Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pan roasted chicken thighs with shiitake mushroom cream sauce and lemon baby broccoli.

As i mentioned in a previous post, I've taken on a summer challenge to get back in the kitchen with my newly acquired CSA. I love the surprise of veggies I get each Thursday, and even though its about 1,000 degrees in my kitchen, I'm determined not to let that stop me from cooking the bounty of the garden this summer.

This is a spin off of one of my favorites- french roasted chicken, featured earlier in this blog. Scaled down to just 2 servings (and using just one pan), this chicken makes a beautiful and thoughtful presentation for a date, or an intimate Sunday supper when pared with my easy lemon baby broccoli. You can substitute chicken breasts, but in my experience, nothing tastes quite like a roast chicken than a juicy thigh with a little crispy skin. Keeping the bone in keeps the thigh moist and flavorful, and makes overcooking almost impossible.

Made with some super star local ingredients; broccoli, chicken thighs, shiitake mushrooms and garlic, this is one pleasing recipe you'll want to make over and over. 

Lemon Baby Broccoli
1/2 pound baby broccoli, washed and trimmed
1 1/2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
the juice of 1/2 of a lemon
1/4 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a stainless steel pan over medium high heat. While the pan is heating, cut baby broccoli into quarters, or halves if the stems are small. Add the oil to the pan, and heat the oil until it starts to smoke slightly. Add the baby broccoli to the pan, cut side down and sear on each side for approximately 2 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and water and increase heat to high. boil off the water, and remove the broccoli when it is just fork tender. I like my broccoli with a little bite to it, so i keep it on the more al dente side of things.

Prepare the pan for the chicken by wiping out any excess oil or water with a paper towel.

Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs
2 bone in chicken thighs, skin on.
2 tablespoons herbes de provence
1 teaspoon kosher/sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
 2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil

Heat a stainless steel pan over medium high heat. While the pan is heating, wash and dry the chicken thighs. Sprinkle each side with salt and pepper and herbes de provence. Rub the herbs into the chicken, being careful not to remove the skin. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down and sear for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until the skin releases from the pan and is golden brown. (if the skin is still sticking, it isn't ready to turn yet) Turn the chicken over and cook for another 5-7 minutes or until the chicken is done. The chicken is done when the juices run clear near the bone, is springy and firm to the touch, or when an instant read thermometer reads 175 in the fattest section of the meat, making sure to touch the bone when taking the temperature. Set aside the chicken to rest and prepare the pan for the sauce.

Shiitake Mushroom Cream Sauce
1 cup shiitake mushrooms-stems removed and sliced. If mushrooms are dirty, rub them lightly with a damp towel, don't wash.
1/4 cup good quality cream sherry mixed with 3 tablespoons tap water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 garlic clove, minced finely
salt and pepper to taste

Remove most of the extra fat/oil from the pan previously used for the chicken thighs, leaving about a tablespoon to cook the mushrooms. Heat the oil over medium high heat, until the oil shimmers and starts to smoke a little. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook until the mushrooms start to brown. When the mushrooms are seared nicely on each side, add the sherry/water mixture and deglaze the pan, scraping up bits of fond as you go. when the liquid has reduced by 2/3, remove from the heat and add heavy cream and minced garlic. Add any juices that have collected on the plate holding the rested chicken thighs, stir well, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Plate the chicken, and pour over the mushroom sauce. Bon appetite, and try not to lick the plate in front of company.
 Pepper was licking her chops

I got this olive oil at the greek festival, and it is technicolor green, fruity and delicious.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Heaven Cake

To celebrate a friend's time spent in Richmond before she leaves for the almost great white north, I decided to make a cake. Not just any cake, a cake that makes a statement. The evening was planned at a friend's bar,  my sister lauren came up with an awesome dance mix, we planned a surprise burlesque show and a special 2nd surprise guest, involving a lot of zebra spandex that literally knocked her shoes off. I knew this cake had to be a show stopper, or get out shined by the other madness. What better way to make the evening perfect than bringing the world's perfect couple to the party, Peanut Butter and Chocolate.

There are very few things in this world that make people act like total crazies; boy bands, porn and Reese's peanut butter cups. I guarantee you every Halloween party you have ever been to has had Reese's cups, and you know they always go first. You can never make them better home made, and their smell lingers around your head after, like you just made out with them.  The genius that is the marriage of chocolate and peanut butter is transformed into a sexy, glossy and classy cake, hoping to emulate the perfection of the Reese's peanut butter cup.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Heaven Cake

Yellow Wedding Cake
Yellow butter cake recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Baking Handbook and my grandmother's own yellow cake recipe.
You will need 1 10x3 cake pan

3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 cups cake flour (not self-rising
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups heavy cream with 1/4 cup milk added to the cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place the rack in the center of the oven. Butter the 10x3 round cake pan; line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 10 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla. Beat for another 5-10 minutes until the mixture is light, fluffy and smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the cream and beginning and ending with the flour; mix on low until combined after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans, and smooth. Tap the pan a couple times on the counter to remove any excess bubbles. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until cake is golden brown and a cake tester/bamboo skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 60-70  minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool 30 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Re invert cakes and let them cool completely in the fridge for at least 4 hours, top side up.

Peanut Butter Frosting
This filling would also be excellent as a filling for a cookie.

6 ounces room temp Philadelphia cream cheese (seriously- don't mess around with other brands)
1 cup smooth/creamy peanut butter- preferably Skippy. Do not use natural peanut butter because it will separate.
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Cream the cream cheese and peanut butter on high for 2-3 minutes or until combined. add in the powdered sugar, vanilla, salt and cream and mix well. use immediately. if the mixture is too soft, add more powdered sugar. if the mixture is too hard, add more cream.

Chocolate Ganache
The corn syrup can be omitted if need be, but it really does add a nice gloss to the final product. 

16 ounces semi sweet peanut butter chips
1/3 cup clear/light corn syrup
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt

In a heavy sauce pan, bring the cream to a simmer, being careful not to scorch the cream. add the corn syrup, salt and chocolate and let sit for 5-6 minutes. stir well, and strain if needed. let the mixture sit in your fridge for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally until the mixture is thickened, but pourable.

Unwrap and freeze 12 Reese's Peanut butter cups (substitutions are not recommended) in a large plastic zip top bag. Once frozen, smash the pb cups with a mallet or the bottom of a large mug until you have tiny chunks. Place back in the freezer until you are ready to use.

Assemble the cake

Using a large serrated knife, cut the top off the cake, making it flat. Cut the cake through the middle, creating 2 even layers. Using the middle of the cake as the bottom, and the bottom (flattest side) of the cake as the top, generously top one layer ("the ugly layer") of the cake with the peanut butter frosting, and place the 2nd layer on top using the bottom of the cake as the top of the cake (the smooth un-cut side). Using that peanut butter frosting you have left, smooth out the sides of the cake, filling holes or gaps that may exist for smooth sides. Once you have smoothed the sides, let the cake rest in the fridge for 2 hours. This may seem like a long time, but it is absolutely necessary. Keep the ganache on the counter so it remains pourable.

Move the refrigerated cake onto a wire baking rack that is placed on top of a jelly roll/cookie pan.

Pour the ganache slowly over the center of the cake, using an off set spatula to guide the ganache to the sides, and patch holes as needed. If the ganache seems too runny, place the ganache and the cake back in the fridge for another hour, and try again, whisking the ganache vigorously after refrigeration to remove any lumps. Working slowly, use all the ganache, place the cake back in the fridge for 20 minutes. Using the palm of your hand, press the Reese's cup peices into the sides of the cake, working quickly and being careful to avoid the top. Refrigerate for another 4 hours, and serve to your drooling guests.

Beet greens pesto

I'm excited to post this because i hope that it will make me post more in the coming weeks.  I just started getting a CSA and I'm excited to have the challenge of cooking all sorts of great things this summer.
When i picked up my first CSA and it had beets in it- i decided to zip something up quick with the really beautiful looking greens they came with.

Pesto is one of those no recipe, recipes. No one makes it the same, and it can be anything you want it to be, from an easy pasta sauce, to a marinade or even just garnish. Trade out the beet greens for arugula, mint or spinach, or just use all basil. Switch out the type of nut you use, the type of hard cheese or even add some crushed red pepper or curry powder for some spice. These were my measurements, but you don't really need a recipe- just make it taste good to you. The more you make it- the more things you'll think of to put it on! (eggs, pizza and grilled cheese being favorites of mine)

Freeze leftover pesto, or it will keep in the fridge for about 5 days. If you keep your pesto in the fridge, make sure the surface of the pesto is covered well with oil, and replace the oil as needed. Hopefully your pesto will be so delicious- it will be gone before you can start the sniff testing. 

Beet greens pesto. 
the tops from 3 large beets- or approximately 2 cups
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup basil
1/4 cup walnuts- toasted
the juice and the zest of one large lemon
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed.
3/4 cup grated asiago cheese
1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil- good quality
salt and pepper

Wash and drain the beet greens. remove any large veins/stems and set aside.
In a large pot, boil water and salt it liberally. add the white vinegar and boil the beet green tops for 3-4 minutes. Shock the beet greens in an ice water bath, and transfer the greens to a salad spinner/dry cloth. Dry the greens well, and chop them into 2 inch pieces.

While the water is boiling, toast your walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat (or in a toaster oven set to "light brown" for approx 2-4 minutes). This may seem like a step you'll want to skip, but I've found that toasting the nuts is essential. The oils come out and the flavors develop much deeper with a light toasting.

In a large blender or food processor, add all ingredients except for, salt, pepper and oil. pulse multiple times and once the mixture is the texture of salsa, start drizzling in the oil slowly so it emulsifies. when the mixture is smooth and glossy, test for salt and pepper, add if needed.

enjoy with a friend, because your garlic dragon breath won't matter that much if you both reek.