Thursday, February 15, 2018

Recipe Notes: Ground Beef and Cheese Enchiladas

21 January 2018

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, January 2018

Not too long ago I made enchiladas for the first time.  The verdict was positive, these chicken enchiladas were good, held up well as leftovers, and took just 90 minutes to make. Thus the recipe for a "quicker, but still deeply flavorful" recipe for beef enchiladas in Cook's Illustrated was appealing and worth trying.

Preparing these enchiladas took me 105 minutes. The sauce was first, prepared with dried ancho chiles that were gently toasted then softened with beef broth. These were blended together with sweated onions and garlic, tomato paste, and cumin. I skipped the chipotles in adobo for fear they would make the sauce too spicy. The filling was made from ground beef that was fried with cumin, coriander, and salt then mixed with sweated onions. Shedded Monterey Jack cheese, cilantro, and some of the sauce were added to finish the filling. Tortillas (five-inch white corn tortillas) were coated with oil and baked to soften them, though I am not convinced this step was necessary for the tortillas we were using.  The filled enchiladas were placed in a baking disk, covered with the sauce and Monterey Jack cheese, and baked. The recipe made 11 enchiladas

We enjoyed the enchiladas when they were fresh. As before, two was too many for us, our serving size is about one enchilada each for dinner. The sauce was a little bland and might have been better with the chipotles. The filling was beefy and tender and the sauce had a pleasant chile flavor. As leftovers, these enchiladas were not so good. The sauce soaked into the tortillas making the tortillas mushy and the dish dry overall. These enchiladas were not good enough, especially as leftovers, for us to make again.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Recipe Notes: Brown Sugar Cookies

18 January 2018

Recipe from The Perfect Cookie, America's Test Kitchen, 2017, p. 39; also available online

For Christmas I got two America's Test Kitchen cookbooks, including The Perfect Cookie  with 250 recipes. Where to start? A Facebook group for ATK fans had a series of posts extolling the virtues of Brown Sugar Cookies, so that seemed as good a place as any to start. 

The cookies are easy to make requiring less than 90 minutes to make and bake 22 cookies. (I should note that I made these cookies twice. The first time I did something wrong, I don't know what, and they were inedible. So I tried again and got it right.) All of the mixing is done by hand. Butter is melted and then browned to create toffee/caramel flavors. This is set aside after adding some additional, cold, butter to help cool the butter off and to add some water. While the butter cools the remaining ingredients can be measured. Flour is whisked with baking soda and baking powder. Dark brown sugar and salt are stirred into the cooled butter then an eggs and vanilla extract (a whole tablespoon) are added. The flour mixture is stirred in until the ingredients are just combined. The dough is portioned using a #30 scoop, rolled in a mixture of  brown sugar and white sugar, then baked for about 16 minutes.

I agree with most of the people in the ATK Facebook group who enjoy these cookies. They have a wonderful brown-sugar flavor that is enhanced by the vanilla and brown butter. They are chewy on the inside with a crisp exterior. The texture and flavor hold up well for cookies that are stored at room temperature and those that have been frozen. I will probably make these again, maybe even before trying the remaining 249 recipes in the book.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Recipe Notes: Thick-cut Oven Fries

14 January 2018

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, January 2018

We are looking for a better way to have french fries at home. Frozen fries from the supermarket are convenient, but they're not as good as home made fries. Home made French fries are good, but a lot of work. The recent Cook's Illustrated recipe might provide a good middle ground where we get good, fresh home made fries without all of the fuss that comes with deep frying at home. In addition, these are large "steak fries", the size we generally prefer.

I used the "for Two" version of this recipe that I found online. It uses one pound of Yukon Gold potatoes, which was two potatoes. A sheet pan is sprayed with cooking spray then coated with three tablespoons (which isn't a lot) of oil; the spray includes ingredients that help the oil to spread evenly. The potatoes are coated with a paste made by heating a mixture of corn starch and water to make them crispier. The coated potatoes are baked on the oiled baking sheet, turning them half way through. (The recipe suggested using a spatula for this, I found that tongs worked better.) It took me 50 minutes to prepare this side dish.

The fries were good, but didn't blow us away. They could have been crisper; perhaps I should have cooked them longer or done a better job blotting off the excess oil when they are done. I don't know if this procedure will become a standard for making fries, but it is worth trying again. Next time, though, one potato will be enough for the two of us.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Recipe Notes: Quick Beef and Vegetable Soup

15 January 2018

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated All Time Best Soups, 2016, p. 21; also available online

During the last month or so I have always had a homemade soup on hand. There is nothing better on a cool (or cold) day than a bowl of homemade soup. Thus I was happy to receive a book of soup recipes for Christmas. This is my first effort using a recipe from the book.

The forward to the recipe says it takes 30 minutes. That's true, if you only count the cooking time. Adding in the prep time it took me an hour to have this soup ready to eat. Ground beef (90%) is cooked with onion, carrots, oregano, salt, and pepper. When the pink is gone from the beef, diced tomatoes, beef broth (made with "Better Than Bouillon" concentrate), and potatoes are added. This mixture is simmered until the potatoes are almost done. Green beans are added and the soup is simmered until the vegetables are tender. The soup is served with chopped fresh parsley.

This is good soup and I will probably make it again. It is easy to make (and quick). It is a little spicy from the pepper with good beef flavor from the ground beef and broth, plus some freshness from the tomatoes and oregano.  It improves with time so is a good leftover and we will enjoy having it several times for dinner. The only complaint is that the beef is a little chewy.