A new look at cooking and home decorating...with an attempt to add more greens to the plate, more vegetarian options & hopefully lots of new ideas to explore

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chicken Satay

OK. Perhaps we think of this as well, a throwback to another time. Maybe so, but I did have it when I was out to dinner recently and it caught me off guard. It was good. The chef had added turmeric, which gave the chicken a lovely golden color. I set out to make my own version with the easy addition of chili garlic sauce (look for it in ethnic isle at your regular grocery store) then I grilled the chicken. Serve this with the traditional peanut sauce for your next gathering. It goes surprisingly well with many of the “Small Plate dishes” that we have all been serving of late.

20-30 wooden skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes prior to use
About 1 pound of boneless, skinless, chicken breasts- (thin cut for scaloppini) cut into
20-30 bite size pieces (try to cut them about 1 ½ - 2” in length and around 1” wide, or as best you can.
¼ cup canola oil
3-4 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon chili garlic sauce
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1” knob of the inner, softer, part of Lemongrass, minced
Grated zest of 1 lime
1 teaspoon minced cilantro, (a small handful before mincing)
¼ teaspoon each, ground pepper and kosher salt
Oil or nonstick spray for your grill

Place the chicken into a mixing bowl with the oil, garlic, chili garlic sauce, turmeric, lemongrass, lime zest, and cilantro and let marinate for about 1 hour. Push the skewers through the chicken. Spray or oil the grill. Turn the heat to high (I am using a grill pan so you might want to adjust if using a outdoor grill). Place chicken on the grill and cook for about 2–3 minutes per side or just until chicken is cooked through on each side.

Peanut Dipping Sauce

A nice sauce/dip to have with chicken or beef Satay

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
Juice from 1 lime
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
2 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

In a medium bowl combine the peanut butter and the limejuice. In a small saucepan add the oil, chili sauce and garlic. Cook on medium high heat for a few minutes, just until the garlic becomes fragrant. Whisk the hot oil mixture into the peanut butter. Re-season with a pinch of salt and additional chili sauce if you prefer a spicier sauce.

* Chili garlic sauce is by Lee Kum Kee and I get it at my regular grocer.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How to boil Eggs

This seems to be an easy enough task, unfortunately I have seen plenty greenish/grayish eggs-enough of them to think that I should share my method.

Boil a pot of water in a Kettle
Place eggs into a pot. Fill the pot slowly with the boiled water, enough to cover eggs by about 1”. Turn heat to high until a soft boil returns. Reduce heat slightly (enough so that the eggs are not bouncing around the pan). Simmer for 11 minutes. Prepare an ice bath- a bowl filled with ice and water. After eggs have finished cooking remove them from the hot water and slide them into the ice bath to cool slightly. This will help prevent horrid looking green eggs; instead the center will be golden.

*There are many other methods for boiling an egg. I like this one because its simple and it works- that’s not to say that other methods won’t work as well.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Prosciutto wrapped Asparagus

1 Bunch of asparagus, trimmed
2 packages of Prosciutto (or Serrano ham) 4 oz each
Olive oil
Salt, freshly ground pepper

Preheat to 400

Divide each slice of Prosciutto in thirds lengthwise; roll each piece of asparagus in Prosciutto. Once wrapped, place all of the pieces on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place in oven for about 10 minutes.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spit Roasted leg of lamb

The origins of this dish are mainly Greek. I purchased a leg of lamb, boned it, saved the bones for stock and cooked the meat on the spit. All this trouble is unnecessary though. I went through the trouble since I am planning to use the bones for lamb stock. If you want to skip this step, simply visit your butcher and ask for your leg of lamb boned and tied for spit roasting.

4-5 cloves garlic, skin removed
1 cup olive oil
Place the lamb into a large plastic baggie along with the oil and garlic-

Marinate in fridge 1-2 days

When ready to cook-
2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1-2 Tablespoons dried oregano or Marjoram
Juice from ½ a lemon
½ teaspoon paprika (Spanish)

Remove lamb from marinade, lay it flat on a countertop and season it on both sides with salt pepper and Marjoram. (If pre tied just do your best to stuff some seasonings inside log of meat. Add the Marinade liquid (oil) and rub it into the meat and scatter the garlic cloves over the meat (or stuff then into the log). Pour the juice from half a lemon all over the lamb. Roll, and then tie up the meat with about 2-3 feet of butchers twine, so that it will not come loose on the spit. Insert metal rod and rotisserie prongs to hold the meat in place. Season the outer areas of the lamb with paprika then place in your oven to cook for 2- 2 ½ hours. I prefer a longer cooking time so that the outer parts of the lamb get almost crunchy, though this obviously will cause the inner areas to be pink but not medium rare, as many American are used to eating their lamb.

Optional garnishes-
Lamb sauce – I like to take the lamb juices, skimmed of fat and strained, and add them to a saucepan. Add in about 1 tablespoon demi-glaze, 1 cup water, a dash of heavy cream and season with salt and pepper. Cook this down to desired consistency and serve over lamb.
Lemon confit- if you made lemon confit (see recipe) then you will remove 1 lemon from salty brine, rinse it, cut off pulp and white pith and mince up yellow zest. This adds a nice salty note to the lamb and pretty color as well
Chive oil- if you have some around it add a lovely green color
Tapinade- (see recipe) chunks of tapinade all over the lamb are fantastic

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ham and Mahon cheese Croquettes

This style croquettes are often served as part of Spanish Tapas. As part of Tapas they are quite elegant. The big bonus here, is that children seem to love them as well.

1 oz of Mahon cheese, grated
4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk, warm
Large pinch of salt
1 ham steak (7oz) rind removed and minced (I am using Smithfield)

1-2 eggs scrambled
½-1 cup wondra flour
Vegetable oil for frying

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (I am using non-stick). Over medium to low heat whisk in the flour or stir it in with a wooden spoon. Slowly, stir in the milk. Stir to make sure there are no lumps. Raise heat to high and keep stirring. Mixture will thicken like pudding and pull away from sides of the pan. Whisk or stir in cheese, salt and ham. Chill mixture in refrigerator 2-3 hours.

You can use a large melon baler to scoop, or about ½ of a heaping tablespoon of batter. Take the batter and roll into a ball. Repeat with remaining batter. Dip the batter into the scrambled egg then roll in the wondra flour.

Fry in 350-degree oil for about 3-5 minutes or until a little golden in color.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hello, Cupcake!

Hello, Cupcake! -a book by Karen Tack & Alan Richardson

I first walked by the beautiful cupcakes at Sur La Table. They looked so nice, and perfect, I thought no way will I ever attempt that kind of cake decorating. That, is for people who decorate wedding cakes, not me. When I got home I looked the book up online and it turns out that most of the cupcake tricks and decorations are made from stuff that anyone can get in a grocery store or gas station! The book even uses canned frosting, boxed mixes, goldfish, Oreo’s, and wait for it…, yes, Twinkies!

I returned to Sur La Table and picked up a copy.

My kids spent hours looking through the book, trying to decide which cupcakes they want for their next birthday party. This morning we set up bowls of goodies and frosting then they went to work (for hours and hours I tell you) creating their own “faces” on the cupcakes. Granted, our cupcakes don’t look quite as pretty as the ones in the book yet, but having read the book I now feel like I too can create Martha like goodies for the next bake sale. At $15.95 the book was better and more fun that any babysitter, gave us great and very creative ideas and was a huge hit.

Bobby Flay, Grill It

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Chicken on a Spit

Many modern ovens include a rotisserie option. I find this is a great way to cook a 4-5 pound bird. It is easy, and a snap to prepare. I love the idea of the chicken cooking around lunchtime while I work on other projects. The rotisserie will help give you nice crispy skin and very tender and juicy dark meat.

One 4-5 pound chicken
1 head of garlic with the top cut off
1 lemon, quartered
2- tablespoons room temp butter
Salt and pepper

This is about as simple as it gets. You will place garlic and as much lemon as will fit into the cavity of the chicken. If you have a few thyme sprigs feel free to throw those in as well. Truss the chicken with twine (see how to truss a chicken) then rub the outside with butter. Season the outside with salt and freshly ground pepper. Insert the metal spit and place chicken in rotisserie. You will want to cook this, as per the time given in the instructions that came with your oven. My oven suggests 2 hours, presumably this factors in the amount of time the oven takes to heat up. Feel free to throw in a handful of sliced or diced potatoes on a baking sheet to soak up the chicken drippings. Yum.

Spit Roasting

Spit Roasting is a great way to prepare a dinner. Options include spit roasting on your grill or in an oven. In both cases a metal rod is inserted through a piece of meat and then into a mechanical device, which will turn the meat continuously while cooking. I am spit roasting in my large countertop oven, so, cooking times may vary slightly if you are using an outdoor grill.

Traditionally, large portions of lamb, duck, and pork are prepared on the spit. If fact, some people claim that spit roasting is the best way to prepare duck, since duck is so fatty it bastes it self as it turns. Don’t be put off from buying a spit device because you think them too complicated. They are quite simple to use and will free you to focus on other parts of your meal. A butcher can tie up the meat for you and you can simply insert the rod then set the timer.

Monday, May 12, 2008

How to Bone a Leg of Lamb

A butcher can bone a leg of lamb for you, but I find it can just as easily be done at home. In order to cook, roast or otherwise, the much of the outer fat of the lamb leg can be removed especially any purple inspection stamps. Try to leave a smaller layer of fat directly over the meat, but with a knife I shave off quite a bit of the excess chunks of fat.

It should be said that roasting a lamb with the bone is more flavorful, but if you are placing the lamb on a spit/rotisserie, grilling the lamb or simply doing a roast for company, sometimes a boned lamb is easier to deal with particularly when it time for carving the meat. The lamb bones need not be wasted though. I save mine for stock. Some butchers will also sell you half a leg, and if you get the part without the “pelvic” bone, carving is quite easy.

I bone the leg of lamb by first removing much of the outer fat, then, staring with the “pelvic” area, make small incisions around the bones with a boning knife, separating the meat from the bone. Once all of the meat has flopped away from the pelvic area, I make one long incision all the way down the primary leg bone. After this incision is made it is quite simple to work the rest of the meat away from the bone. Once the meat is off the bone you will be able to lay it flat on your cutting board.

To butterfly- it is simple enough to “butterfly” the meat at this stage by making 4-5” incisions with your knife wherever the meat looks much thicker than the rest. This will help the meat to cook more evenly.

How to Truss a Chicken

To be perfectly honest, I don’t always truss a chicken when I roast it. I do however; truss a chicken before placing it on a spit. Often, if just roasting the chicken in the oven I will simply tie the legs together at the cavity opening. On the other hand, to place the bird on a spit, in a Rotisserie oven, un-Trussed is crazy because the bird will be flopping around all over your oven.

To truss the chicken, cut yourself about 2 feet of kitchen twine. Place the chicken, with the cavity end facing you on a flat surface. The roundish, knobby part of the leg bones will be upward and facing in your direction. The floppy, tail skin will be on your flat cutting surface.

Take the twine and place it underneath the floppy tail skin, half the twine on one side, half on the other. Bring the twine up the outside of each leg, then into the central cavity area, crossing the strings over as you go.

Take the strings and pull them straight back in the direction of the wings. In doing this the string will pass over the leg, thigh area, and then over the wings. Wind the string over the neck, pulling tightly, and tie.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Salmon Spread (for Mothers Day)

This is so easy to make and a great way to use those few extra pieces of smoked salmon from a dinner party. I plan leave a batch of this in the refrigerator on the night before mothers day, in hopes that someone will offer to toast me a bagel in the morning.
My family can make toast. (I think)

8 oz cream cheese
½-3/4 cup crème fraiche
4-5 slices of smoked salmon, minced
¼ of a red onion, minced
Large pinch of table salt and freshly ground pepper

Place the cream cheese, crème fraiche, salmon, onion, and salt and pepper into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Turn speed to medium and mix until combined. Serve on a toasted bagel, or even better an everything flagel, which is a bagel without all of the dough inside.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tortilla Soup

Inspired by Mexican and other Latin flavors, this soup is a wonderfully warm, spicy and fragrant. Almost an instant cure for mid winter blues, but great in the summer as well.

2 pounds chicken breasts (season toss in 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, and season heavily with salt and pepper.- roast at 450 for about 30minutes or until cooked through. Let cool then chop into large dice)- alternately, dice up a small rotisserie chicken

2 Serrano chilies roasted (roast over a flame until skin is charred or toast in a skillet with a little oil until skin is blistered)- then dice, discard core and seeds

6 flour tortias, quickly fried (see below)

For soup base-
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium size yellow onions, peeled and diced (medium dice)
3 cloves garlic peeled and minced
2 quarts chicken stock
1 can diced tomato (28oz)
2 Serrano chilies (see above)
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper

Place the oil in a 5 quart Dutch oven. Turn heat to medium, add in onions and cook on medium – medium low heat for about 10 minutes stirring often. Add in garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add in the chicken stock, tomatoes, 2 diced serano chilies, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 25-30 minutes. Once the soup base cools slightly puree in blender then transfer to a new pot or serving dish.

To serve/garnish
6-8 Flour tortias, cut to thin strips and shallow fried in vegetable oil for only a moment or two per side) * this garnish is a must! This may be prepared a few hours in advance.
Large handful of chicken
Lime wedges

1 ½ cups jack/ cheddar or Mexican cheeses grated or crumbled
2-3 avocados peeled and diced or spoonfuls of Guacamole
Sour creamRoasted peppers, diced

Monday, May 5, 2008

Huevos Rancheros

A Latin American dish (Mexican) involving fried tortillas, and fried eggs. This is a great late breakfast or even a light supper dish, as it is very filling. The recipe here serves one person, obviously, you will just increase quantities depending on how many people you are serving. Like eggs benni- much of this is about assembly. Canned beans rather than refried beans are used to lighten things up a bit.

2 eggs
1 large handful of fried flour tortillas
1/3 cup homemade or good quality store bought salsa
1/3 cup black beans from a can (drained)
½ of an avocado, diced
1 heaping tablespoon crème fraiche, minced with 1 teaspoon half and half
Freshly minced parsley or cilantro to garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Break the eggs into a small non-stick pan; cook covered, on medium low to medium for about 2-3 minute or until cooked to your liking. Meanwhile place the tortillas onto a plate, spoon on salsa. Slide cook eggs on top of the tortillas and garnish with black beans, and avocado. Drizzle crème fraiche over the top and season with salt, pepper, and a sprinkling of fresh herbs

Please note: feel free to use Mexican crema, or sour cream in place of crème fraiche.


It is so simple to fry tortillas, that a recipe is almost unnecessary.
You will need-
1 package of flour Tortillas (or as many as you wish to fry)- cut into 1/8-1/2” strips
- Cut the very long ones in half
Vegetable oil
Course salt

I fill a 12” skillet half full with cooking oil then place it over medium – high heat. Once oil is hot (you will know it is hot because you will have tested 1 strip of Tortilla in the oil and it will start to cook and turn light golden in color). Add the tortilla strip in batches and cook them quickly. You are not looking for a deep golden color here but rather a “lightly toasted” look. Remove from heat and drain tortillas on paper towels. Season with salt and serve.

Instead of frying

Whole tortillas may also be warmed over a gas flame

Whole flour tortillas can be wrapped in tin foil and warmed in a 350 oven for about 10-15 minutes

Cinco de Mayo

May 5th is the day Cinco de Mayo is celebrated. I can’t tell you much about the history of this holiday, only that it has something to do with the French occupation of Mexico. I can tell you that it is a festive day here in the United States. A day where people have fun and eat great food. That’s enough for me. I must at this point, confess, I had hopes of getting an easy mole recipe for you by now but I have been quite lazy lately. Must be spring fever.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pastry Cream (French)

Pastry cream is not at all difficult to make. This version is enough to fill a tart (about 2 ½ cups). It is quite handy to have around. This version sets up (firms up) quickly so have your tart shell pre baked and ready to fill. If you prefer to make this ahead, as I sometimes do, the cream can be kept in the refrigerator for a couple of days if covered with plastic wrap.

1 ½ cups milk
6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
Pinch of regular table salt
¼ cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons butter cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons rum

First scald the milk and set it aside. (Bring it to just below a boil)

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk on medium-medium high speed for 2-3 minutes or until the color is lighter and the mixture falls over itself like a “ribbon” when drizzled from the whisk. Add in a pinch of salt.

Reduce speed to low and add in the cornstarch, then, slowly add in the milk. Once mixture is combined transfer it to a saucepan.

Whisk mixture non-stop, over medium or high heat until mixture thickens. Lower heat immediately once the mixture “breaks” or looks curdled. Continue to whisk. This mixture will begin to look smoother. Remove from heat and add in butter and rum.

For a tart, pour warm cream into pre-baked tart shell. Garnish with fresh fruit of your choice

To lighten/loosen it up-I often will whisk into to it ½-1cup of cream, measured then whipped.

Apricot Glace for fruit tarts- if making a tart with fresh fruit, you will most likely want to have it look all “shinny” like it’s from a bakery. This is easy enough to accomplish by boiling about ¾-1 cup apricot jam with 3 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons water. Once mixture boils, strain it then brush it over the tart in question.