Thursday, July 21, 2016

grilled chicken, red onion, and mint kebabs

A late-inning addition to the blog, but a perennial favorite for summer grilling. Ideal accompaniments include Carrots with Garlic and Yogurt and grilled corn salad. 


Grilled Chicken, Red Onion, and Mint Kebabs

Adapted from Bon Appétit

2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 bunch fresh mint

1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 12-inch metal skewers

Mix chicken, 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, mint, oregano, salt, and pepper in medium bowl. Let marinate 30 minutes. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons oil and lemon juice in small bowl to blend.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Pull off large mint leaves from stems. Alternate chicken, onion, and mint leaves on skewers; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until chicken is just cooked through, turning and basting occasionally with oil-lemon mixture, about 9 minutes. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

mint marble mousse tart

Our attempt to replicate a favorite from our Sacramento youth, and to defile M's liquor cabinet with electric green crème de menthe.

Rick's Dessert Diner describes the Mint Marble Mousse Tart as follows: "Swirled dark and white chocolate mousse subtly flavored with Crème de Menthe and Andes Mint wafers in a buttery chocolate Oreo cookie crust."

With that description—and deep nostalgia—as our guide, we reverse engineered this recipe using a Baked Oreo cookie crust, a 1996 Bon Appétit recipe for Triple Chocolate Mousse Torte (of the same era), and numerous recipes for Grasshopper Pie. 

Mint Marble Mousse Tart
Inspired by Rick's Dessert Diner in Sacramento

For future attempts I might up the Oreo cookie crust ratio slightly. (Why not round up and use an entire package?) 

16 ounces chocolate sandwich cookies such as Oreos (35 to 40 cookies), crushed
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 ounces good-quality white chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons green crème de menthe
1/2 cup Andes mints, chopped, plus more for garnish
1¾ cups whipping cream, chilled, plus more for serving

Make the crust:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line pan with parchment paper and lightly spray parchment and sides of pan.

Place cookies in the bowl of a food processor; process to very fine crumbs. You should have about 3 1/2 cups. Transfer to a small bowl. Add melted butter and, using a spatula, stir until well combined.

Pour crumb mixture into prepared pan and press evenly with the back of a spoon into bottom and up sides, leaving about 1/2 inch between the top of the crust and top of the pan. Transfer to freezer until crust is set, about 10 minutes.

Transfer crust to oven and bake until dry to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool.

Prepare the filling:
Place semisweet and white chocolate in separate medium bowls. Combine ¼ cup water and gelatin in small bowl. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat yolks and sugar in large bowl until mixture is pale yellow and very thick, about 5 minutes.

In a large saucepan, bring half and half just to simmer. Gradually whisk hot half and half into beaten egg mixture. Return mixture to same saucepan and stir over medium heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 3 minutes. Remove custard from heat. Add softened gelatin; stir until gelatin dissolves. Strain mixture into large glass measuring cup.

Immediately pour half of hot custard over each chocolate. Stir 
until melted and smooth. If mixture cools before chocolate is completely melted, set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir just until chocolate melts. Cool chocolate mixtures to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Add crème de menthe to white chocolate mixture, and mix until well incorporated. 

Beat cream in large bowl until stiff peaks form. Divide whipped 
cream equally between bowls of chocolate, about 2 cups cream each. Fold whipped cream into chocolate. Stir chopped Andes mints into white chocolate mixture.

Pour both mixtures into the prepared pan, in layers (We sandwiched the mint layer between two layers of chocolate mousse.) Smooth top with spatula, then use a knife or cake tester to swirl the dark and white chocolate. Refrigerate or freeze until firm. (The tart can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover with plastic and store in refrigerator.)

Run a sharp knife around sides of the pan. Remove pan sides. Serve with sweetened whipped cream, garnished with whole Andes mints (still in the wrapper).

Friday, February 12, 2016

baby back ribs & baked beans

Baby Back Ribs
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Bon Appétit

Serves 4

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika (sweet, hot or smoked, whichever variety you prefer)
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons kosher salt (Diamond brand, which is very lightweight; for most others, use 1 1/4 tablespoons)
Chipotle powder or ground red pepper (cayenne) to taste
As many cranks of freshly ground black pepper as your arm is in for

4 pounds baby back pork ribs (8 racks)         
Store-bought or homemade barbecue sauce, for basting and serving

Tools: If you can find it, a wide roll of heavy-duty foil makes the racks much easier to wrap up. You’ll also want a large rack (cooking cooling sheets, so long as they’re metal and thus ovensafe, are just fine) and a large baking sheet per rack of ribs. 

Preheat oven to 275°.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the spices and seasonings. On a piece of foil large enough to wrap around your ribs, place rack of ribs, meatier side up. Sprinkle spice rub over rack, patting it on generously, including the sides. Carefully — it can help have a second person hold the foil down while you lift the rack — flip the rack of ribs back onto the foil so that they’re now meatier side down. Pat on more rub. (You will most likely have excess rub.) Tightly fold the foil to seal packets. Set a metal rack over a baking sheet and place foil-wrapped ribs on top. 

Bake ribs until very tender but not falling apart, about 2.5 hours for baby backs and 3+ hours for spareribs. Carefully unwrap ribs; pour off any juices. Let ribs cool completely. [DO AHEAD: Ribs can be baked up to 3 days ahead (the flavor will be more developed, and the cold ribs will hold together better on the grill as they heat through. Rewrap ribs in foil and chill.]

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. Grill ribs, basting with barbecue sauce and turning frequently, until lacquered and charred in places and heated through, 7-10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board; cut between ribs to separate. Transfer to a platter and serve with additional barbecue sauce.

Hot And Smoky Baked Beans
Adapted from Bon Appétit

6 bacon slices (We only used a few slices)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion                 
1 1/4 cups purchased barbecue sauce
3/4 cup dark beer
1/4 cup light molasses
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 to 6 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chilies (We used closer to 2 tsp.)
6 15- to 16-ounce cans Great Northern beans, drained
Chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels and drain. Transfer 2 1/2 tablespoons bacon drippings from skillet to large bowl. Finely chop bacon; add to bowl. Add onion and next 7 ingredients to bowl and whisk to blend. Whisk in 4 to 6 teaspoons chipotle chilies, depending on spiciness desired. Stir in beans.

Transfer bean mixture to 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Bake uncovered until liquid bubbles and thickens slightly, about 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

baked ziti

Baked Ziti
Adapted from Food + Wine via Amateur Gourmet

1 pound ziti or penne
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound lean ground sirloin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
One 24-ounce jar Rao's marinara sauce (I used nearly all of a 32-ounce jar, to beneficial effect)
1 cup fresh ricotta (I reduced this from 1 1/2 cups)
1 large round ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

If you’re making this ahead, don’t preheat your oven yet. If you’re making it all at once, preheat your oven to 450.

In a large deep skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until the onion is softened but not brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute just until fragrant. Add the ground sirloin, crushed red pepper and paprika, seasoning with salt. Turn the heat up to high, break up the meat with a spoon and cook until the meat is brown (and no longer pink). Add the sauce, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook—partially covered—for 5 minutes until the sauce tastes great. Set aside.

Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water. Cook one or two minutes less than the package says; you want it al dente. Drain the pasta and then toss the pasta in the sauce. Add the ricotta in large dollops and stir gently, leaving some clumps.

Pour half the ziti into a 9x13-inch baking dish, top with half of the mozzarella and parmesan. Repeat with the remaining ziti and cheeses. [Here’s where you can cover with foil and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake.]

When you’re ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees and bake the ziti uncovered for 15 minutes, until bubbling and browned. Let the ziti rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

spinach and cheese strata

For our Christmas morning menu... 

Spinach and Cheese Strata
Adapted from Gourmet, via Smitten Kitchen 

Serves 6 to 8

1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, squeeze of all excess liquid, and chopped
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (1 large)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups cubed French or Italian bread in 1-inch cubes (1/2 lb)
6 ounces coarsely grated Gruyère (2 cups)
2 ounces finely grated parmesan (1 cup)
2 3/4 cups milk
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and nutmeg and continue cooking for one minute. Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside.

Spread one third of the bread cubes in a well-buttered 3-quart gratin dish or other ceramic baking dish. Top with one-third of spinach mixture and one-third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese.

Whisk eggs, milk, mustard and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill strata for eat least 8 hours or up to a day.

The next day, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.