Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Notes: June 2016

5 June 2016

"Skillet-Roasted Chicken in Lemon Sauce"

Recipe from the June 2016 Cook's Illustrated

This recipe for lemon chicken is inspired by a famous dish at Rao's, a famous Italian restaurant in New York City. (Nope, I had never heard of it.) We like the Chinese restaurant versions of lemon chicken so this seemed worth trying.

The recipe calls for 3 pounds of bone-in chicken pieces. I purchased a 4.5 pound whole chicken (air chilled organic at Lucky, $2.99/lb) which provided 2.75 pounds of chicken after being broken down: two legs, two thighs, four breast pieces. Dinner took two hours to prepare but it would have been less if I had remembered to turn on the oven sooner. The chicken was served with sautéd carrots, noodles, and Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc. The recipe claims it will serve four; it will likely serve the two of us for four meals. 

The chicken pieces were brined for 50 minutes then browned in a skillet until the skin was golden and crispy. While the chicken rested the sauce was made using oil, butter, shallot, garlic, flour, chicken broth, lemon zest, and lemon juice. The chicken was gently added to the sauce then roasted in a 475&deg oven until done; this took about 20 minutes, significantly longer than the recipe suggested.  The carrots and noodles were started when the chicken was placed into the oven; both were ready well before the chicken was done. Some chopped fresh parsley and oregano were combined with a little lemon zest and added to the sauce just before serving and used as a garnish on the serving plate.

The chicken was very good, moist and nicely cooked but the sauce disappointed. It was too too acidic, too tangy from the lemon juice. It improved some when served as a left over and made a nice dressing for noodles and boiled potatoes, too.

12 June 2016

"Grilled Glazed Baby Back Ribs"

Recipe from May 2013 Cook's Illustrated

I've written about this recipe before but thought it was worth another mention. This is a relatively quick recipe as the ribs are not smoked on the grill. Rather, they are first boiled to an internal temperature of 195° and then finished on the grill using a glaze. This is a relatively quick way to prepare grilled ribs, this dinner took about an hour to prepare, perhaps a bit more. The ribs were served with "Easy Boston Beans" from The America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook and steamed (in the microwave) sweet corn.

I purchased a three pound rack of "pork loin back ribs" which worked our well for two meals for the two of us. Rather than making one of the glazes I used store-bought: a combination of Bulls Eye and Dinosaur Barbecue Sauce. I had to use the combination because both jars were low on sauce; I ended up finishing both off and still wanting some more sauce. They ribs came out great, this is a good way to go when grilling ribs at home.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Notes: May 2016

1 May 2016

"Oklahoma Fried Onion Burgers"

Recipe from August 2012 Cook's Country

I like onions and I like burgers and I like them together so this recipe seemed worth trying. Onions are cut up, salted and squeezed to remove water, then pressed into a hamburger patty and cooked on the stove. The idea is to caramelize the onions then flip the burger over to finish cooking. As usual we made slider-sized burgers and tried to adjust the onion amount accordingly.  The result was disappointing. The burgers matched their name, the flavor of the onions dominating the beef, perhaps because the onions were not cooked as thoroughly as intended, they were too big, or there were too many for our small burgers. It was a nice try, but I don't think we'll be making these again.

1 May 2016

"Lemon Posset with Berries"

Recipe from March 2016 Cook's Illustrated

The subtitle of the magazine article about this recipe ended with, "It's the easiest dessert that you've never made". Not only did the recipe live up to this boast, but it was very good to eat, too. It has just four ingredients, including the berries added when it is served these are cream, sugar, and lemons (both juice and zest are utilized). Cream, sugar, and zest are brought to a boil and reduced. Off heat lemon juice is added. After cooling the mixture is strained and refrigerated. Done. Served with fresh berries it is smooth, rich, and luxurious complemented nicely by the berries. I wish I had added a few more berries, but otherwise this recipe is worth making again and again.

15 May 2016

"Chocolate Chip Brownie Cookies"

Recipe from Serious Eats

This is a pretty standard cookie recipe, but I have fond memories of brownie cookies and so was a sucker to try it when I stumbled upon this on Serious Eats. I made a few minor changes to the recipe to accommodate what we had on hand. I used 60% chocolate instead of 70% and pecans instead of the suggested optional addition of walnuts. The resulting cookies are good, but not great. Diane suggested they would benefit from the addition of coffee to boost the chocolate flavor. They were chewy-fudgy in the center not particularly crispy on the edges and were a little too sweet for our taste.  The recipe made 14 cookies using a #24 disher and I baked them for 12 minutes. Chocolate Chubbies, also from Serious Eats, is a much better version of this type of cookie.

15 May 2016


Recipe from March 2016 Cook's Illustrated

I had never heard of fougasse until reading about it in Cook's Illustrated. It's a yeast bread from Provence and is similar to the Italian focaccia ... but not all that similar. At one point I was thinking this might be a recipe I would make just once and then decide it wasn't worth the effort, but after eating it I changed my mind. It was really good. It has a nice crisp crust and chewy, flavorful crumb. It is great when fresh but no so good when leftover so it would probably be best prepared when there are enough people to eat it while it is still fresh. 

The dough is made ahead of time and rests in the refrigerator for 16 to 48 hours; this dough rested for 21 hours. A little work goes into preparing the dough as it is folded over on itself several times over the course of an hour, but that doesn't take much time other than waiting. Once the dough was removed from the refrigerator it was ready to eat in about two hours. Getting the shape just right wold take some practice, though my loaves came out OK for the first try. I probably should have stretched it out some more after cutting the holes in the loaves prior to baking. The recipe calls for fresh rosemary but I was unable to find any at the supermarket. I baked it for eighteen minutes which worked out well.

22 May 2016

"Pan-Seared Salmon for Two"

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, May 2016

We don't have fish as often as perhaps we should, but we do both like salmon. With this easy method for cooking it there is one less excuse not to have it more often. I spent an hour from start to finish preparing this meal and most of the effort was spent preparing the rice pilaf.

I purchased 0.9 pounds of farm-raised Atlantic salmon at Whole Foods; it wasn't cheap at $13/pound. The salmon is brined for 15 minutes, seasoned, then cooked in a cold nonstick skillet with no oil, skin side down. It is cooked on medium-high heat for about 7 minutes, then flipped and cooked about another 7 minutes until the interior temperature is 125°. That's all there is to it. The resulting fish was nicely cooked, moist on the inside with a nice crust. It was served with lemon wedges, fresh sweet corn, and rice pilaf.

30 May 2016

"Grilled Honey-Glazed Pork Chops"

Recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook,  p. 269

This was a good, relatively quick, way to fix pork chops. I purchased two center cut bone in pork chops weighing 1.3 pounds; these were the smallest chops I saw in the butcher's display at Whole Foods and even then were on the high end of what the recipe called for. I didn't measure how thick they were but they were about 1&inch; thick as in the recipe. These are enough for two meals for us. Befitting a recipe from the Quick Family Cookbook, this meal took just over an hour to prepare. It included the chops; grilled sweet corn; crudité of carrots, celery, and jicama; some fresh fruit, and chilled Riesling. 

A honey sauce is made by mixing, and reducing, a mixture of honey, vinegar, cornstarch, Dijon mustard, fresh thyme, and a little cayenne pepper. We had plenty of sauce because the recipe called for four pork chops and I only had two but did not halve the sauce recipe. The chops were coated with a mixture of sugar, salt, and pepper then grilled to an internal temperature of 140°. This took a little longer than the recipe allowed, 12-14 minutes. Some of the sauce is applied and briefly cooked and the chops were served with more sauce. I started the corn at the same time as the pork and it was done at the same time. (Corn was simply shucked and put on the grill over direct heat.)

The resulting chops were tender and juicy. The flavor of the sauce did not come through enough for me, even after I added more at the table. Perhaps I should add more or maybe prepare the chops using this recipe but then create the orange glaze from an old recipe that I fondly remember. The grilled corn was very good.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Notes: April 2016

10 April 2016

"Sunday Supper: Sloppy Joes"

Recipe from Serious Eats

I am trying another Sloppy Joe recipe, one of many that I have tried and blogged about. My favorite is still the family recipe from my Aunt Peg. This one is similar to that one in its simplicity: a few ingredients, simply prepared, combined, and cooked. The biggest difference between this recipe and Peg's is the celery that this recipe includes. It provided some nice flavor and texture (a little bit of crunch) that we enjoyed. We didn't have any dried mustard so I substituted prepared yellow mustard. The few tablespoons of flour that were added made for a nice texture for the final product.

I think I'll stick to the old family recipe for most occasions, but this is a good recipe, too, with some good ideas that might be used to modify Peg's Sloppy Joes.

16 April 2016

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Recipe from March 2012 issue of Cook's Illustrated

Instead of buying some raisin bread or cinnamon bread at the supermarket for breakfast, I remembered this recipe. I am glad that I did, this is a very good cinnamon raisin bread. It has been a long time since I've tried to make this kind of bread and this recipe solved the problems that I seem to recall those loaves having. 

It is a rich bread that toasts very well, it has great texture and flavor and the cinnamon filling does not separate from the crumb and is well distributed, except at the ends of the loaf. The recipe makes two loaves, one of which I froze. The second loaf helps to make the effort involved in making the bread worthwhile. Like most yeast breads there is some work and time involved in making this but much of the physical work of mixing and kneading is done by the stand mixer and much of the time is just waiting for the bread to rise. This recipe is a keeper!

17 April 2016

"Roasted Bone-In Chicken Breasts for Two"

Recipe from the March 2016 Cook's Illustrated

I used the "for Two" version of this recipe that was on-line and we still ended up with two meals. This version was for two chicken breasts rather than four. The chicken that I purchased weighed a total of 1.4 pounds though one was larger than the other. I guess to get equal sizes I would need to ensure they came from the same chicken.

This was more of a cooking technique lesson than a full-blown recipe. It had just three ingredients: chicken, salt, and oil. The technique is the same as one the Test Kitchen has developed for thick-cut steaks which they call reverse searing.  The chicken is seasoned with salt then cooked in a moderate 325° oven to an internal temperature of 160°; this took about 40 minutes. It is then seared in a hot skillet to brown and crisp the skin. That's all there is to it.

The resulting chicken was OK. It was maybe a little over done but not by much. I didn't make any sauce to go with it so it was pretty plain, which is also OK.  I ate it with some bottled barbecue sauce.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Notes: March 2016

13 March 2016

"All American Beef Stew"

Recipe from Serious Eats

I tried a new recipe for beef stew, this one from the Serious Eats blog.  I didn't note how much time I spent cooking it, but between the stew and the pie (below) and the relaxing I killed a whole Sunday afternoon.

The stew didn't take all that long,  I started with a three-pound chuck roast and it spent about 2½-hours cooking. I followed the times in the recipe and it probably would have benefitted from another half hour or so as some of the beef wasn't as tender as it might have been. The 1-½-hour estimate in the recipe for active time seems about right.

The stew tasted good! I used Thai Fish Sauce, instead of anchovies, in the "umami bomb" that was part of the recipe. We thought it could have used more carrots and some more potatoes would have been okay, too.

The recipe called for cutting the roast into three steaks and browning these all at once in a Dutch oven. However, three steaks were too big and I should have browned them separately. which would have taken some more time.

The sauce was a little thin, it could have reduced more. The stew cooks with the lid only partially covering the stew and I could have exposed more of the stew than I did during cooking.

This stew is worth making again.

Lemon Meringue Pie

"Lemon Meringue Pie" recipe from Cook's Illustrated Baking Book, p. 405
Crust recipe, "Classic Single-Crust Pie Dough for Custard Pies", ibid., p. 373

This is the second time I have made a lemon meringue pie. While it has been too long since the previous pie to make a comparison, I can say this pie came out great. I made it this month because lemons seem to be in season. But that's silly: lemons are available all year and you only need three or four of them to make the pie so there is no reason to make it at any time of year. (And it allowed us to have pie on Pi Day.)

The crust recipe is pretty standard, using a mixture of vegetable shortening and butter which are mixed with the flour in a food processor. The interesting part is that the use of graham cracker crumbs instead of flour when rolling out the chilled dough. You get a classic flaky pastry crust plus the flavor of graham crackers.

The filling is easy to make. The meringue was fun because it was the first time I've made an Italian meringue. A hot sugar syrup is slowly added to the whipped egg whites in the mixer with the mixer running. This cooks and stiffens the meringue. The end result is smooth and sweet. And it made for great licking of the bowl and other tools used to make the meringue.

This pie is worth making again. I think, though, that I should try making a lemon chiffon pie next.

20 March 2016

"The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies"

Recipe from Serious Eats

The title of the recipe is pretty boastful. I have tried many different recipes for chocolate chip cookies and the New York Times recipe has been my favorite for some time. But perhaps the King is dead, long live the King! I'll have to try a few more to be sure, but the initial impression of these cookies is excellent. They are crispy and chewy with large pockets of chocolate throughout. Like the America's Test Kitchen recipe these use brown butter to give them a nutty toffee flavor. But unlike the ATK cookies here the toffee flavor is more subtle, which I like.  I baked these cookies for about 16 minutes which may have been too long ... next time I should go for 14. The recipe made 28 cookies.

"Better Chicken Marsala"

 Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, November 2015

For the second consecutive month we had chicken marsala. It's a favorite of Diane's and a recent recipe from Cook's Illustrated magazine was worth trying.

The two boneless, skinless chicken breasts were larger than the upper limit in the recipe even though I purchased the smallest ones available: 1.6 pounds. I made a few changes to the recipe:  The Marsala was a mixture of our old bottle (which was not marked "sweet" or "dry" and our new bottle of dry Marsala; the recipe specifies dry. I used dry parsley and oregano because the amounts needed were too small to purchase fresh herbs. The pancetta was thinly sliced rather than the ½-inch pieces in the recipe. I didn't pay close attention to the time but it was probably about 90 minutes in the kitchen to prepare this dinner.

The result, though, was good. The sauce was more richly flavored than the recipe I used last month. In part this was because some of the chicken burned and the sauce was probably over-reduced. The chicken was also a little over cooked and dry. Nonetheless, despite the flaws in execution, this is a recipe worthy trying again because of the rich flavor of the sauce.

"Perfect Quick-and-Easy French Toast"

Recipe from Serious Eats

I have written in this blog several times about French toast. I have not had any for a while and so while home alone for a weekend I tried this recipe. Like most people I didn't usually follow a recipe when making French toast. In this recipe, the author ran various tests to determine the best ratio of milk to egg, for example, as well as optimizing other variables. 

I halved the recipe, making four slices, though I had enough batter to make at least one more. I used homemade sandwich bread which I dried in the oven. I cooked the toast using a square griddle on a round burner on the stove top.

The result was very good. The toast was nicely flavored by the vanilla with hints of spice from cinnamon and nutmeg. It took longer to cook than the recipe said. Perhaps I should have used a higher setting on the stove, though much higher and the butter would have burnt. The slices did not cook evenly because the pan was hotter in the center than in the corners which were not near the heating elements. Cooking just two slices at a time might help with this.