kristin classic #2: foothill house sweet dreams

What makes a good chocolate chip cookie? Much like the great culinary face-offs of coffee vs tea, meat vs vegetarian (I still don’t know why this is even a question), chunky vs creamy, it seems everyone has a clear preference when it comes to cookies: crispy vs chewy, nuts vs none, etc., etc., etc.  The Sweet Dreams, I believe, are so delicious that they will please anyone. A little crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, optional nuts, and best of all, a little hint of spice and a light dusting of crystalized sugar. My mouth is watering.

I don’t remember when I first made these cookies, but I am sure I’ll be making them for years to come.  The recipe came from a bed and breakfast cookbook tucked away in my parents’ shelves, and I believe the initial creation was part of a Christmas-present-cookie-baking-extravaganza. They are hands-down my favorite chocolate chip recipe, and I have a hard time not eating all the cookie dough first.  I have made some modifications from the original recipe, adding in the nutmeg and cloves.  The spices give the cookies a wintry, christmas-y feel, but are certainly delicious ANY time of the year. The key part of this recipe is allowing the dough to chill, so they cook up all crispy AND chewy.  Enjoy!

Foothill House Sweet Dreams
adapted from: The American Country Inn Bed and Breakfast Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12 ounce package semisweet chocolate chips (I bet dark chocolate chips would be even better!)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cupish powdered sugar

What to do:

  1. Cream butter. Beat in brown sugar, egg and vanilla.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmegs, cloves, and salt. Blend into butter mixture.
  3. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. Refrigerate until firm.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheets.
  5. Roll dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter.  Cover a small plate in powdered sugar and gently roll the balls in it, covering them completely. Arrange on cookie sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake 10 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on sheets. Transfer to racks and cool. Store in an airtight container if you haven’t already demolished the whole batch. Makes about 6 dozen.
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classic recipe #1: baked brie

I’ve decided to start a new line of posts: “classic” kristin recipes.  While it is always difficult to truly define what makes something a “classic,” I’ve decided that, for the purposes of this endeavor, a “kristin classic” is a particularly delicious dish that I have

made many, many times, and had many, many requests from my diners for making it again.  Nothing fits the bill better than my Baked Brie.  First created many years ago while spending a summer in DC, this has become a staple at most, if not all, of my gatherings.  It has become so popular that my mother even bought me a baked-brie specific dish for Christmas one year.

The beauty of baked brie is that its actually quite simple to make, but will make a big impact on all those who try it.  While the recipe calls for raspberry jam, I encourage you to experiment with other flavors as well.  My challenge to you is to make a baked brie as big as your head, which you can see I was able to do several years ago.

Baked Brie in Phyllo

Ingredients:

  • 1 (6inch – any size will do, really) round of brie (it must be a complete round, not two halves, otherwise the cheese will ooze out of the package and make a big burnt mess)
  • 4-5 sheets phyllo dough, defrosted (more if you feel like it. but make
  • sure its defrosted, it makes it easier to handle)
  • 4 TB plus of butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup good quality raspberry jam
  • Something delicious to eat it with (I prefer thin wheat crackers)

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using a cutting board or other clean work surface, layer phyllo dough, spreading each sheet with melted butter.
  2. Spread half the jam in center of the dough, top with brie and spread the rest of the jam on top of the brie.  Bring the edges of the phyllo dough up over the top and seal well, using most of the remaining butter.  It makes a nice “package.”
  3. Turn the “package” over and brush the top well with the rest of the butter. Place, messy side down, in a glass or ceramic baking dish or pie pan, and bake for 20 minutes (more or less depending on the size of the brie round).  The top should be slightly browned.
  4. Remove and let sit for at least 20 minutes before serving – the less you let it sit, the more liquidy the brie will be. I often find that it is impossible to wait more than 5 minutes post-oven before eating it.  Serves ten as a snack, or about three-four cheese lovers.
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long time, no post! … and bahamian meal #1: angels on horseback, island-style

After a whirlwind of a summer, and packing to move to my new job in Eleuthra, an island of the Bahamas, my blog posting pretty much went on hiatus.  Not a permanent hiatus, however!  As you can see by yesterday’s post, I am back in cooking shape and making the best of my options here on Eleuthera. One of my goals is to cook as much local food as possible! There are some delicious, interesting options, including conch, lobster, lionfish, mangoes, bananas, limes, cassava, sweet potatoes, watermelon, pumpkin, avocado, genips, tamarind, passion fruit, sapadillies, and other random tropical fruits.   A few weeks ago, as part of a culinary challenge, I (along with the help of others) whipped up a little appetizer, made entirely of local food (please note that while this particular bacon was not local to Eleuthera, it is possible to acquire local pork).  This is an original recipe, and I have to say, turned out quite delicious.  Key aspects of this recipe include NOT fully cooking the bacon and lobster before you assemble the treats, as this step will happen in the oven. I’d be curious to experiment with a little crushed red pepper to see if this holds up well to some heat.

Angels on Horseback, Island-style

Ingredients:

  • 1 large lobster tail
  • Half of an onion
  • Salt
  • 1 lime
  • 1 mango
  • 10-12 strips of bacon
  • Toothpicks

What to do:

1) Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a medium saucepan, submerge the lobster in cold water, add onion, salt, and lime wedges. Bring to a boil and cook until flesh is white, about 5-8 minutes. Don’t worry about overcooking, in fact, its better to leave it a little undercooked.  Let cool.

2) Meanwhile, heat a skilled to medium-high and cook bacon, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook until about halfway done, much of the fat should have cooked off but the bacon should still be somewhat limp. Drain on paper towel.

3) Cut mango into slices, and then in half.  Take the lobster tail and cut it into bite-sized chunks, as many as you have bacon slices.  Lay the bacon out flat, place a chunk of lobster meat in the middle and a slice of mango on top. Carefully wrap the bacon around the lobster/mango, flip the whole package over and arrange on a cookie sheet or other baking tray (should have sides to it so grease doesn’t drip off into oven and start a fire).  Cook for about 10 minutes, or until bacon has crisped up.  Serve with lime wedges, and enjoy!

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bahamian meal #2 (9/8/2010): roasted vegetable and quinoa soup

So, technically, this is not a true Bahamian meal, since there are zero local bahamian foods in it.  However, this is a meal made entirely of foods found in the back of the kitchen where I go “shopping” every week for supplies.  I’ve realized that most of my cooking here will be “throw stuff together and see what happens,” relying more on my culinary “skills” than any “recipe.”  This makes cooking, along with most of my endeavors down here in the Bahamas, quite an adventure.

I had recently made turkey stock with the leftovers from my roommate’s roast turkey, and was looking for a reason to use it.  I had: random vegetables, potatoes, and some quinoa, and the resulting soup took form.  I went with the Thomas Keller approach of cooking all of the ingredients individually and then adding them to the hot stock, and it worked out quite delightfully. I love this technique because it allows you to truly taste the individual flavors instead of one big mush of soup.  With the quinoa and potatoes, this makes for a hearty dinner all on its own, but a bit of bread and butter makes for a nice addition, as well as giving you something to sop up the delicious broth!

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups of turkey, chicken, or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of quinoa, cooked according to the directions on the package
  • 2 – 3 medium onions OR 1 pound of cippolini onions (can’t get those here, just had to use regular ones)
  • 2 green peppers, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 3 medium sized potatoes
  • 3 medium carrots
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley

What to do:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the eggplant about 1/2 inch thick, lay slices on a cookie sheet and salt generously on both sides.
  2. Boil water in a small saucepan, and blanche the onions for 30 – 60 seconds.  Remove, drain, and let cool.  Once you can handle the onions, peel them and, if you’re using full sized onions, cut them into quarters.  Toss the peppers, onions, and garlic in a casserole dish, season with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast until vegetables are tender, about 30-40 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, throughly wash the potatoes and chop into approximately 1 inch cubes.   Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other spices you have available (Rosemary, sage, and/or garlic salt are good choices, if you want a little heat, add some crushed red pepper. My spice options are limited here, so I had to stick with good old S&P).  Spread on a cookie sheet, and bake in the oven with the vegetables for about 20-30 minutes, or until you can pierce them with a knife. Then, to crisp them up a bit, stick them under the broiler for about one minute. 
  4. Once the potatoes and vegetables are in the oven, scrape the salt off of the eggplant and put the sheet in the oven as well.  With a little maneuvering, you should be able to fit all three (casserole with veggies, eggplant, and potatoes) in the oven at the same time.  Roast for about 20 minutes, or until tender.  Once they are cooked, cut into bite-sized chunks.
  5. While the food in the oven is a-roasting, chop the carrots into bite-sized pieces.  Put the carrots in a skillet, cover with cold water, and add the brown sugar (honey also works well).  Bring water to a boil and then simmer until just tender, checking occasionally, about 10-12 minutes.  Remove from heat, drain, and set carrots aside.
  6. Heat the stock in a large pot over medium heat.  Add roasted vegetables,potatoes, and quinoa to the stock (if some vegetables finish cooking before others, that is fine, they will re-heat in the stock).  Simmer until heated through, stir in the chopped parsely, and serve!

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meal #6 (2/14/10): beef bourguignon, courtesy of julia child

I decided to take advantage of the first weekend of my February vacation, as well as three delightful dinner guests, to tackle one of Julia Child’s most delicious and infamous recipes: beef bourguignon.  Her The Art of French Cooking cookbook was a much-desired birthday present, and many pounds of happy beef steak tips were burning a hole in my freezer, just begging to be cooked into a delicious stew.   This recipe took a loooooong time, but was well worth it.  Be aware that this meal actually involved THREE recipes – you cook the mushrooms and onions separately and then mix them together into delicious stew form.

I love cookbooks that not only give you excellent recipes, but also teach you useful cooking methods/tools/tips that you can apply in other circumstances.  For example, mushrooms. I’ve always sauteed mushrooms in a pan with a bit of olive oil, cooking them down until most of the moisture is gone and cooked off.  However, thanks to Julia, I learned that cooking them briefly over high heat KEEPS IN the moisture and makes for an amazingly delicious, juicy, cooked mushroom.   A whole new world of mushrooms has now been opened up to me!

Here are the recipe(s).  I’d suggest doing some serious time-management, for example, you can cook the mushrooms/onions while part of the stew is a-brewin.

Ingredients:

  • One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes (I got fancy and used steak tips from my meat CSA, but you can use cheaper cuts as well – the beef will become nice and tender during the braising process)
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 TB flour
  • 3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
  • 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • A crumbled bay leaf

What to do:

  1. Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
  3. Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat remaining bacon fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Remove with slotted spoon and add it to the lardons.
  4. In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.
  5. Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust).  Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.
  6. Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.  Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.
  7. Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.*** When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.
  8. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.
  9. In saucepan, skim fat off sauce and simmer for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.  If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.
  10. Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.  Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.  I served mine with big, hearty slices of sourdough bread, accompanied by lots of butter (duh!).

***While the meat is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. I kept these recipes separate, as this is an excellent way to prepare these vegetables for use in any stew/soup.

Delicious, Flavorful Onions (I am sure this way of preparing them has some fancy french name, but alas, my cookbook is not with me right now so you’ll have to make do with “delicious and flavorful”):

Ingredients:

  • 18 to 24 white onions, small (I used pearl onions)
  • 1 1/2 TB butter
  • 1 1/2 TB olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of beef stock
  • Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
  • Salt and pepper

What to do:

  1. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a medium-sized skillet (with a lid).
  2. Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.
  3. Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.
  4. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.

Juicy and Tender Mushrooms:

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 TB butter

What to do:

  1. In a medium-large skillet (big enough to fit all of the mushrooms in one layer), heat oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.
  2. Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.  Be sure not to over-cook the mushrooms, you want them browned but done cooking before the liquid has begun to escape.
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meal #5 (2/13/10): braised short ribs with daikon radishes and shiitake mushrooms

Let the adventures in braising begin! Ever since my parents got me two beautiful enameled cast-iron pots for christmas, I’ve been wanting to braise something. Anything. Fortunately I was able to find some short ribs in the “bonus meats” cooler at my meat CSA pick-up.  I found this recipe in the Best of the Best cookbook (also a gift from the rents) and decided to tackle it despite the weird, unfamiliar foods and spices like daikon radishes and cardamon.  A few notes on this recipe – it is fairly complicated, so leave yourself plenty of time.  The cookbook said to serve it with a Cucumber-Radish Remoulade, but I didn’t include it here.  I made it, although it tasted fine, something about mayonnaise and hot beef just didn’t do it for me.  Just get some nice, crusty bread, throw some Kate’s Butter on there, and you’ll be good to go. I could also imagine that this would be delicious over egg noodles.

About the weird, unusual ingredients – I’d recommend traipsing over to a Whole Foods or similar specialty grocery store to look for the spices and the Daikon radishes (large, white, almost potato-looking things).

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the different textures and flavors in this meal.  The beef was really tender, and the radishes had a creamy texture. Enjoy!

Beef Short Ribs with Daikon Radish and Shiitake
From Best of the Best Volume 10, by the editors of Food and Wine magazine

Ingredients:

  • 3 TB extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 lbs short ribs, trimmed of excess fat
  • Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large red onions, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and finely grated
  • 1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 cups low-sodium canned beef broth (or home-made beef stock, if you’re feeling fancy)
  • 2 TB fermented hot black bean paste
  • 1 TB dark soy sauce (I used regular, since I had no idea what “dark” soy sauce meant)
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 6 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves only

What to do:

1) Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 275 degrees

2) In a medium cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over high heat, warm 2 TBs of the olive oi. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper and sear until golden brown on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the short ribs and pour off all but 2 TBs of the fat from the pot (if you use happy meats, you’ll likely not have much fat to pour off).

3) Add the onions, gingerroot, and the mushrooms and saute, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the star anise, Szechuan pepper, and cardamom and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Stir in the beef stock, bean paste, and soy sauce.  Ad the daikon radish and return the short ribs to the pot. Bring to a simmer.

4) Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Braise for 4 hours, or until the meat is very tender, checking the short ribs occasionally and spooning off any excess fat that rises to the surface.  If the sauce is too thin or is not flavored instensely enough, ladle most of it off into another pot and simmer it until it thickens and intensified.  Then add it back to the first pot.

5) To serve: In a medium skillet over medium heat, warm the remaining 1 TB olive oil.  Add the scallions and garlic and cook until softened, 1 to 2 minutes.  Sprinkle the scallion mixture and cilantro leaves over the short ribs.

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meal #4 (2/4/10): sweet potato fries with basil salt

I love sweet potatoes! I was first introduced to this delicious item in fry form at a seaside fried-fish shack in York Beach, Maine, and it was about time I attempted to make them on my own.  I got this recipe on the Food Network site via a Google search, it is simple and has an extra pop of basil salt.  One suggestion – be sure to alter the cooking time according to how thick you cut your fries. I’ve made these several time since, and found success baking as directed until almost done, and then sticking them under the broiler for a few minutes until they crisp up.

Sweet Potato Fries with Basil Salt
By Giada De Laurentis, adapted from http://www.foodnetwork.com

Ingredients:

  • 5 sweet potatoes, cut into about 1 by 5-inch “fries”
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the sweet potato “fries” on a foil-lined baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Bake until golden, about 45 minutes (or less, depending on how big your fries are (hehe).  Check after about 20 minutes.)
Meanwhile combine the basil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  When the sweet potato fries come out of the oven, sprinkle with the basil salt.

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