though, nowadays it just means "delicious."

The route Mark took to jambalaya nirvana is actually kind of funny. One day many, many years ago, I came home from a Diet Workshop meeting with a little cookbooklet in hand, which contained a diet version of jambalaya. I made this version quite often and it was very tasty (basically, it replaced all the pork products with turkey ham and didn't use oil or scallops), but once I quit Diet Workshop, Mark sort of took over and reverse-engineered it. This baby is all his, and it it most definitely a Culinary Orgasm.

A few notes about this recipe : first off, it makes an absolute ton - about 10 quarts (one of the reasons we own multiple 20-quart stockpots). This can definitely be halved or even quartered if you don't need quite so much. Second, the better your ingredients the better your dish (this is true in all cooking, really). We were able to score some gorgeous D’Artagnan Andouille and Chorizo at Russo's (foodie heaven...I love that store), along with fantastic produce of course. Quality ingredients give you a huge head start on the road to Culinary Orgasm.

And now, the recipe. Extra photos at the end !

Vegetable oil, for pot
3 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into roughly 2 inch chunks
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb andouille, sliced
½  lb chorizo, sliced 
1 lb ham, cubed
3 sweet onions (i.e. Vidalias), chopped
2 red peppers, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
8 stalks celery , cut into 1 inch lengths
12 cups chicken stock
5 ½ cups rice (converted, i.e. Uncle Ben’s)
Few grinds black pepper
½ - 1 tsp chipotle powder, to taste
Few generous shakes Tabasco, to taste
35 oz can whole plum tomatoes, with juice
½ lb bay scallops
2 lbs large shrimp (21-25 ct), shelled & deveined
Extra Tabasco for serving

Heat oil in bottom of large pot. Brown chicken and garlic in oil; remove from pan. Add a little more oil, heat, and add onion, peppers and celery. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally,  with lid on for 10 minutes or so or until vegetables are soft. Add chicken back to pan along with andouille, chorizo, and ham. Turn heat to high and add chicken stock. Bring to boil and stir in rice, pepper, chipotle powder and Tabasco. Crush tomatoes with your hands and add to pot along with juice. When everything returns to a boil, turn heat down and simmer 15-20 minutes or until rice is just about done. Add scallops and simmer 3 – 5 minutes, then add shrimp and cook another 3 - 5 minutes until seafood is all cooked.

Serve in bowls, pass the Tabasco and crusty bread for dipping (sourdough is perfect)

chicken browning in pot

sausage ready to go


the whole shebang !

Irish Soda Bread

grand, super, brilliant !

First off, a shout out to Culinary Orgasm's new official main photographer...#1 Son Alex. Alex took all of the pictures in this entry with his new Nikon Coolpix, and he's done a great job - see the end of this entry for more of his work. Much easier having someone else wield the camera !

So...Irish Soda Bread. I cannot make this bread without thinking about Uncle Ed. Growing up, I spent every summer with Uncle Ed (great uncle, technically) and Narn (my great aunt Alice, who everyone called "Narn"). Uncle Ed was a textbook Southie guy, an Irish American war vet with a gruff exterior covering the biggest heart of anyone I've ever known. Uncle Ed took to retirement in Maine with gusto - dog food in his pockets everywhere he went, a fixture on his benches waiting for the mail, reading his Herald, listening to the Sox or just watching the world go by. He doted on his nieces and nephews, and no birthday was ever complete without Uncle Ed calling and singing "Happy Birthday" in his trademark vibrato-filled baritone. Lord, I miss that man.

In any event, as much as Uncle Ed loved Maine, he was always so happy when folks came down from Boston - especially from Southie, and especially if they came bearing Irish Soda Bread for him to have with his beloved tea. His eyes would light up, and he'd make that stuff last as long as he possibly could. But it was only when I married a part-Irishman and learned to actually appreciate a good corned beef dinner that I even thought about making it myself. It took a few tries, but now I really have it down...I think Uncle Ed would have absolutely loved this, and that is saying something. I only wish I had made it for him when he was still alive...don't put things off, folks. Do things for the people you love now. I promise you, you'll both feel better for it.

A few notes about the calls for two ingredients you may not have around the house, buttermilk and Golden Cane Sugar. Golden Cane Sugar is a very light brown natural sugar with a fantastic flavor - like brown sugar but not quite as much molasses flavor. I use it in all sorts of things so usually have it around - but you can very easily substitute one tablespoon of regular brown sugar and one of white sugar with no ill effects. The buttermilk, though, really is essential. The slight acidity of the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to make your final bread super light and moist (the bane of many soda bread recipes is that the loaf is heavy and dry). If you are absolutely in a bind, add two tablespoons of white vinegar to the 3/4 cup of milk and let sit at room temperature for 10 will work, but really not as well as real buttermilk. Buttermilk is sold right next to the regular milk at my trusty Stop + Shop, so it's not hard to find...this bread - and Uncle Ed - are worth the real thing.

Irish Soda Bread

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons Golden Cane Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 cup currants

In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. Add the buttermilk and mix thoroughly into a soft dough. Add the currants. Knead the dough lightly on a lightly floured board for 3 minutes or until smooth. Form the dough into a 7 inch flat round, and place in a lightly oiled cake tin. Cut a cross about 1/2 inch deep in the center of the round. Bake in a 375 oven 40 minutes, and cool on a wire rack.

dry ingredients waiting for butter (double batch) 

mix until it's a soft dough

kneading in the currants (my bowl is huge so I can do it right in the bowl)

cut a cross into the top

out of the oven

perfect !!

don't you want some ?

Mark's Lamb doesn't only go with corned beef, of course !