Monday, April 10, 2017

Recipe Notes: March 2017

12 March 2017
Quinoa and Vegetable Stew

Recipe from America's Test Kitchen

I'm a little behind typing up my notes so it has been almost a month since I made this dish. I believe I learned about it on a recent episode of America's Test Kitchen on TV. I had also recently heard a podcast talking about quinoa as a "super food" and having little experience with this grain, I gave the stew a try.

The stew was ready to eat 1 hour, 15 minutes after I started preparation. Preparing all of the ingredients in advance, mise en place, helps with the preparation of the stew as ingredients are added in stages to optimize the cooking time of each. The recipe calls for vegetable broth. As with chicken and beef broth, I used a vegetable broth base made by "Better than Bouillon" to make the broth. In addition to quinoa it includes onion, bell pepper, warm spices, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, and peas.

The finished stew was garnished with queso fresco, avocado, and fresh cilantro and served with some homemade sourdough bread and chardonnay. We enjoyed the stew and will probably make it again. Leaving out the queso and you have a vegan dinner, good for when our daughter visits. It kept well and the leftovers were good, too. The recipe indicates that it servers 6 to 8; our serving sizes are usually smaller than those used by the recipe writers so we probably got 5 or 6 meals out of this.

19 March 2017
New England Baked Beans

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, January-February 2017

I like to eat baked beans. I have tried making them from scratch several times and with several different recipes. However, I never thought that the results matched the effort that was put into the preparation. My go to recipe of late has been from The America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook.  But a recent issue of Cook's Illustrated included a new recipe that looked to be easier and quicker than other recipes that used dried beans yet promised flavorful beans. It was worth a try.

The recipe is indeed easy. The beans are soaked in advance for 8 to 24 hours; mine soaked for 16 hours. The ingredients (navy beans, onion, water, salt pork, molasses, brown sugar, soy sauce, dry mustard, bay leaf, salt, pepper) are stirred together in a Dutch oven, brought to a boil on the stove, then baked for about 2½ hours. Baking is mostly hands off other than occasional stirring and removing the lid part way through the cooking. 

These are good beans and worth making again when I have a little time. One of the most challenging parts was finding dried navy beans, two of the three stores I visited didn't have them. They are flavorful with a thick sauce and have kept well.

20 March 2017
Deli Rye Bread

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, March-April 2017

My search for good sandwich bread continues. I have found several recipes for white bread that I like and one for a darker loaf that, while good, was not suitable for sandwiches. Still searching for a recipe for a heartier sandwich bread, I was happy to see the recipe for Deli Rye in a recent issue of Cook's Illustrated. I have always liked rye bread but I wasn't sure it could be used as a general-purpose sandwich bread. It's flavor can be so strong that there is little that it goes with. Peanut butter and jelly on rye would not be good. However, this recipe promised a milder flavor mostly by limiting the amount of caraway seed in the loaf.

This bread took longer to prepare than the white sandwich bread, taking a little over four hours. However, most of that time is hands off so the effort to make this bread is not much greater than those simpler loaves. The recipe has both rye flour (which took some shopping to find) and wheat flour. The latter was specified to be King Arthur which has more protein (i.e. gluten) than other brands. Since I didn't have that I used Gold Medal bread flour. The preparation is pretty standard and the dough rises quickly. The method for shaping the loaf is a little involved but not too hard and it results in a nicely shaped loaf of bread.

True to the promise, this is a good, general purpose sandwich bread. It even works with PB&J. It has a flavor reminiscent of whole wheat bread but milder and sweeter. I've had BLTs made with this bread along with ham and it worked well for all of these. I'll be using this bread for a while for my sandwiches until I move on to the next thing. Even then, I expect I will return to this recipe.

23 March 2017
Millionaire's Shortbread

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, November-December 2016

I was not familiar with this British cookie until reading about it in Cook's Illustrated. Apparently it is similar to Twix, but I'm not familiar with that either. 

The bars consist of three layers: shortbread, caramel, and chocolate. The cookies took about six hours to prepare but much of that time is to allow each layer to cool before the subsequent layer is prepared. I used a glass baking pan, rather than metal, and made no adjustments to times or temperatures. The bottom layer is shortbread. This was very easy to make: flour, sugar, and salt are mixed in a bowl, then melted butter is stirred in. This mixture is pressed into the bottom of the baking dish and baked. The second layer is caramel. The ingredients (sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, heavy cream, corn syrup, butter, and salt) are heated to 236° then poured over the cooled shortbread. The final layer is the easiest of all, chocolate. Bittersweet chocolate is melted and spread over the cooled caramel. This is then cut into bars.

The end result is pretty good. I was concerned about the caramel being too sweet but that is not the case. Diane commented that there is not enough chocolate, and I didn't argue the point. The cookies kept well; I didn't cut the whole concoction into bars at once, but rather refrigerated some it, cutting it as needed to replenish the cookie jar. This is not a health food, there are two sticks of butter in the shortbread and another in the caramel. I don't know if I'll make these again, but it was the first time I'd made caramel and I enjoyed learning about that process.