Going Balls Out

Posted: May 9, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla, delish | 3 Comments »

Sometimes, you have a reason to go balls out. Well, not literally, but figuratively. You have an occasion to make your fanciest, richest, unhealthiest dish to celebrate a special occasion. I had an opportunity on Friday, which was the last day of my internship, and I wanted to say “Thank You” to everybody there, who were super friendly and welcoming to me, but going balls out.

So I made an incredible pound cake, and a strawberry-pear pie. I’m going to post about the cake today, and the pie later, for you guys to wait with baited breath. The director of the clinic, a brilliant psychiatrist and genuine foodie, stated that this was “one of the best cakes I’ve ever tasted.” So don’t just take it from me, this cake is delicious.

Why? It’s called a pound cake because the recipe calls for AN ENTIRE POUND OF BUTTER. Yup. That is what makes it so incredibly tasty. And something to eat in SMALL PORTIONS.

This is from Shirley Corriher’s BakeWise. You will need:
-a 12-cup (large) Bundt pan, greased and floured
-1 pound (4 sticks) of softened butter, unsalted
-2 3/4 cups of sugar (I like brown, but white is also fine)
-1 tbs vanilla extract (use real. Always. Imitation vanilla extract is horrid).
-Half a dozen eggs. Try to get them to room temp if possible, but cold is also okay.
-2 3/4 cups flour (I use unbleached, but any all-purpose flour is fine).
-Half cup heavy (whipping) cream
- 2 cups berries, fresh or frozen. I used blueberries, but raspberries, strawberries, cherries, blackberries, or any other berries or combination thereof would be tasty too.

Preheat the oven to 350. Place the cream in a medium bowl and put it in the freezer as you start.

Start by beating the butter to soften. Cream in the sugar. Then beat in the vanilla. Then, slowly beat in the eggs one by one. Then, add in the flour in 3 or 4 small batches, beat until just combined.

Take the cream out of the freezer. On high speed, whip it until it forms soft peaks (that’s exactly what it sounds like, it will look kind of like gentle hills in your bowl).

Fold the whipped cream into the batter. Don’t just add in the cream. Whipping it truly makes this cake have an incredible texture. It lightens it up, while it is still an incredibly moist cake. Fold in the berries. Spoon the batter into the greased, floured bundt pan.

The recipe said to bake it for 50-60 minutes, but mine took about 80 minutes. Test it with a butter knife or cake tester, it’s done when it comes out clean.

Not only does the clinic director think this cake is great, so does my cross-eyed, intellectually challenged cat:

My Favorite Cake Recipe

Posted: March 5, 2010 | Author: Bakezilla | Filed under: Bakezilla, delish | 3 Comments »

Howdy all. So, tonight is the next edition of Pretty Girls Get Rediculous. While I’m sure there will be a few posts regarding this, we were asked to make up recipe cards for each other. In addition to the recipes for what I’m bringing (I want to wait to post about those until I have pictures), I also made up a card for my very favorite cake recipe. This is my bombshell. It is totally a special occasion cake, as it contains a LOT of fat and sugar (which I still contend is better than the nasty processed kind, but to be eaten in moderation, nonetheless).

It is a Caramel Cake with Caramel Frosting. That’s right, the delicious candy substance we all love, in cake form. I found the recipe in The Moosewood Restaurant New Classics Cookbook, and tweaked it a bit.

For the Cake:
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 5 eggs
- ¾ cup milk (nonfat okay!)
- 2 tsp vanilla
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 9-inch round cake pans, or a sheet cake pan, with parchment.
2. I a bowl, sift the 1st 3 ingredients. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each. Stir together the milk and vanilla in a measuring cup. Alternate adding the milk mixture and the flour mixture to the creamed mixture create a smooth batter.
3. Divide the batter evenly in the 2 pans, bake for 30 – 35 minutes, cool completely.

For the Icing:
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 3 tbs unsalted butter
- 1 cup half and half (I use the Land O’Lakes non-fat kind, but I can’t tell you how they get it to be that way).
- 1 tsp vanilla
1. In a heavy, preferably non-stick saucepan, combine the sugar, butter and half and half. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring often. Cover and cook at medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until the caramel begins to thicken, about 4 minutes, being careful not to let it burn. Sometimes this can take a little longer than the recipe says, however. Just keep a close eye on it.
2. Add the vanilla and beat with an electric mixer on high until it gets thick and creamy – this takes a while, 10-15 minutes.
3. While the frosting is still warm, frost and fill the cake. Add some half-and-half if it gets too thick to spread.

I wish I had a picture, but I don’t because I’m at work and I haven’t made this in a while. It’s one of those high-maintenance-but-worth-it recipes, the frosting is particularly finicky. But, this is the one cake I make that I am sure will please all – it’s become famous in my family, and is asked for by many at various family functions.

Anyone else have any “famous” recipes to share? I’d love to see them!

Also, more posts on food I’m actually making for tonight coming later this week!

Cake with fruit…but not fruit cake

Posted: February 21, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, delish | 4 Comments »

I love cake. I have really had the baking urge lately so I decided to make a cake.  Now, a lot of people could probably just grab a mix, throw it together and be good.  However, I would not be a Pretty Girl if that were sufficient for me.  So while I was supposed to be working, I thought about what I could do to that I hadn’t done before.  I had a couple ideas in my head, but this one didn’t really come together until I walked into the grocery store.  I always head to the produce section of the grocery store first (because apparently starting with the produce will help me make healthier food decisions.  Sometimes the fact that I hold a Master’s degree baffles even me with logic like this).  So I head to the produce section and the first thing I see is “Mangoes $.99.  Hell Yes.  I love mangoes, and these were all pretty and ripe and just pliable enough to be perfect.  Once I saw these, it all came to me. Chocolate cake with mango-basil salsa.

You can use any chocolate cake recipe that you prefer, but I like my cake denser so I used our very own  Improviser’s chocolate cake recipe .  Its pretty easy to make, and tastes fantastic.

For the salsa, you need:

1 fully ripe mango

3 large fresh basil leaves

granulated sugar

liquor of your choosing. I used American Honey, but rum would also work.

While the cake is baking, dice the mango as finely as possible and roughly chop the basil.  Put them both in a bowl and throw in a dash of sugar and liquor.  Mix it up and let it sit so the flavors meld together.  I served this with lightly sweetened  whipped cream as well to cut some of the intensity of all the flavors.

Once the cake is ready to be served, just put the piece on a plate, top it with some of the mango and add a dollop of whipped cream on the side.  Its actually pretty easy to make, and the whole thing only took me an hour.  I then took the rest of the cake out to the dorm for the girls and it was gone in approximately 3.5 minutes…I almost didn’t get the plate onto the table before the little vultures attacked me.  Whoever said teenage girls don’t eat is a damn dirty liar, because I’m pretty sure I could drag a dead buffalo into the common room and they would eat it to the bones  in minutes.

What I really like about this is that the basil is similar enough to mint to work, but different enough to give it that hint of something unique.  I think my next move might be to make the mango a chutney filling and then serve it with a basil whipped cream…

Savory Bread Pudding

Posted: January 26, 2010 | Author: Alyssa | Filed under: Alyssa, delish | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

After last week’s fried chicken debacle, I felt the need to redeem myself by trying a new recipe.  I was a little nervous, because unfortunately this past week was even worse than the previous, so god only knew how I was going to screw up this time.  Perhaps I could screw up ramen noodles, the easiest food on earth.  Maybe destroy a salad and make it inedible…at this point my life is so ridiculous that I wouldn’t be shocked if a foray into cinnamon toast resulted in the amputation of a toe.  The good news is, it can’t really get worse from here, so I might as well just start assuming that its going to get better.  Which is why I decided to set out on a new adventure entitled: Alyssa tries to make bread pudding for the first time without F-ING it up, burning the building down, or losing a toe.

I’ve been looking at this recipe for a while on epicurious.com for leek bread pudding, which sounds super good.  Although the more I thought about it, it felt like it was kind of missing something, and we all know by now that I can’t just leave well enough alone with a recipe, I have to mess with it.  The first thing I decided to do was to take away some of the ridiculous salt they have you put in as well as some of the butter and make up for it by adding a couple slices of diced pancetta (I KNOW, I add bacon to everything, but seriously how is that bad?).   I also traded out the emmentaler for havarti, which was not entirely based on flavor, rather than price.  In small town Ohio, good and affordable cheeses and breads are kind of difficult to find (I was shocked too), so I have to make do with what I can.  I love havarti because its so creamy and delicious, but I think you could substitute for pretty much any cheese that melts smoothly.

I added the pancetta to the sautee pan with the leeks so that they absorbed all the pancetta-y deliciosity.

raw leeks and pancetta

Make sure you cook the leeks until they are extremely soft.  They should fall apart fairly easily when you press them with a spatula.  Some of them will get a little brown and crispy (same with the pancetta), but the rest should almost melt.  That way they will absorb into the bread with the custard and bring its flavor with it.

cooked leeks and pancetta

I also used a little extra cheese when I was layering, because you really can’t go wrong with cheese.

Luckily for me, this turned out really well and when I pulled it out of the oven I felt like I was on Food Network Challenge transporting my 6 foot tall muppet cake to the table without destroying it, because leave it to me to get through this whole recipe and then drop it on the floor as I lift it the one foot up from the over to the stove top.  Thanks to a steady hand and a prayer to the food gods, I was successful and had this to show for my efforts:

Leek bread puddingI really wish that I could somehow make your computer screen scratch’n'sniff right now because I was salivating as this cooled just smelling it from the living room.  It turned out beautifully, and it is just what I needed to get my mind back on track.  I’m taking it as a sign that since this recipe went so well, things will start to look up soon :)

A Very Pretty Thanksgiving: Cranberry-Chipotle Relish

Posted: November 20, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: A Very Pretty Thanksgiving, delish, Johanna, Make-Ahead | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Being a native New Englander, I know the story of the first Thanksgiving very well. And even if it isn’t true, and even if Thanksgiving is a holiday to cover up the horrible, terrible things that the original Pilgrims did to the Wampanoag people, what with their smallpox and their venerial diseases….. I don’t care.

Not-Quite-Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s nice, to think that in celebration and thanks for the fact that they did not die alone in the horrible New England winter (a thing I too gave thanks for, every time it got to be spring in my childhood and I still had a pulse), my forebears sent a message to ol’ Squanto, and chief Massasoit, telling them to come hang out and bring some food and some friends. Together, said Miles Standish, we’ll all celebrate the fact that we did not die. And while there may or may not have been cranberries (although cranberries originated in Massachusetts and Maine), and there may or may not have been some gnarly old heritage turkey, I think that the Pilgrims were probably pretty happy that the Wampanoag hadn’t murdered them all yet, and had in fact helped them survive.

Along with laying an extra place for the people who might show up, and the people who are there only in spirit, my family is mindful of tradition. My father, true to his Yankee heritage, makes cranberry sauce every year, from a very nice recipe by Jeff Smith, that old preacher-man, whose ingredients are essentially, if memory serves, cranberries, oranges, and sugar. Dad, correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.

While I’ve often eaten it, I can’t say that cranberry sauce is one of my favorite parts of the actual holiday table. Cranberries are tough to eat, very bitter and sour. But I’ve long been intrigued by them, and wondered if it was just me, or Jeff Smith’s pairing of them with something that could ALSO be bitter and sour. So, emboldened and embarking on a trip into the land of Thanksgiving foods, I decided that Cranberries should be tested.
Cranberry-Chipotle RelishCranberry Chipotle Relish
Via Epicurious – Bon Appetit November 2009

The ingredients here are pretty simple: 1 pkg of frozen cranberries. 1 1/3 cup of sugar. Juice of 1 lemon. 2 chipotles in adobo (don’t bother soaking a dried chipotle. Trust me.) Garlic. Cinnamon (I’m working on a replacement). Cumin.

You combine the cranberries, sugar, lemon juice, and chipotles (rinsed. trust me.) in a saucepan, and bring them to a simmer. You can put the cranberries in still frozen, I learned. Once the sugar and lemon juice have dissolved and everything is at a simmer, let it go for about 5 minutes. I mashed some of the cranberries up with a potato masher, although I also mashed some of the chipotle by mistake, but didn’t see any adverse effects.
You add the garlic, cinnamon and cumin, and simmer until things start thickening and darkening. When this happens, immediately scoop or pour your cranberry relish into a clean bowl, and rinse. out. your. saucepan. STAT.
Melted sugar, especially when combined with fruit sugars, WILL TURN TO CEMENT. It’s a fact. Sort of. Regardless, you need to wash your saucepan while the sugar is still warm, and therefore liquidy, to avoid a situation that involves you chipping caked-on sugar out of it (sidenote: anyone know how my new saucepot got a dent in it already? dub tee eff?)

Back to the relish. Once it’s in the bowl, put it in the fridge while you prepare your baked chicken and brussels sprouts (roasted with bacon and garlic. delish. who knew?? not me. this was the first time I’d ever even SEEN a brussels sprout in person. legitimately.)
So technically they're Belgian Sprouts, right?It's not about the chicken.

And there you have it! A winning update to a Thanksgiving classic, and a TON better than whatever you shake out of the can on the big day, I promise. Not to mention, I bet if you mixed this with some honey mustard, it would create a sandwich spread that would rival the delicious one that I slathered on turkey burgers last year, at the behest of my girl, Rachael Ray. Also, it keeps for ages. Make it on Saturday and put it in the refrigerator until Thursday, and you’ll have one dish less to worry about on Thanksgiving.
Simplicity in the face of chaos – that’s really what we’re looking for, isn’t it?

Alex Runs, Joh Cooks p.4

Posted: November 3, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Alex Runs Joh Cooks, cheap, delish, Johanna, Rachael Ray, vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

We’re back, with another installment of Alex Runs, Joh Cooks. This time around, we’re doing a straight up pasta dish. As always, the rule is that I will donate money for every single comment I get from you guys, up to 2 comments per e-mail address per post. So type away, tell me what you think, say the word “Duck” or “pants” or “filbert”. It all counts. Together we can fight cancer!!! Also – if you want to just throw some money at Alex on your own, DO IT!!!!!

Pasta with Swiss Chard and Lemon-Ricotta Cheese This recipe, I know Alex will enjoy. I hope you all do too. I borrowed it from Rachael Ray, and tweaked it a bit.
It bears strong resemblances to my Lemon-Ricotta Orzo, which Alex enjoyed when she was here back in July, and which I think everybody loves, because how can you not love lemony ricotta cheese, and pasta???

Even better, this version uses whole wheat penne rigate, which is high in fiber and heart-healthy whole grains, and Swiss Chard, which is a member of the leafy green family and can help you get some more fiber, as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants into your life. You can’t beat that bargain. :)
Whole Wheat Penne with Swiss Chard and Lemony Ricotta.

1 pound Whole Wheat short-cut pasta (penne, penne rigate, rigatoni, cellantani, cavatappi, campanelle, orechiette, the possibilities are endless)
3 cloves garlic – chopped
1 small yellow onion – chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake (or to taste).
1 bunch Swiss Chard, cleaned and coarsely chopped (cut off and toss out any super thick stems, but otherwise just run them under some water and chop them up)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup ricotta cheese (whole milk or otherwise, if you must, but I’d recommend the whole diary fats. yum!)
1 lemon
Grated Parm, Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta al dente (or a little past if you’re like me. no biggie).
2. Preheat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a big skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, salt, pepper and red pepper flake, and cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until the onions are mushy and turning a little brown on the edges.
3. Add the swiss chard, toss, and let the heat make the chard wilt. Once it does, crank the heat to high, and add the veggie stock and a ladle of the pasta cooking water.
4. Bring the liquid in the skillet to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 6-7 minutes. While that’s happening, combine the ricotta with the zest of the lemon, and some salt and pepper. Put 1/4 cup ish in each serving plate, or y’know, however much looks good to you.
5. Drain the pasta. Squeeze the lemon juice over the Swiss Chard, and throw all the pasta in. Toss everything around to get it nice and coated, and get the flavors mingling. Turn off the heat and add about a cup of the parm, and toss again.
6. To serve, plop the pasta/chard mixture on top of the lemony ricotta cheese, and sprinkle with more parm if you’re like me and can’t get enough. Stir, breathe in, and get that hint of lemony goodness and the joy of some dark leafy greens.

This is probably the best pasta dish for you if you’re trying to be good about not eating too much, because if you fail to moderate, you’re eating something PACKED with nutrients, healthy stuff, and yum. Who doesn’t love that?? Plus, the carbs will fuel your next run, and the protein in the greens will help bolster your energy for a longer burn.

A giant interweb dinner party

Posted: October 14, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Chicken, delish, Johanna, slow but worth it | 3 Comments »

The following is a very formative recipe for me.
Like many cooking stories that begin this way, this recipe involves leeks. It also, luckily, involves Gourmet Magazine. AND, it has a past.
When I was just starting out with this blog, this was the first recipe I ever cooked from Gourmet. So for A Mingling of Tastes’ Worldwide Gourmet Dinner Party, I had to take it on again.

Gourmet March 2008 — Chicken in Riesling


1 whole chicken’s worth of parts sprinkled with salt and pepper, and browned (in batches) in a combination of butter and olive oil.

4 medium (ok 2 HUGE) leeksEverybody in!

2 HUGE leeks chopped, along with 1 shallot, browned in butter. The browned chicken pieces, as well as any juices accumulated on the plate, added back into the Le Creuset with the leeks.
Before the Braise

4 medium (ok, 2 HUGE) carrots are cut up and added into the casserole, along with a cup of Riesling. And here is where I had the problem a year and a half ago, and where I had the problem again tonight. The next instruction tells you to boil until the liquid is reduced by half …. 3-5 minutes.
I can confirm for you that after boiling the hell out of the dish for at least 10 minutes, the liquid level had INCREASED rather than reduced by half. This is frustrating to me.

Regardless, the chicken, carrots, wine, and leeks went into the oven to braise, and when they came out, they met their old friend “heavy cream”, and became…. Chicken in riesling.
The big reveal

The things that amazed me about this recipe last time around could be summed up in this phrase: “Basically, I was proud that my first foray into nice cooking had produced something so…. nice.”

That’s the thing. That’s what I will miss about Gourmet. Their recipes were perfect. And they made me confident. I was brave. Even though I initially was intimidated by all the techniques involved, when I approached this dish last night I was confident. I knew I could do this dish. And I was not disappointed. It was the perfect thing.

Cheers, Gourmet. You always knew the perfect thing. And this week, I’ll be cooking a few more, to send you off in style.

Alex Runs, Joh Cooks, p.1

Posted: August 18, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: Alex Runs Joh Cooks, cheap, delish, Johanna, quick, spicy, vegetarian | 18 Comments »

I threw a dinner party on Saturday – Jesse and I threw one. In honor of Julia Child’s 97th birthday. I will post about it as soon as I’ve processed it. There are not many food photos, because the food disappeared, although one of my friends apparently took a few more. Until I can sort out the post, here is something to tide you over.

Think of it as an hors d’oeuvre.

This is a new facet of this blog, something I’m incredibly happy to be a part of. It’s for a good cause and it’s promoting something that’s important to me.
My college roommate, and dear friend, Alex, is running a half-marathon (my apologies to those I told a full marathon) as part of a charity team, to raise money for cancer research. This is a cause close to both my heart, since my Grampa lost the fight to lymphoma in 2006, and Alex’s since she has lost both her cousin and her father to blood cancers(in whose honor she’s running and raising funds). Please check out her site and support her.

I’m making a pledge to donate to this race, and in an effort to get as many people involved as possible, here’s the plan: I’m creating a category of recipes and posts called “Alex Runs, Joh Cooks” — for every comment I get on one of these posts, I’m donating money to Alex’s cause. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Tell runners, or any other athletes you know. Tell people – I would rather not be able to afford my donation goal, than not be able to give my friend support.

The Rules: Each individual comment counts, up to 2 per person per post. You don’t have to give insight – you just have to leave your name (although I welcome your insights!!!) Check Alex’s site, check the blog, leave your name here, and Alex will get money!! These recipes will be largely vegetarian (because Al is a vegetarian), lots of veggies, lots of protein, lots of energy and fuel. They will not be difficult.
You can do this.  She can do this. Help me help her, and everybody else!!

Seared Tofu with Lentil Salad and Spicy-Sesame DressingThis, my friends, is tasty and easy.

Seared Tofu, Lentil Salad with Spicy-Sesame Dressing

1/2 container Extra-firm Tofu
1 cup dried lentils
1/2 red onion
1/2 carrot
1 stalk celery.
Sriracha, Sesame Oil, Low-Sodium Soy Sauce, Cider Vinegar (if you like)
Assorted veggies, any type you choose. I used a green bell pepper, half a zucchini, and a crap-ton of heirloom tiny tomatoes.

1. Put lentils, 1/2 of the onion (so 1/4 of the TOTAL onion), carrots, and celery in a pot. Cut the onion, carrot and celery into large chunks. Cover by 2 inches with water. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. If the water boils off, add more. Keep them covered for the first 10 minutes. Taste a lentil, and check every 2-3 minutes until the lentils are soft on the outside, but still have some bite. Maybe 10 more minutes, tops.
Lentils and veggies2. While the lentils cook, cut up into small dice the vegetables – pepper, zucchini, tomatoes, and the rest of the red onion. Put them in a big bowl.
3. When the lentils are done, drain them, pull out the big chunks of celery, onion and carrot, and rinse the lentils under cold water. Drain and rinse a second time to really cool them down, then put them in the bowl with the veggies. Season the veggies a little with salt and pepper. Taste, and make sure they taste good on their own. This is very important.

4. Put a big skillet or grill pan on the heat, and get it SCREAMIN’ hot. Combine a teaspoon of Sriracha, a teaspoon of soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons of sesame oil. Whisk together and adjust to your flavor preferences. Cut your tofu brick into strips and brush one side of each strip with the marinade.

5. Put the tofu marinade side down on your pan. You don’t need any additional oil. Sear for about 2 minutes on one side, brush the side that’s up with the marinade, and flip. This flip is why we need extra-firm tofu.

6. Bring it all together. Take the tofu off, and let it cool a bit. Take whatever marinade you may have left, and add more of all the elements: More sriracha, more soy sauce (but not too much, let’s not be crazy) more sesame oil, and probably some regular oil to thin it out. You’re going to need between a third and half of a cup total.
Assembly: pour the dressing over the veggies. stir, gently, to combine. Taste, and dish out. Put a tofu slice on top of the salad, and call it dinner. 

Tofu, side 1Tofu, side 2The usual suspects

Enjoy, and help me help Alex!! I cook, she runs, we all win!!!!

Spatchcock: That's what she said?

Posted: August 14, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: cheap, Chicken, delish, Johanna, Roast chicken, Silliness, Spatchcock | No Comments »

Spatchcockery!I’m sure you’ve noticed that there’s something……off about that roast chicken over there. Typically, chickens are shaped like American footballs, only with legs and wings. But this one, it’s flat. In fact, it looks like it’s holding its hands to its chest, saying “Oh my!” Very flat. Like a book that’s been opened along its spine. Some people call this butterflying. But the Irish….Oh, the Irish. They have to come up with “funny” names for things. Silly names. Names that are contractions of the phrase “Dispatch the cock” and end up as “Spatchcock” and make me giggle just about every time I think about them. Curse you, Irishmen!!!

“Spatchcocking” is the process whereby you cut the poor chicken’s backbone out, then either remove or smash open the breastbone, so that you have a single plane on each side, instead of a round chicken. It makes the meat cook much faster.  Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay, and others have used this technique with a brick to cook a chicken pressed flat on a grill or skillet. Jen and Dietsch at Last Night’s Dinner use the spatchcockery for roasting sometimes. I figured that since spatchcocking reduces the cooking time drastically because it increases the surface area that can be cooked at once, that on a hot Sunday it was the perfect thing.

So, I watched this video, which ended up being only slightly helpful. In the end, I’d recommend this video, which actually appears to show the effort exerted in spatchcocking the bird. After watching the video, I girded my loins, cleaned my kitchen shears, and got to work. It was harder than I expected, but what I ended up with looked exactly right. In fact, it looked perfect for rubbing with toasted spices, and roasting in the oven.

Oh dearCumin & Corriander seedsYellow hands from Tumeric!!!

So, I did that. I salted the bird up, inside and out, and then toasted cumin and corriander seeds in a dry skillet, ground them in my coffee grinder, and mixed the cumin/corriander mix with tumeric, a tiny bit of cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. I smeared this all over, as you can see from my hands, and turned myself thoroughly yellow. But, it was worth it, I promise.

The roasting pan (my Le Creuset braiser) went into the oven at 425 to heat up. It may have been 450. I can’t remember.  However, when the oven was preheated, I took out the roasting pan, put in a tablespoon of oil so the chicken wouldn’t stick, and put the chicken in skin side up for 10 minutes. Then, I flipped the chicken and roasted it skin side down for 15 minutes. Finally, I flipped it one more time, stuck my probe thermometer in the thigh, and let it cook skin side up until it reached 167 degrees. Why 167? Because I’m weird.

I served it with some fresh eggplant and spinach shaak from Dipali’s mom’s recipe, and white rice. And ohhhh boy.


Good times were had by all.

Dipali's Dinners

Posted: August 9, 2009 | Author: Johanna | Filed under: cheap, delish, Johanna, quick, vegetarian | Tags: | 10 Comments »

Hello friends! Yesterday, something strange happened. Other people cooked……for ME!!! It’s a rarity, and I enjoyed it immensely. :)   To make sure that she get her due credit, last night for dinner I hung out with my fantastic friend Marla, who is a fashion student and an all-around hell of a gal. She made me spaghetti with sauce that I swear had…. magic in it. Maybe it was the parmesan. Maybe it was the tomatoes. I’ll never know, until I go home and hang out with her mother and stalk her spaghetti-sauce making. But mmmm. And the brownies!! Marla made brownies that had cherries, and walnuts in them. I’ll let that sink in.

Cherries (freshones, real ones) and walnuts.
They may have looked a little fugly, fallen apart a little, but believe me, I am not one to turn down chocolate, and who ever said brownies needed to LOOK nice??? These were delicious. Delish!!!

Dipali's DinnersYesterday afternoon, my friend from work, Dipali, came over to do the first of a series of guest-cooking posts, called Dipali’s Dinners. Dipali is Indian, and since I alerted her to the site, she has graciously offered to come over and teach me authentic Indian dishes, from her mom’s recipes. I was really excited about this, because any curries that I’d made from scratch had always taken lots of steps, and lots of pots and pans, and I couldn’t find a respectable curry paste in my grocery store, and I was reduced to Thai Yellow Curry Paste which is HOT and not as delicious as what I’m looking for, and finally, I was fed up.

Dipali promised there wasn’t that much to worry about. I trust her. She’s sweet and pretty. Always trust the sweet and pretty. They will not steer you wrong.
So yesterday, Dipali came over, armed with her lovely, fragrant little spice tin, and taught me how to prepare two different vegetable dishes from her repetoire: Channa Masala Shaak, and Eggplant & Spinach Shaak.

I was immediately heartened, because Dipali said that a lot of Indian cooking uses those three words I love so much, “Season to Taste” — there isn’t really measurements, it’s about the flavor you’re looking for. She also laid out the basic theory or principle behind the cooking: Get the oil really hot, add your aromatics (usually onion and/or garlic), add the spices, and get the spices really hot so that they infuse the oil with their flavor. This, I can do.

EggplantWe started with the eggplant-spinach Shaak.
1 medium eggplant, cut into small cubes or chunks.
4 cloves of garlic, chopped.
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon whole corriander seeds.
1 teaspoon each: Tumeric, Ground Cumin, Cayenne powder, Salt
1 package frozen spinach (defrosted)
4 tbs. oil, 1 c. Water.

Heat 4 tablespoons of cooking oil in a large skillet with high sides. Add the garlic and the cumin and corriander seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the eggplant, tumeric, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and water. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Let it all simmer for about 10 minutes, until the eggplant has softened.  You can cover it if you want, to make sure that the flavors have nowhere to go but into the eggplant. After about 10 minutes, add the spinach, stir well, and cover again. Let everything get friendly on low heat for as long as you need to. This food will not rush you. It will not make demands on your time. In fact, it’s happy whenever you’re happy.
After simmeringAdjust To Taste
Look at all that yum. Dipali decided after the simmering (left) that it needed some more tumeric (right). Like I said, since she’s sweet and pretty I trust her. Plus, I can definitely get behind any cuisine that says “Stick your finger in the pot, lick the finger, and decide what else to pour in”. That is my kind of cuisine.

Channa Masala, everyoneWe accompanied our eggplant and spinach with some channa masala.
1/2 Red Onion diced
1 clove garlic chopped
1/2 teaspoon Corriander seeds
1 teaspoon each: Cumin, Cayenne pepper, Tumeric
3 cups chopped tomatoes
2 cups (1 can) chickpeas. (If you’re using a can, drain and rinse them)
1/2 teaspoon each salt and garam masala (spice blend, you can buy it at Whole Foods)
Once again, heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pot. Add onion, garlic, and all the spices (except the 1/2 teaspoon garam masala) and cook until they start smelling delicious and amazing. Then, add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the tomatoes break down into a lovely sludgy tomato-sauce esque consistency. Add the chickpeas, and up to half a cup of water. You may only need 1/4 cup, depending on your tomatoes. If you add too much, you can always boil it off until the liquid reduces. No worries here. Bring the channa masala to a simmer, add in the garam masala and salt, and simmer for 10 minutes or until your willpower gives out. Try for at least 10 minutes. Taste this too at the end, and adjust the seasonings to what you’d like. You’ll probably end up adding more of at least one of the spices, since this is a very malleable dish.

The spreadOur lovely lunch spread, which fed 3 people and gave leftovers. I love indian cooking!!! I also love it because it’s yummy and warm and lovely and …. sigh.

Try these. And we’ll be back soon with a second installment of Dipali’s Dinners. :) YAY!!!

Johanna: The Improviser

Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Alyssa: The Triple Threat

Can do it all. And modest to boot.

Bakezilla: We Use Mixers Too

She likes to bake. Actually, baking is the only thing she does. It's a passion.

Rita: The Kosher Chick

Restrictions have nothing on her.