Saturday, October 26, 2013

SKC: Plum poppy seed muffins

Plum poppyseed muffinsYet another from back in June (hey, we made a NYC Broadway trip in July, and I don't deal well with interruptions...): June 24.

I didn't make any notes on these, and the memory isn't strong. Vaguely I recall that the chunks of plum were too moist, making little wet pockets (and not jammy ones), and the poppyseeds were a nice crunch but annoyed when they got in your teeth. I'd say I must have cut the plum pieces too large...but looking at the picture, I don't think so.

Put this one down as not bad, but not a high priority for a repeat.

SKC: Peach and sour cream pancakes

Peach sour cream pancakesAnd another catch-up from June, the 23rd for this one:

Younger niece was still away--after diving camp, she travelled with some friends from the Italy year and did at least one or two college visits along the way. Most of the SKC recipes so far had been on her "don't appeal to me" or "don't care about" list, so no worries there. This morning's breakfast, though, was on her "must do" list, and I made it anyway under the influence of her brother. Nephew called me one evening after supper and asked if I'd be willing to cook the peach pancakes with him. No problem! I had ripe peaches and sour cream (the only items that might have needed a grocery store trip) on hand.

Peach sour cream pancakesThe recipe gives a thick batter with sour cream as the 'liquid' (plus one egg), and we did have to scrape at the bowl to get 8 4" pancakes out of it. (I'll use a scant 1/4 c. of batter per, next time.) The peaches are sliced thin, and the slices are placed on top of the batter when it goes on the griddle. A careful flip puts the peach slices directly on the griddle for the second side, where they brown a little. I wouldn't have called it "caramelized" as Deb does--maybe riper peaches would have gotten more browning, or a little sprinkling of sugar might have added to it. Very yummy, and really no more trouble than plain pancakes-from-scratch.

SKC: Fingerlings vinaigrette with sieved eggs and pickled celery

Fingerling (and roasted asparagus) vinaigretteCatch-up post from way back--made this on June 22:

A potato salad, of the vinaigrette variety. Mine was not officially fingerlings, but baby Yukon Gold relatives. Cooked the potatoes along with the egg, and both were done in the time recommended for the egg. I made a half recipe of potatoes and vinaigrette, but made the full amount of pickled celery as the somewhat aged celery in my hydrator needs to go into something. The extra half shallot got sliced into rings and thrown into the pickling solution, too.

Fingerling (and roasted asparagus) vinaigretteAlso on my supper plate was roasted asparagus, maybe somewhat over-roasted (oven temp wasn't high enough, I think, so the spears shriveled before they browned much). There's leftover vinaigrette and half an "roasted asparagus vinaigrette with sieved egg and pickled shallot". (No celery...just didn't work.) Dinner was a double-vinaigrette, then, with the remains of the Pine Street Market smoked brisket, sliced thin and reheated in a little homemade barbecue sauce.

SKC: Wild rice gratin with kale, caramelized onions, and baby Swiss

SKC: wild rice gratinLast night's dinner was this dish from the vegetarian entree section, though my redition was really "Wild rice gratin with kale, caramelized onions, and gruyere and Monterey jack cheeses", as there was some concern (not me personally) that an all-Swiss cheese version would be too....Swiss cheesy. I'll take a vote next time, but I think an all-Gruyere or similar version would be wonderful.

SKC: wild rice gratinThe notes: for the "wild rice blend" I used this Lundberg version found at the DeKalb Farmer's Market, which is brown rice, sweet brown rice, wild rice, Wehani (red) rice, and Black Japonica--much better than the old boxed "long grain and wild rice" with a seasoning packet. I cooked it without salt, but I think it'd be better to add some during the cooking rather than try to season the entire casserole mixture. I cooked 2 cups of the mix then measured the 5 cups cooked from the results, rather than do the math on the water needed for 1-2/3 cups of raw rice. Leftover rice is not a bad thing.

SKC: wild rice gratinNot too much else to note beyond the cheese substitution...I used lacinto kale which is about all I buy these days, and made breadcrumbs from a mixed-grain bread from Publix. (The recipe says "fine, dry breadcrumbs" which could be interpreted as that almost-powder stuff in a blue can...but no. Just no.) I used a 3-quart (13"x9") glass casserole dish instead of the 2 quart called for, and I like the more spread-out version in order to get more bubbly topping. (Also because the oval 2-quart casserole I thought I owned could not be might have been sent off to the thrift store donation bin because of a chip.) Maybe next time the breadcrumb amount will be upped to that same end.

This went over well with sister-in-law, nephew, and even cheese-ambivalent younger niece. I think it will get a repeat, and before that I'll be trying the leftovers with a soft-boiled egg.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

SKC: Buttered Popcorn Cookies and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

I am not making much progress getting my blogging caught up with my cooking from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook--you'd think those 2 weeks of furlough would have done it, but no. It seems I need that external pressure of a baking group to manage to blog as I go. But anyway....

SKC: Buttered popcorn cookiesSKC: Buttered popcorn cookies, doughI did some cookie baking this weekend for an event younger niece is going to, and picked 2 recipes from SKC to try. First up was Buttered Popcorn Cookies--a basic cookie (butter, brown and white sugar, egg, flour, etc.) with buttered, salted popcorn folded into the dough. Instead of starting with popcorn kernels and oil in a pan, I fudged with some mini-bags of microwave popcorn, then proceeded with the tossing with butter and salt as in the recipe. I mixed this one up with a hand mixer--it was fast and easy. It's a pretty minimal amount of dough to the pile of popcorn, but as Deb writes in the recipe, it will work.

The verdict from me and from niece and nephew is that these are rather blah. Maybe a popcorn fanatic would like the novelty of popcorn in a cookie, but none of us were very taken with the cookie bits and found the popcorn just a little odd. I didn't get any popcorn/butter/salt taste, either, which would seem to be the point. Put the recipe in the "interesting, but not to be repeated" pile.

SKC: Chocolate peanut butter cookiesThe Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies are quite a contrast: not easy to make, but an excellent result. It's a good thing that the cookies are headed to an event with a bunch of (presumably) hungry teenagers tonight--I sure don't need such enticing calories in my house. This sandwich cookie plays off the perennial favorite combo of chocolate and peanut butter with a rich PB cookie and a ganache-ish filling. Is it a ganache if the chocolate is melted with PB and butter?

I made the dough yesterday, wrapped it and put it in the fridge overnight, then did the slice-and-bake bit today after giving the dough 30 minutes in the freezer to facilitate slicing. The dough is very crumbly--Deb offers the option of rolling out and cutting the cookies (though she warns that it's difficult), but I don't see how it could be done. I was always sticking corners back on slices, and sometimes the slice would break into big pieces. One good thing is that if you stick the pieces back together, the baked cookie will then hold together. However, any cracks you leave showing as it enters the oven will probably still show after baking.

The chocolate filling also gave me fits, but I blame myself on that one. I melted the ingredients and let it sit at room temp to thicken...but that was taking a while. Then I put the bowl in the fridge to speed up the process and it emerged looking just about perfect--I was stirring and getting a good "stiff frosting" feel. I put the bowl down and texted younger niece to come over and help make the sandwich cookies, but when she walked in less than ten minutes later the chocolate was a hard brittle mass. Guess I should have just stirred constantly! After a little time in the double boiler I got the mass back to a reasonable spreading consistency, though it still went from flowing to quite stiff very quickly if left sitting.

Not an easy cookie to make (though I think it will be easier on a second attempt), but definitely worth it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chicken 2 ways: Mediterranean-Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts and Fiery Asian Chicken

While I'm furloughed by the government shutdown, there's time to do some week-night cooking. I dug through my paper recipe clippings (neglected now that I mostly save recipes to try in the Paprika app) and came up with these two.

DSCN9503Mediterranean-Style Stuffed Chicken Breasts I found on Leite's Culinaria, but it originated in a Kraft Foods cookbook. It's an old-style suffed chicken breast recipe, this time with a cream cheese base (Kraft, duh), bacon, Kalamata olives, almonds, and thyme. I used 3 large breasts instead of the 4 small called for, but otherwise followed the recipe.

It was pretty good, though I found the almonds provided an odd crunch (the bacon de-crisped itself once folded into the cream cheese and cooked, so no crunch there). Most of the Leite's testers seemed to like that crunch, but to me it was just...odd. And didn't add any flavor.

If I repeat this one, the almonds are out. I also made some of it without the olives as the plan had been to share dinner prep with the folks next door--a couple of olive-avoiders over there. The plan fell through (sister-in-law came in from a harried work day and moved straight into dinner prep on her own), so I'll try those as leftovers.

The Fiery Asian Chicken originated on Always Order Dessert. I used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and grilled them (no picture, sorry). They were good, but pretty dominantly "hot" without much balance from the other ingredients. Not too spicy for me, just not a superior recipe. Might get repeated, might not...