Thursday, April 28, 2011

Early to bed

Need a last minute scone recipe to whip up at 4:00 in the morning? (West coasters, you are definitely at an advantage with the 1:00 am kickoff .) I'll be asleep, but perhaps you will be getting up at the crack to see just what the hell Kate will be wearing to the wedding of the century! I'm guessing a wedding dress. But in the meantime, you'll need loads of coffee (or tea if you're trying to be more authentic) and a scone (or three). Try my classic cream scone (or chocolate!) recipe that you can totally throw together during commercial breaks, or, whilst Giuliana or Meredith (or whoever) is trying to fill airtime whilst nothing else is happening. Enjoy!

Cream Scones
(Adapted from The Best New Recipe)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, (or chocolate) roughly chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.

2. Use two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingertips, and quickly cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few slightly larger butter lumps. Add the dried cherries (if using) and mix just to combine.

3. Stir in 1 cup of the heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until the dough begins to form.

4. Transfer the dough, and all dry flour bits, to a counter top and knead the dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, slightly sticky ball. Pat the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 3/4-inch thick circle (about 8-inches round). Cut the dough into 8 wedges. Brush the tops with the 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Place the wedges on an ungreased baking sheet.

5. Bake until the scone tops are light brown, 12 - 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 8 scones.

Or make Chocolate Scones

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Perfect Pair

One of my all time favorite salads is a frisée aux lardons salad, mostly because of the lardons. Well, to be honest, only because of the lardons. The more the better, obvs. I recently discovered that frisée aux lardons is also known as Salade Lyonnaise. Who knew? (French people, I suppose.) The base is a pile of frisée that is tossed with a warm shallot-red wine vinegar dressing and cooked bacon, and then is topped off with a poached egg. Some may add croutons, I add blue cheese. I'm sure it's some form of sacrilege, but I totally dig blue cheese and bacon...on burgers and in my salads. Cobb salad, anyone?

I don't particularly love poached eggs (and I suck at making them too - evidenced by me dropping the first one I made on the kitchen floor), but can somehow get beyond the runny yolk by adding extra lardons to my salad. I mean, it hardly qualifies as a salad. It's breakfast in disguise! Which reminds me of a joke: Bacon and Eggs walk into a bar. They try and try and try to order a drink, to no avail. Finally, the bartender walks over and says, "Sorry, we don't serve breakfast."

You're welcome.

Frisée aux Lardons

1/2 pound frisée (French curly endive) about 4 cups torn
6 - 8 ounces slab bacon, pancetta, or thick-cut bacon slices
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
Bleu cheese (such as Stilton), crumbled (optional)

1. Tear the frisée into bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl. If using slab bacon (or pancetta), cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut bacon slices crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick sticks (lardons).

2. In a heavy skillet cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes, and then remove the skillet from the heat.

3. Meanwhile, half-fill a 4-quart saucepan with water and stir in the white vinegar. Bring the liquid to a bare simmer. Break each egg into a teacup or small bowl. Slide the eggs, one at a time, into the simmering liquid. Cook the eggs for about 2 minutes for runny yolks to about 4 minutes for firm yolks. Remove each egg with a slotted spoon and drain briefly on paper towel then set aside. (The cooked eggs can be rewarmed briefly in simmering water if desired.)

4. Reheat the bacon in its skillet over moderate heat, if necessary. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the red-wine vinegar and boil 10 seconds. Immediately pour the hot dressing over the frisée and toss with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Divide the salad among 4 plates and top with the drained poached eggs (and blue cheese if using). Season the eggs with salt and pepper and serve the salad immediately. Serves 4.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

French Onion Dip

Just because you enjoy Champagne you don't have to stick to oysters and caviar as your only snack, though it's a pretty effing fab combo. Thing is, I'm pretty sure that I would shuck my thumb right out of its socket if I attempted to prep my own oysters, and I'm also pretty sure that there are better ways for me to spend my caviar money. Like on Champagne. And potato chips.
Hold the phone. Did I just say potato chips?? Why, yes, I did. Fatty, salty snacks are way better with an extra brut or brut style
sparkler (which contain a very, very little amount of sugar) cake. Trust. Have a cup of coffee with that cake and have some Champs with your snacks! And furthermore, by Champagne I mean, THE sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France. Similar style sparkling wines from anywhere else in the world, including France, are simply: sparkling wine. By law. Whether a cava from Spain or a sparkler from Cali or a Franciacorta from Italy, it's all sparkling wine, people. Not that there's anything wrong with that. My budget is more Prosecco than Champagne anyway.
But I digress. Back to my dip. As much as I hate sour cream and similarly gloppy substances, I've always been a sucker for that dried onion soup mix stirred into sour cream and scooped up onto a nice salty chip. Oh. Yeah. That screams summer BBQ to me. Lately the rage has been to make the dip using caramelized onions (if making a dip can be called a rage). And let me tell you, it's worth the hour spent cooking those babies down to their essence because the result is super fantabulous. Coupled with a glass of bubbly, that's a memorable Wednesday night (along with good friends like Wendy, Stacy, Jen, and Alyssa)! Stop saving your Champagne for special occasions, peeps. It becomes a special occasion when you pop open that bottle (watch your eye!). And a bag of chips.
Caramelized Onion Dip
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream (1 cup)
4-ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
Potato chips, for serving
1. Melt the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and ½ teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally to loosen any onions that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the onions are deep golden brown, about 30 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool. 

2. In a medium bowl mix together the cream cheese, sour cream, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper until smooth. Stir in the cooked onions, reserving a tablespoon for garnish, if desired. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with the chips. Makes about 2 cups.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Baking 101

The other day I held a mini-baking class for my friend, Lisa. I didn't think to take photos because I was more worried about the tower of baking pots and pans crashing onto us (an empty oven is prime storage real estate) while we were trying to prep our recipe. We managed to bake without any major organizational disasters and made basic cream scones from the recipe that I posted here.

It was interesting to see the process through the eyes of someone who doesn't normally bake. I discovered that the most challenging parts of the scone recipe were cutting the butter into the flour mixture (because why would anyone ever do that otherwise) and shaping the dough into one giant scone in order to cut it into individual pieces (the dough has a tendency to be a little crumbly until it is gathered together). Both steps could worry the novice baker that they might not be doing something right.

All's well that ends well. I think that Lisa was surprised at how quickly it all came together and that she owned all of the necessary tools to make the scones, except for a pastry blender which you can pick up for a few bucks. The one pictured below is from Williams-Sonoma and sells for 10 bucks, but you can find one for a little less.

From Williams-Sonoma

I decided to try out this chocolate scone alternative because a.) I had never had a chocolate scone before and b.) there can never be enough chocolate at breakfast. They turned out to be quite delicious though, dare I say, they could stand to be MORE chocolatey! I do love the idea of wrapping and freezing the scones individually for baking in future weeks. I think I might do that in the future when I make my regular scone recipe. Also, I think that I would cut these square scones into triangles so that you get 12 scones rather than only 6. They are pretty massive and must be about a million calories each. That's just my unprofessional opinion. Off to the gym!

Chocolate Scones
From Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
½ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
5 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate, chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 large whole egg + 1 large egg yolk
½ cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Sanding (or demerara) sugar, for sprinkling

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining. Fold in the chocolate.

2. In a small bowl whisk together the whole egg and ½ cup + 1 tablespoon heavy cream. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold in, working in all directions and incorporating crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, until the dough just comes together.

3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and gently pat into a 18-by-3 inch rectangle about 1-inch thick. Using a sharp knife or a pastry wheel, cut the rectangle into six 3-inch squares (you may cut these squares in half into triangles to make 12). Place the squares about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until the dough is very firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. (At this point you can freeze the unbaked scones in a resealable plastic bag until ready to bake, up to 3 weeks. I wrapped each individually in plastic wrap and placed in the plastic bag in order to bake one at a time at a later date. You can then place the frozen scones directly into a preheated oven.)

4. Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk with the remaining tablespoon heavy cream; brush over the tops of the scones and sprinkle generously with sanding sugar. Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the sugar on top of the scones turns golden all over, or a cake tester inserted in the center of a scone comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. They are best eaten the day they are baked. Makes six to twelve.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lighten Up

Tomorrow it's supposed to be 75 degrees, about 20 degrees warmer than its been lately. This coming heat wave is a gentle reminder that summer is just around the corner and its almost time to break out the sundresses. Time to stop eating! I mean, time to stop eating crap. I've been making this shrimp salad for years. It's kind of my go-to healthy dinner, especially when it's 90 degrees. (Which it will be soon enough...Oy!) Can't wait for those subway platforms in August. All of you people who have been complaining about the cold weather...get back to me then.

Shrimp, Endive and Avocado Salad
(From Gourmet)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 lb large shrimp in shells (18 to 20), peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 firm-ripe California avocados (preferably Hass)
1 lb Belgian endive (4 heads), cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces

1. Bring 2 quarts water, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan, then poach the shrimp at a bare simmer, uncovered, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. Let shrimp chill in water 2 minutes, then drain and pat dry.

2. Whisk together the tarragon, mustard, pepper, and the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a serving bowl. Add the oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified.

3. Quarter the avocados lengthwise, then pit, peel, and cut into bite-size pieces. Add the shrimp, avocados, and endive to the dressing and toss. Serves 4 as an appetizer.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Caramel, Oh!

Nope. I'm not writing about the latest Knicks addition. I've fallen off the blog wagon again, but I'm picking myself back up. Caramel sauce is calling.

This is one of those recipes that might sound scary at first. (Look out! The mixture bubbles furiously!) But it's really not. And you don't need a candy thermometer to make it. If anything, it just takes a little practice to know when you've achieved the right color of thickened, boiling, sugar water so that you can turn off the heat and whisk up one tasty sauce.

When I made the sauce for this post, I actually turned off the heat before the sauce had turned a deep amber because it was strangely only turning amber around the edges of my pan. I was suspicious...and slightly freaking out that I was going to ruin it. But once I added the cream and vanilla it turned into the perfect caramel color. And I decided to add a little sea salt this time's so trendy! The trend works though. Just try this caramel sauce. On ice cream. On toast. On your finger. (Sometimes a spoon is just too far away.)

Caramel Sauce

1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Fleur de sel, optional

1. Add the sugar and water to a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to cook, uncovered and without stirring, until the mixture thickens and begins to turn a deep gold/amber color, (occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush if sugar crystals begin to develop) about 10 minutes. (Watch carefully, especially at the end, as it can turn from a nice golden caramel to a pot of burnt sugar very quickly.) Turn off the heat.

2. Gradually add the cream, taking care to not get splattered as the mixture will bubble vigorously. (Using a large enough pot keeps the mixture from boiling over.) Whisk until the sauce is smooth and thick. Whisk in the vanilla, butter, and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt, if using. Serve warm or at room temperature with additional salt as desired. Makes about 2 cups. (The sauce will keep tightly covered in the refrigerator for about a week. Gently reheat before serving.)