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Archive for December, 2009

World Peace Cookies

Created by a famous French pastry chef called Pierre Hermé, World Peace Cookies originally were called Korovas. Dorie Greenspan changed the name to World Peace Cookies in her cookbook “Baking: From My Home to Yours” because reportedly a neighbor of hers became convinced that a daily dose of these cookies was all that is needed to ensure planetary peace and happiness.

I made these dark and chocolately, melt in your mouth incredible cookies a while back after seeing them appear over and over on other people’s food blogs. They have received so much praise on the internet, I had to see just what the fuss was about. The fuss is well deserved. If you Google them, hopefully you’ll be convinced to make them too because they are crazy good.

Good to know: Fleur de Sel is the only ‘strange’ ingredient. It is hand-harvested sea salt collected off the coast of France by workers who scrape only the top layer of salt before it sinks to the bottom of large salt pans. I bought my jar at Whole Foods. It cost me $13 bucks which I am aware seems like an insane amount of money to spend on a jar of slightly gray, slightly wet, weird looking salt. However, I’ve had this jar for a couple of years now and it was money well spent. You need it for this recipe. You can’t just use ordinary table salt.

For the chocolate, I usually buy bars of Valrhona at Trader Joes and chop it up. If I’m making a lot, and want to economize a bit, instead I get the Trader Joes big pound blocks of dark chocolate and chop that up. I’ve never tried it with the mini-chips, so I can’t vouch for how well that works.

When you roll out your logs, I figured out that a 1.5 inch diameter log ends up being exactly 9 inches long. It works out that you get exactly 18 half inch slices per log.

World Peace Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or a generous 3/4 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

Makes about 36 cookies.

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 2 minutes more.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and your kitchen from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek — if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of times more; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough — for the best texture, work the dough as little as possible once the flour is added, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you needn’t defrost it before baking — just slice the logs into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Working with a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

SERVING: The cookies can be eaten when they are warm or at room temperature — I prefer them at room temperature, when the textural difference between the crumbly cookie and the chocolate bits is greatest — and are best suited to cold milk or hot coffee.

STORING: Packed airtight, cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; they can be frozen for up to 2 months.

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Every year at Christmastime, David turns our kitchen for the month of December into a factory and makes quite literally hundreds and hundreds of these cupcakes to give away as gifts. People usually start demanding mid-November, “Where are my cupcakes?” They’re that good.

He always uses the silver foil cupcake liners–David says one cannot use the paper ones for this and he isn’t here to ask why, so just take my word for it.

Edit: David says the paper ones stick to the cupcakes which is why you can’t use that kind.

My personal preference is to freeze some, and eat them directly out of the freezer.


Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Filling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and set up 36 cupcake liners so they’re ready to go. (David puts the liners into cupcake pans, but evidently those liners can be set up on a cookie sheet, instead.)

CREAM CHEESE FILLING
Beat together until smooth:
16 oz softened cream cheese (do not used whipped cream cheese)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg

Stir in a 12 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Set aside.

CHOCOLATE BATTER
Mix together in giant bowl:
3 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar (packed)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup Hershey’s baking cocoa

To the combined dry ingredients, add:
2 cups vegetable oil
2 1/3 cups water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract.

Using an electric mixer, or a whisk if you’re exceptionally determined, beat until well combined and smooth.

Pour chocolate batter into the cupcake liner cups about 2/3 full. Place a good sized dollop (a heaping teaspoon) of filling into the center of each cupcake. Bake for 35-40 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

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Alton Brown’s Pancakes

Alton Brown is a genius, regardless of whether or not you think he’s a dork. These are, without a doubt, the best pancakes ever. Seriously. I always have this ‘mix’ in my pantry. We frequently have these for dinner.

Good to know:
If you don’t have buttermilk, just take 2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice and put it in your measuring cup, and then add enough milk to make 2 cups of milk. Let stand for about 5 minutes. Voila, buttermilk substitute that works just as well as buttermilk.

The trick to light fluffy pancakes is to not create a lot of gluten. Gluten is the protein in flour that one develops in a process like kneading bread. It makes for nice chewy bread, but really tough flat pancakes. So, one of the secrets to tender fluffy pancakes is to just stir the batter enough to mix the wet with the dry, but that’s it. I know it’s really hard to see lumps in your batter and not keep stirring. But trust me on this–there will no longer be lumps in your cooked pancakes.

Don’t add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients until right before you’re going to cook them. The chemical reaction of the leaveners (baking soda and baking powder) will start as soon as you get them wet and you want them going full blast for the fluffiest pancakes.

Ingredients for Pancake mix:

* 6 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (check expiration date first)
* 3 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 tablespoon kosher salt
* 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in a lidded container. Shake to mix.

Use the mix within 3 months. It makes 3 batches of pancakes.

“INSTANT” PANCAKES:

* 2 eggs, separated
* 2 cups buttermilk
* 4 tablespoons melted butter
* 2 cups “Instant” Pancake Mix, recipe above
* 1 stick butter, for greasing the pan
* 2 cups fresh fruit such as blueberries, if desired

Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to 350 degrees F. Heat oven to 200 degrees F.

Whisk together the egg whites and the buttermilk in a small bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the melted butter.

Combine the buttermilk mixture with the egg yolk mixture in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined. Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don’t try to work all the lumps out.

Check to see that the griddle is hot by placing a few drops of water onto to the griddle. The griddle is ready if the water dances across the surface.

Lightly butter the griddle. Wipe off thoroughly with a paper towel. (No butter should be visible.)

Gently ladle the pancake batter onto the griddle and sprinkle on fruit if desired. When bubbles begin to set around the edges of the pancake and the griddle-side of the cake is golden, gently flip the pancakes. Continue to cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the pancake is set.

Serve immediately or remove to a towel-lined baking sheet and cover with a towel. Hold in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes.

Yield: 12 pancakes

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Chili Lime Flank Steak

I’ll continue the roast chicken meals tomorrow–it’s time for beef.

I got this recipe a few years ago from Tyler Florence. It’s very easy, fast, tasty and works on the grill, too. It’s key to make sure you let the cooked steak rest for at least 10 minutes before you slice into it. Cut it against the grain in thin slices. The reason you do that is to cut the fibers of the steak short–makes it tender.

You can use the rub on any steak–it’s really nice on rib eyes and cheap london broil, too.

Chili Lime Flank Steak

* 1 flank steak (about 1 3/4 pound)
* 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
* 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
* 1 tablespoons kosher salt
* 2 teaspoons chili powder
* 1 lime, zested

Preheat a broiler to high. Bring the steak to room temperature about 20 minutes before cooking.

Mix the olive oil, paprika, sugar, chili powder, salt, chili powder, and zest in a bowl to make a paste. Rub the spice mixture all over the steak. Broil until just charred and crispy on top, about 6 minutes on 1 side. Flip the steak and cook until beginning to char, about 6 minutes more or until rare and temperature registers 115 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Place the steak on a cutting board and let rest, tented with foil for about 10 minutes. Slice across the grain and serve.

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Or, Meal #2 from your roast chicken leftovers

Chicken quesadillas are great if you’re in a rush and want to be sitting down and eating something delicious in less than 10 minutes. Also, you don’t need to use very much chicken at all, so it’s terrific way to stretch leftovers. The apple slices are the trick in this simple recipe, adding a nice texture and sweet tart contrast. You could do this with flour tortillas instead, but try it with the corn because they really are yummier that way. If you have more time, make the rice recipe too.

Chicken Quesadillas

Leftover chicken, sliced or shredded
Corn tortillas
Butter, softened
Monteray Jack cheese, shredded
Granny Smith apple, sliced
Salsa, sour cream, guacamole or avocado, chopped cilantro, lime –whatever combo of flavorful and ‘wet’ you like

Heat up a skillet over med-high heat. Briefly warm up your leftover chicken, remove from pan and set aside. For each quesadilla: Take one tortilla, spread a little butter on it, and put it in the pan. Add a little handful of cheese to the tortilla and spread it out. When the cheese is melted and the tortilla is lightly browned, put another lightly buttered corn tortilla on it, and flip it over. (Or you can take the lightly browned single tortilla out of the pan and fold it in half. Your choice.) After about 30 seconds or so, remove from pan to a cutting board. Open it up, and add a little chicken, some apple slices, and your condiments. Put it back together, cut into wedges and serve.

Yellow Rice with Corn

I was watching Daisy Martinez on PBS one day with Anne, and we saw her make this rice. She went on and on about how tasty it is, so Anne wanted me to make it. It is *really* good, and once you buy the stuff you probably don’t already have on hand, you’re all set to make many more batches in the future. Prior to making the rice, David thought he didn’t like green olives. I made it anyway, and he scarfed it down. I didn’t point out he just ate green olives until he’d finished his second helping. (Now I am allowed to put green olives in whatever I want. Score!)

Good to know:

1) Annatto seeds, known as achiote in Spanish, are small irregularly shaped, deep reddish colored seeds about the size of a lentil. They grow in pods but are sold loose in jars in the spice aisle. I found them with the Goya products. Steeping annatto (achiote) seeds in hot olive oil for a few minutes gives the the oil a brilliant orange-gold color and it infuses it with a nutty, delicate aroma and add a quick kick to whatever you use it in.

2) Sofrito is also found in the Goya section in tall jars. It’s a combination of tomato, peppers, onion and herbs and spices which have been sauteed together and pureed. If you’re ambitious, you can make your own from scratch and keep it in the freezer.

3) Alcaparrado is also in the Goya section. It’s just a combination of green olives, pimentos and capers. The last jar of it I bought had unpitted olives in it, and I was mad when I got home and realized that I grabbed the wrong jar.

4) This recipe makes a ton. It freezes marvelously, though. So I usually make the full amount, and freeze the leftovers. You can heat up the frozen leftover rice in the microwave and it’ll be just as good as the day you made it.

Yellow Rice with Corn (adapted from a Daisy Martinez recipe)

1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon of annatto seeds
1/2 cup sofrito
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup alcaparrado or coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed olives
2 to 3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
3 cups long grain white rice
Homemade or boxed chicken broth as needed (about 4 cups)
Cilantro, chopped (optional, but suggested)

1) Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a small skillet over medium heat just until the seeds give off a lively, steady sizzle. Don’t overheat the mixture or the seeds will turn black and the oil a nasty green. This only takes a minute or two. Once they’re sizzling away, pull the pan from the heat and let stand until the sizzling stops. Strain out the seeds and put the pretty red oil into a big dutch oven, or large 4 to 5 quart saucepan with a tight fitting lid.

2) Turn the heat on medium. Stir in the sofrito and cook until most of the water is absorbed. Add the alcaparrado or olives, salt, cumin, pepper and bay leaves and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute.

3) Add the rice, and stir to coat the rice with the oil and other ingredients. Cook and and stir until the rice changes color–you are shooting for a chalky opaque color.

4) Pour in enough chicken broth to cover the rice by about 2 fingers width–this should be about 4 cups.

5) Add the corn. Bring to a boil, and let cook, uncovered until the broth reaches the level of the rice.

6) Stir the rice once (just once!) and cover. Reduce the heat to low, and cook for exactly 20 minutes. While it is cooking, don’t stir and don’t even open the pot. After the 20 minutes, let rest for 5 minutes before opening the pot. Gently fluff the rice from the bottom to the top, and sprinkle on some chopped cilantro if using and serve.

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Easy Easy Chicken Stock

Or…what you do after Meal #1 to prepare for more meals

One thing I forgot to mention about Thomas Keller chicken–Unless you have a scrupulously clean oven (which I do not), you may wish to remove the batteries from your kitchen smoke detector and or/open a window or two. Expect some smoke because it’s a spattery process roasting a chicken at a high temp. (Note to Santa: EZ Off Oven Cleaner will fit in my Christmas stocking.)

One of my least favorite cooking tasks is dealing with removing meat from bird bones. I think this might be from childhood– Sarah often waving a chicken leg around in my face, with all the unappetizing looking bits hanging off, gobbling it down like it was no big deal while I squirmed. For a long time, I was a boneless breast sort of girl. So the idea of cooking the bones to make stock didn’t appeal to me at all.

I got over it when I realized just how often I use chicken stock in recipes. A cup here, a half a cup there–buying it is so expensive and I’d end up throwing away half used packages. And god only knows how some factory is making their stock. And just what are those strange chemicals they’re putting in?

These days after we have a whole chicken, I steel myself up and take as much meat off the bird as I can and put it aside for later and make stock with carcass. It’s easy, it makes my house smell great, makes me feel like I am recycling, and tastes way better than anything you can find in a can or box. It lasts about 4 days in the fridge or about 3 weeks in the freezer. (Not that it ever stays in my freezer that long.)

Here’s how I do it:

You can cook this in either a big pot, or a big crockpot.

Take your chicken carcass and sort of crack it up a bit–that allows the marrow to seep out of the bones for a tastier result. Put the bones in your pot. Grab a couple of carrots and a couple of stalks of celery (with the leaves). If you have a parsnip or turnip laying around, great. If not, no stress. Grab a good sized onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Give your veggies a chop or two so they fit in the pan. I don’t bother peeling anything–not even the onions. (The skins give your stock a prettier yellow color.) Just whack the garlic with the side of your knife so it’s a little crushed. Throw all this into the pot with the bones. If you have them, throw in a sprig of thyme, a sprig of rosemary, a bay leaf, a few peppercorns and a small handful of fresh parsley–if you don’t, don’t worry about it. Add just enough cold water to cover the bones by two fingers–any more than that and you’ll end up with watery stock. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat until you’ve got a really low simmer. Skim off any foam. Go back every now and then and skim off any more foam that forms. Let it simmer gently for 3-4 hours (or overnight if you’re using a crockpot). Strain your stock, and throw away all the bones and veggies. Let it cool for at least a half an hour or so, and refrigerate. Later, after it’s cold, all the fat will have risen to the top and can easily be scraped off and discarded. You’ll note your stock looks like jelly. That’s good! It’ll turn liquid again when you heat it up.

And now you’re ready to make chicken pot pie, or my version of Anne’s chicken fricassee, or chicken soup, or any number of yummy things.

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Sublime Roast Chicken

Or…how to get three meals out of one bird.

Meal #1
A long time ago I found Thomas Keller’s ‘recipe’ for making roast chicken. I basically dismissed it at first because it seemed just too simple to be anything special. A chicken, kosher salt and pepper–really? But I kept seeing references to it all over the web, with people raving on and on about just how good the method is, so I made it. And yes, it’s shockingly good–gorgeous crispy skin, incredibly juicy meat and no need for gravy (and I adore gravy, so that’s saying a lot). I usually serve it with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

Good to know:
1) The recipe calls for a 2-3 lb chicken. However, you can do this with any size chicken, you just have to cook it longer. I generally buy a larger one than that so it’ll feed us 3 times. Until you get comfortable roasting chickens, it’s alright to get the kind with the pop out indicator thingamajig to tell you when it’s done.

2) The trick to this chicken is high, high heat and drying off the skin and inside the cavity really, really well. You’ll use a lot of paper towels. It’s ok. When you think it’s dry enough, dry it some more.

3) Trussing a bird is not hard. You have to truss the bird.

4) You can not substitute regular salt for kosher salt. You’ll think a tablespoon is a crazy amount to throw on your bird. Just do it. Throw a little inside the cavity of the bird, too.

5) It’s still amazing even if you skip the thyme. And mustard.

Here’s a printable version of the recipe: Print recipe

My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken by Thomas Keller

One 2- to 3-pound farm-raised chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced thyme (optional)
Unsalted butter
Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird. Trussing is not difficult, and if you roast chicken often, it’s a good technique to feel comfortable with. When you truss a bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird.

Now, salt the chicken—I like to rain the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon). When it’s cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper.

Place the chicken in a sauté pan or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone—I don’t baste it, I don’t add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don’t want. Roast it until it’s done, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.

Remove the twine. Separate the middle wing joint and eat that immediately. Remove the legs and thighs. I like to take off the backbone and eat one of the oysters, the two succulent morsels of meat embedded here, and give the other to the person I’m cooking with. But I take the chicken butt for myself. I could never understand why my brothers always fought over that triangular tip—until one day I got the crispy, juicy fat myself. These are the cook’s rewards. Cut the breast down the middle and serve it on the bone, with one wing joint still attached to each. The preparation is not meant to be superelegant. Slather the meat with fresh butter. Serve with mustard on the side and, if you wish, a simple green salad. You’ll start using a knife and fork, but finish with your fingers, because it’s so good.

Here is an explanation of how to carve a chicken:

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