Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Grilling Machine

I am too exhausted tonight to post any recipes- sorry guys, but I didn't want to leave you with nothing, so here's a sneak preview of an upcoming recipe- my first burgers on the grill, and they were superb.  I think I have been bitten by the grilling bug!

Monday, May 30, 2011

I've Been Working in the Garden

So the garden is getting better!!  Rather than being stuck and crowded in their little plots, all the plants have been moved to their new homes!  They all are doing great so far, besides the cilantro looking a little wilted- you can pull through cilantro!!  Some of them are in their Earthboxes, and some of them are in normal planters, but hopefully they'll all flourish- oh and bonus, it appears that the mint I thought I had killed last summer is coming back!!  After I had planted them all (and run to Lowe's to get a couple more planters) I realized just how many plants I actually had, so I'll just be sticking with these for the summer... I think.  My little yard area can't really hold much more, with the new addition of a table and two chairs (Thanks Eva and Ron!!!).  Also, we finally set up our grill today, which has been almost 2 years in the making (aren't you proud Dad?!), and actually used it to make London Broil.... and we actually ate outside on our new table today- the first time that we've been able to do that since we moved into our apartment over 3 years ago.  We are moving up in the world :)

Tiny mint plants!

The grill

Perfectly cooked London Broil
So I'll be back soon with the dishes of what we had for our Memorial Day lunch.  One of the dishes was the best tomato salad I have ever had, so if you like tomatoes- try it!  Here's a sneak peak of what's to come.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dirty Risotto

Once upon a time I was afraid of making risotto.  You see, I had heard many horror stories about how hard it was to make.... so for the longest time I did not make it, yet I dreamt about making it.  Finally my curiousity won out and I decided to go on the hunt for the perfect risotto recipe, Magic Risotto, if you will.  I decided that for my first attempt at risotto I wanted it to be a meal in itself, and not just a side dish, that way I could concentrate on the risotto itself, rather than split my attention.  I can multitask, but I prefer not to when I'm trying out a completely new and involved cooking method.  My search lead me to a Giada De Laurentis recipe for dirty risotto- risotto with hot Italian sausage, pancetta, red peppers, and mushrooms?  Yes please!

When I actually made it, I found that risotto is not difficult at all.  Yes, it does involve constant stirring, and adding of broth slowly, but I actually find it to be meditative and soothing.  Yes, my arm does tend to get a little tired, but I look on the bright side, and consider that my exercise for the day.  (Today I also got some exercise in as I worked on planting my new plants in containers- there will be pictures tomorrow!)  So I absolutely recommend this recipe!!  It will take a little time, but it is worth it, and while you stir you will inhale the delicious aroma of the risotto for about a half hour straight, which makes the stirring that much better.

Dirty Risotto
Serves 4-6

5 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp butter
2 ounces pancetta, or bacon, chopped
1 link (about 6 ounces), spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
3/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup red bell pepper (about 3/4 of a med-large pepper), chopped
4 ounces button (or cremini) mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups Arborio or medium grain white rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1. Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan over medium high until simmering, then reduce heat to low and cover to keep warm.
2. Heat a large heavy saucepan, or Dutch oven, over medium heat.  Add butter, and when melted, add pancetta (or bacon) and sausage.  Stir frequently, breaking up sausage, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the onion, red pepper, and mushrooms.  Cook until the veggies are tender, stirring often, about 8 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.
4. Add rice, and stir into veggie/meat mixture.  Add white wine, and cook about 1 minute, until the wine is mostly evaporated.
5. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes.  Repeat with remaining broth, adding 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring constantly until absorbed.  It'll take about 2-3 minutes each time.  Do this until the mixture is creamy, and the rice is tender but still firm to the bite- about 25-30 minutes.  In my experience, it'll take the full amount of chicken broth.
6. Remove from the heat, add 3/4 of the grated Parmesan, and stir.  Either transfer to a serving dish, or serve from the pan.  Garnish with remaining Parmesan and fresh parsley.

Source: Giada De Laurentis via foodnetwork.com


  • As I listed in the ingredients, the original recipe calls for pancetta and button mushrooms.  I think bacon is fine substitution because I usually have bacon in my apartment, but I don't think I've ever bought pancetta- maybe next time.  Darn you budget!!  Also, I substituted cremini mushrooms because I like them better, and I think they have a little more flavor- so there!!  But button mushrooms would be fine, as would shitake I'm sure. 
  • Ummm, so I used regular chicken broth instead of low-sodium because I always forget that low-sodium is the way to go.  If you are like me and do this, the addition of salt when the veggies are cooking may not be necessary, unless you like things extra salty that is.  
  • Once again I served this straight from my Dutch oven - no need to make extra dishes dirty right?  Also, this recipe says to serve immediately, and that I did, but I have to say from experience, that this risotto makes excellent leftovers.
  • Now I feel that I must branch out and try making some other risottos- I think wild mushroom risotto should be next because I love me some mushrooms.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jicama Slaw

I absolutely love trying new foods- especially vegetables/fruits.  My ideal weekly trip to the grocery store would involve buying something I've never tried before every single time.  I'm putting that into practice starting this week, and so my excursion to the store today lead me straight to jicama.  For those of you who who have not consulted the all-knowing wikipedia and have never had a jicama (aka Mexican turnip), this is a sweet and starchy tuberous root, with a crisp texture that is somewhat like a less-sweet apple combined with that of raw green beans. (I guess I can't argue with that, although it reminded me of something else that I can't quite place my finger on yet.)  I thought the best way to experience this to start would be in a really simple preparation, and I found one in Great Food Fast, which as you may have noticed is one of my goto cookbooks.  In it jicama is paired with just a few ingredients, and is super simple to put together, especially if you have a mandoline or something that can julienne your jicama for you, rather than doing it by hand.

Jicama Slaw
Serves 4

1 medium jicama (1-1 1/2 pounds), peeled and julienned
1/2 small red onion, or about 1/3 med-large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
2-3 tbsp fresh lime juice (from 1-2 limes)
Coarse salt and pepper

1.  Combine jicama, onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper.  Toss and serve, or refrigerate until serving.
2. Yep, it's that easy :)

Source: Everyday Food: Great Food Fast


  • The recipe says to serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 6 hours.  What happens after 6 hours?  I don't know, but I'll find out soon because I didn't eat this all, and I plan to have some tomorrow.  I'll let you know the results of this daring experiment soon!
  • The onion is kind of strong in this, but I love red onion.  Just beware though that it can have an adverse effect on your breath.  Consider this your warning.
  • I enjoyed this simple preparation of jicama, but next time I'm ready for more- traditionally it is paired with chili powder, so I think I'll incorporate that into my next jicama outing.

Chorizo, Potato and Mushroom Tacos

Man, I feel like I've been making a lot of tacos lately.  This was pointed out to me when Ron (the bf) told me that every time he is hanging out with one of his friends, and he leaves to come home and have dinner, he says we are having tacos, and his friend says, "didn't you just have tacos the other day?"  That doesn't bother me though for 3 reasons: a) tacos are delicious 2) they are oh so versatile and d) I do what I want!!!!

This recipe once again comes from Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday!  As you can obviously tell from the title, it combines chorizo sausage, potatoes and mushrooms, and was quite yummy and extremely easy to make, although next time I make I will be making some modifications which I will tell you about in the notes after the recipe.

Chorizo, Potato and Mushroom Tacos
Tacos de Chorizo con Papas y Hongos
Serves 4

12 ounces fresh Mexican chorizo sausage, casings removed
About 1 tbsp vegetable oil, if needed
1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
8 ounces mushrooms (i.e. shiitake or oyster), stemmed and sliced 1/2 inch thick
3 medium (12 ounces total) red-skin boiling or Yukon Gold potatoes, grated through large holes
1/2 cup cilantro (loosely packed), chopped
12 corn tortillas, warmed
Roasted tomatillo salsa, guacamole, or bottled hot sauce for serving

1. Heat a large preferably nonstick pan over medium heat, and add chorizo.  As it cooks, break it into smaller pieces.  Cook it until about halfway done, about 4 minutes.
2. Increase the heat to medium high (or not, depending on whether you have uncooperative burners like mine).  Check to see whether any fat has rendered from the cooking chorizo.  If it has, awesome!  If it hasn't, add a tbsp of vegetable oil to the pan.  Add the onion and mushrooms and cook about 3 minutes, until they begin to soften.  Stir occasionally.
3. Add the shredded potato and cook about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft, stirring often.  If the potatoes are browning too quickly, lower heat.  Taste mixture, and season with salt if needed.
4. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl, and add cilantro.  Serve with tortillas, salsa and/or guacamole.

Source: Mexican Everyday


  • Once again not having a nonstick skillet has been a little frustrating.  The food turned out good, but the fact that it stuck to the bottom of my pan was a little annoying.  I don't think it altered the flavor, but it'll be a pain to clean.
  • I used russet potatoes instead of red or Yukon Gold, and I have a feeling that those potatoes would have fared better in this dish.  The russets were okay, but they were a little mushy/starchy.  I'll have to try the actual potatoes he called for and see what difference it makes.  
  • I also used cremini mushrooms instead of shiitake or oyster, and while you could tell they were there, they didn't stand out in any way, or add any real flavor that I could tell.  Maybe a different or more flavorful mushroom would have fared better.
  • Next time I make this I would make a few alterations- more chorizo, less potato, and I might just omit the mushrooms.  They really didn't seem to do anything for the dish in all honesty.  They weren't bad- they were just there, and because I love mushrooms, this was a little disappointing to me.  I'd rather use them in a dish they actually stand out in. 
  • I think maybe cubed potatoes would be a good substitution for the shredded potatoes as well, and maybe make the filling less mushy, and more on the crispy side.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sausage and Roasted Peppers with Pasta

There's nothing I like better than a super simple, delicious, one-pot meal.  I really do enjoy more involved cooking as well, but that's more for special occasions, or weekends when I can spend a few hours prepping, and cooking.  Most of the time though I like to cook things in as little time as possible, so that I can sit down and relax a bit before the day ends.  This meal is a perfect dish for that quick, easy, versatile, and awesomely delicious meal.  I found it one day when I was trying to find something to make with the orecchiette pasta I had in my pantry.  As soon as I read the recipe I knew I had found the perfect one.  It's one of those meals I have made over and over again, and have not gotten bored off.  It's pretty foolproof too... and believe me, there have been times where I've cooked the peppers a little too long, or burnt the sausage a wee bit.... but still, I've never been disappointed with it.

Sausage and Roasted Peppers with Pasta
Serves 4-6

2-4 medium bell peppers (all red, all yellow, or a combination), sides cut off the core, stems and seeds discarded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound pasta (orecchiette, penne, fusilli, etc.)
2 tsp olive oil
1 pound sausage (hot or sweet pork sausage, chicken sausage, turkey sausage), removed from casings
1 tbsp butter, cut in small pieces
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for serving

1.  Heat your broiler.  Place the peppers, skin side up, on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil.  Broil for 15-20 minutes on the top rack, until the skin is blackened.  Remove the peppers, place in a large bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Let steam for about 3 minutes.  Remove the pepper skins.  Cut the peppers into 1/4 inch pieces, return the pepper pieces to the bowl (with any accumulated juices), and set aside for now.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid before draining.
3. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the sausage, breaking it up while it cooks, until the sausage is thoroughly cooked and browned, about 7-10 minutes.  Add the peppers, and cook until they are heated through.
4.  At this point you can transfer the sausage and pepper mixture to a large serving bowl and add the pasta, butter, Parmesan, and reserved cooking liquid, or you can just add it all to the large skillet, which is what I prefer.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine and serve.

Source: Great Food Fast


  • The original recipe calls for sweet Italian pork sausage, which I've tried, and it's great, but I think you can use any sausage that you prefer in this dish.  I've used hot Italian pork sausage which I like the best- the combination of the spicy sausage and the sweet roasted peppers is excellent!  I've also tried roasted red pepper chicken sausage, which was amazing!  If you use turkey or chicken sausage vs. pork it'll be a little less oily, but I haven't adjusted the quantity of the oil/butter/cooking liquid and I think it still makes a nice, coating sauce.  
  • When choosing your sausage, check the package to see whether it is precooked or not. If it's precooked, all you have to do is heat it up in the oil, rather than cooking it, so the cooking time will be less.  Don't do like I did and cook it way longer than needed, then have to dig the packaging out of the trash once you realize your sausage might just be cooked already.  It didn't hurt the flavor at all, and my sausage (I used chicken sausage this time) didn't burn, but it would have been good to know from the get go.
  • The more peppers the better in this meal, but since peppers sometimes cost a lot, and I am on a budget, a lot of the time I go with 2 peppers rather than 4.  It's still awesome, but if you can, get more peppers- it makes the dish that much more spectacular.

Starting a Garden

Yesterday my mom got me a super exciting present- some herb and vegetable plants!!  I am very excited to now have some plants with which to start my attempt at a garden.  I may get some more..... I haven't decided that yet, but I have a good start now.  I don't have the container yet to plant them in or the dirt, but I am about to receive 2 awesome Earth Boxes from my boyfriend's mother (yay!), a couple of pots, and then I may go out and buy a cool looking barrel or two, depending on whether I stick with what I have now, or buy a couple more plants (P.S. I live in an apartment so I don't have much of a yard to plant in).  I'm a bit afraid because I kind of have a black thumb- I love plants, but they don't love me... and it doesn't help that I forget to water them sometimes.. sorry plants!!!  Anyway, here are my beautiful plants!

Red Rubin Basil
Mesclun Mix
Jalapeno Peppers
...and purple bell peppers!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Penne alla Vodka

Last night's dinner started a little rocky.  There I was, following instructions to a tee, and my out of whack burners once again got the best of me.  I've mentioned that they run hot right?  Well, that's something I just can't seem to learn from... maybe it's because I like to think that this time, maybe they'll behave themselves.  Bad burners!!!!  Anyway, I had only just gotten started with the meal- all I needed to do was heat up some oil, and start cooking some onions, along with some tomato paste.  I added the onions to the oil- I saw that maybe they were cooking a little fast, but thought, hey, no big deal, but then came the addition of the tomato paste, and this my burner did not like.  Immediately it started sputtering, tomato paste and hot oil flying everywhere.  I tried to get close to the pot to stir the blackening mixture, but it was angry, and I was soon coated in the burnt mess.

I took the pot off the stove, wept a little (inside), and then decided that it wasn't salvageable, and I needed to start over.  And start over I did.  This time I decided medium heat would be just high enough- I also used a different pan- my dutch oven (which probably wasn't the best to use for this dish anyway) was mad at me.  This time it was smooth sailing, and delicious eating.  This is the first time I've ever made my own Penne alla Vodka, and boy was it incredible.  The recipe that I used, from Annie's Eats, was just right.  Creamy and filling, but it didn't seem too heavy.  The amount of vodka was perfect, not too strong and not too weak.  Just amazing!

Penne Alla Vodka
Serves 4

16 oz. Dried Pasta
1 (28-oz.) can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup reserved pasta water, if needed
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil leaves
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  When boiling, add the pasta, and cook until just shy of al dente per the package instructions.
2. While the water is coming to a boil.... If you'd like your sauce chunky, divide the tomatoes in half.  Add half to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth, and coarsely chop the other half. (Discard the seeds for the chopped tomatoes.)  Combine the pureed and chopped tomatoes in a measuring cup.  If less than two cups, add the reserved tomato liquid to reach 2 cups.  If you'd like your sauce smooth (like my boyfriend), puree all the tomatoes.  Then add enough reserved tomato liquid to make 2 cups.
3.  Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pot over medium heat (or medium high if you are brave, and your burners work properly), until shimmering.  Add onions and tomato paste and cook about 3 minutes, until the onions begin to soften.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
4.  Add tomato mixture and salt.  Remove pan from heat and add vodka.  Return pan to heat, and simmer on medium about 8-10 minutes, until the alcohol flavor is cooked off.  Stir frequently, and if it is simmering too vigorously, lower heat.  If you are cooking it on medium (versus medium high), it probably won't need to be lowered.
5. Add the cream and cook about 1 minute, until heated through.  Be careful not to cook the cream too long, or the sauce will separate.
6. When the pasta is done, reserve a 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid before you drain it, and then drain the rest. Add the pasta to the sauce (in the sauce pan) and cook 1-2 minutes, until the pasta is done cooking and has absorbed some of the sauce.  If it gets too thick add some of the reserved pasta water, until it reached your desired consistency.
7. Add the basil.  Taste the pasta, and adjust seasoning as needed.
8. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Source: Annie's Eats, originally from Cook's Illustrated


  • I thought the pasta was great with the all the tomatoes being pureed, but I am a fan of tomatoes so I think I personally would have enjoyed it even more had there been tomato chunks.  My boyfriend however dislikes tomato chunks, so he thought it was just perfect the way it was.
  • Keep a close eye on the sauce especially in the beginning stages when you are cooking the onion, and then the garlic.  It may take less time than the instructions say depending of the heat of your stove, and it can burn quickly, as mine originally did.
  • I'm thinking that this would be an awesome dish to add shrimp, or crab, or lobster to... I'll have to try that sometime!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Melts

There is a wonderful restaurant near where I live, Mortensen's.  It's a casual establishment that started out as a dairy, then started making  ice cream, and this eventually morphed into a casual restaurant where you seat yourself and only cash is accepted.  They still sell the ice cream they make themselves, with about a bazillion awesome flavors, and the best Ice Cream Sundae known to man- the Peanut Butter Brownie Supreme- a couple (2,3,4- who's counting) huge scoops of whatever ice cream you want (chocolate is my pick), with peanut butter sauce, hot fudge, whipped cream and a cherry, all on top of a warm brownie.  It is divine.  Someday, when I get an ice cream machine I will attempt to recreate this masterpiece (or I suppose I could just buy chocolate ice cream at the store), but for now I'll stick to the food.  Whenever I go, my food of choice is the buffalo chicken melt.  It's messy but oh so delicious, and so after getting this sandwich too many times to count, I thought to myself... hmmmm.... this is something that should be relatively easy to recreate.  Grilled or sauteed chicken breast with buffalo sauce with Swiss cheese melted on it, on toasted sourdough bread... with lettuce, tomato and mayo, and served with a side of blue cheese dressing.  They serve it with fries on the side- some of the most delicious fries I've ever had.

This is a messy dinner, but I think that's okay sometimes!  Just keep lots of napkins handy.

Buffalo Chicken Melts
Serves 1- infinity (but the hot sauce mixture is good for about 4 sandwiches)

For chicken:
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded thin, or chicken cutlets
Olive Oil
Chili Powder
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot (or other cayenne pepper sauce)

For Sandwiches:
Swiss Cheese
Sourdough bread, sliced
Blue Cheese Dressing

1. Heat about 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet (you can use nonstick if you have a working one) over medium-high heat.
2. Season both sides of chicken with salt, pepper, paprika and chili powder.
3. Add chicken to skillet.  Cook about 3 minutes on each side, until chicken is done.
4.  Melt butter in microwave (30-45 seconds until melted, but has not exploded- keep a close eye on it!).  Add hot sauce to butter and mix.  It may congeal a little if the butter is way hot and the hot sauce is cold.  That's okay, just put it in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds, and stir.
5. Add the chicken to the hot sauce mixture, and turn to coat.
6. Heat a nonstick skillet, or griddle over medium heat.
7. Butter each side of your bread, and place one piece butter side down.  Place chicken on bread and then Swiss cheese on top of the chicken.  Cook as you would a grilled cheese sandwich- a couple minutes or so, until brown on one side, then flip and brown the other side.
8. Repeat as many times as you want, depending on how many sandwiches you are making.  On a big griddle you could cook more than one at a time.
9. When done, add desired toppings- lettuce, tomato, mayo, and serve the blue cheese dressing on the side to dip the sandwich to.  Or you could do as my boyfriend does and replace the mayo with blue cheese dressing instead of dipping.

Source: Inspired by Mortensen's Restaurant in Newington, CT, and slightly adapted from Rachael Ray's Hot Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches


  • So my sandwiches were a little plain as my lettuce went bad, and I used my tomatoes to make Mexican rice, but sometimes being plain is okay, and these sandwiches were more than okay.  My boyfriend, Ron, doesn't like to put any veggies on his sandwich anyway- he says he's through fooling himself about trying to be healthy.
  • When seasoning the chicken you can leave out the paprika and chili powder if you want.  It's not necessary as the hot sauce gives plenty of flavor, but I like it because it just kicks the chicken up another notch.
  • Make sure you watch your sandwiches as they are grilling closely.  If you walk away and forget about them, they may burn.... not like I know from experience or anything.  P.S. They can be messy to flip, but you'll get the hang of it.
  • I think fries on the side are a perfect accompaniment.  I served these with Chipotle sweet potato fries because they are my personal favorite.
  • I've been cooking these in a pan because I like the flavor that the toasted butter gives, but you can certainly pop them in the oven once the sandwiches are assembled (minus the veggies and mayo), to melt the cheese instead, and I'm sure they'd be less messy.  If you do this, I'd suggest toasting the bread first, then putting on the chicken and Swiss cheese, and then just putting them in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese is melty, and then assembling them.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Gratin of Shredded Potatoes with Ham, Eggs and Onions

I've had Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking for about a year and a half now, and the only recipe I've ever made was her spectacular Boeuf Bourguignon.  Why you ask?  Well, I'm a bit intimidated to be honest.  French food is scary- it just seems so exacting and fancy and complicated.  I look at the recipes and I come up with excuses like... oh man, it's Sunday and I don't have vermouth or cognac or port (yep, CT still has those pesky blue laws), and man, I just used up the last of my Fois Gras and beef marrow, darn, I guess I can't cook anything French tonight.  But, I decided recently that I need to get over that fear... I need to go all Julie and Julia and master the art of French cooking.  So I sat down with my cookbook this weekend and decided to pick a recipe.  I tend to forget that Mastering the Art of French Cooking actually has chapters other than Poultry and Meat.  It also has these recipes for eggs and soup and stuff.  I originally was thinking quiche, but then came the gratins and my mind was instantly made up.

So what is a gratin?  Julia Child says that it's kind of like a quiche, but it's baked in a shallow fireproof dish or pie plate instead of a pastry shell, so hey, that's easier than making pastry and then a filling.  Wikipedia also tells me that a gratin is topped with a brown crust using stuff like breadcrumbs, grated cheese, eggs, or butter.  So here you just need a filling and a brown crust, and the first one in the Gratin section sounded awesome- shredded potatoes? Yum! Ham? Yum! Eggs? Yum! Onions? Yum!  Mind made up!  This was super-easy to make, and extremely delicious, and it made my apartment smell just wonderful when cooking... it still smells wonderful a couple hours later.  I think I'll make a Gratin everyday from now on just to make my apartment smell like this always.  Why hasn't anyone invented a candle infused with Gratin smell yet?!?!?!  By the way, when I told my brother I was making a Gratin I pronounced it in an Americanized way, and he corrected me, so now I must always pronounce it like the French... much fancier that way!

Gratin of Shredded Potatoes with Ham and Eggs and Onions
Râpée Morvandelle
Serves 4

1/2 cup onions, finely minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 1/2 Tbsp butter, divided
1/2 cup (3 ounces) cooked ham, finely diced
4 eggs
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp parsley and/or chives and chervil
2/3 cup (3 ounces) Swiss cheese, grated
4 Tbsp whipping cream, light cream, or milk
Pinch of pepper
1/4 tsp salt
3 medium-sized potatoes (about 10 ounces)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Melt 2 Tbsp butter and oil in a medium saute pan over medium-low heat.  Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender but not brown.
3.  Raise heat to medium, add ham to pan, and cook for 1-2 minutes more.
4. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, garlic, herbs, cheese, milk, salt and pepper together.  Add the ham and onion mixture to the eggs when it has cooled a bit, and mix together.
5. Peel and grate potatoes.  Use the large holes.  Squeeze the water out of the potatoes, a handful at a time, and then stir them into the egg mixture.
6. Heat 2 Tbsp butter in an 10-12 inch baking dish or oven-proof skillet, by either heating it on the stovetop or in the oven.  When the butter is foaming, pour the egg and potato mixture into the dish/skillet.  Dot with the remaining 1/2 Tbsp butter (cut into small pieces).  Place dish in the preheated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until top is browned.

Source: Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1


  • Do not panic if you shred the potatoes a little early and they turn pink- or even grey!  This is a normal reaction caused by the oxidation of the potato flesh.  It's okay, it won't harm the flavor, and will not effect the color of the finished dish.
  • The Swiss cheese was delicious in this Gratin, but I'm thinking substituting other cheeses would be awesome as well- I'm thinking a cheddar next time would be just wonderful... or maybe a gouda!
  • Bacon would be a good substitution for the ham... or sausage would also be delicious.  Or you could make it vegetarian and do mushrooms or peppers!  
  • The original recipe says to use an 11 to 12 inch pan for this, but I used my 10 inch Pyrex baking dish and it turned out just fine!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Green Chile Chicken Soft Tacos

Last Friday I purchased a cookbook I've been eyeing for a while (thank you Borders for the 40% off coupon!). I've been wanting one of Rick Bayless' cookbooks since the beginning of time and after scanning the titles I decided to go with Mexican Everyday.  I've heard it mentioned here and there, and since I don't always have hours and hours to do prep work on a dinner, this cookbook seemed perfect for me, as it contains recipes that one can complete in little time, which is perfect for me since most of the time I get home from work between 6 and 6:30.  Last Saturday, the day after my purchase, I was already cooking one of his meals- a Red Chile Chicken Enchilada (I will definitely be making it again, so you can expect it on here at some point), and it was excellent!  Today I thought I'd go with another of the recipes from this cookbook, and I decided on the Green Chile Chicken Soft Tacos.

I make a lot of chicken because it is the meat I am most comfortable cooking and it is so versatile.... and it was on sale for $1.99/pound this week, which didn't hurt!!!  Yep, I'll be making a lot of chicken this week it seems.  The chiles used in this recipe are poblanos, but he says that pretty much any large fleshy pepper will work (red peppers and Anaheims are the others he mentions).  I served these with a Mexican rice recipe that I found on Annie's Eats a few weeks ago that is just amazing, and I'll post up sometime, and canned black beans (which I added some cumin, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder to).  It was a seriously delicious and filling meal, but so good that I just wanted to keep eating until my stomach burst or I went into a food coma.

Green Chile Chicken Soft Tacos
Tacos de Pollo al Chile Poblano
Serves 4

2 large fresh poblano chiles
2 tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil (divided use)
1 large white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 pound (3 medium-large) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
12 warm corn tortillas, store-bought or homemade
About 3/4 cup Roasted Tomatillo Salsa or Guacamole, or bottled sauce or hot sauce, for serving

1.  Roast the poblano chiles, either over an open flame, or under the broiler.  If roasting them over and open flame, turn them often, until blackened all over.  It'll take about 5 minutes.  If roasting them under the broiler, adjust to the highest rack.  Place them on a baking sheet (I lined mine with foil), roast about 5 minutes on each side.  When done, put the peppers in a bowl, and cover it with a kitchen towel, or plastic wrap.  Leave them in the bowl until cool enough to handle.
2.  Turn the oven on to its lowest setting- on my oven it is 200 degrees.  Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook until golden, stirring often.  This'll take about 4-5 minutes.  Put them in a heatproof serving dish, and put this into the oven to keep warm.  Set the skillet aside until ready to cook the chicken.
3. First though remove the blackened skin from the chiles, remove the stems and seeds.  Rinse them under water to remove any remaining skin and seeds.  Cut them into 1/4 strips and add them to the onions in the oven.  Taste the mixture and season with salt if needed, it'll probably be about 1 tsp.  Put the dish back in the oven.
4. Put the skillet back on the stove on medium heat.  Add the remaining 1 tbsp of oil.  Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper, and place the chicken in the hot pan.  Brown one side (about 5 minutes), turn over and cook the other side until done (about 4 minutes).  Add lime juice and garlic to the pan.  Turn the chicken in the mixture for 1-2 minutes until the lime juice has reduced to a glaze and the chicken is coated.
5. Cut the chicken in 1/4 inch strips and combine with the onions and peppers.  Taste and season if desired.
6. Serve with warm corn tortillas, salsa, guacamole and/or hot sauce.

Source: Mexican Everyday

  • I used store-bought corn tortillas this time.  I've never made my own, and I'm a bit intimidated to be honest, but I'll give them a try at some point.  To heat them, you can sandwich them between dampened paper towels or clean kitchen towels and microwave for about 45 seconds to a minute.  Rick Bayless suggests a different method which involves dribbling some water on a kitchen towel, wrapping the tortillas inside, slipping them inside a microwavable plastic bag, microwaving on high for 4 minutes at 50% power, and then letting them steam for 2-3 minutes, and I'm sure that works great, but I'm a bit more lazy than that.  
  • My chicken took quite a bit longer to cook than this recipe says.  It's probably because my chicken breasts were larger than medium-large.  In any case, just make sure the chicken is actually cooked before adding the garlic-lime mixture. 
  • I blackened my poblanos under the broiler and I didn't really feel it necessary to keep turning them.  I just did 5 minutes on one side, flipped them over, and broiled 5 minutes on the other side.
  • Bayless suggests either serving this with roasted tomatillo salsa or guacamole, but I decided to go crazy and make both.  It was an excellent combination with both the spiciness of the salsa, and the creaminess of the guacamole.  Don't worry, those recipes will follow these notes!

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Makes 1 1/2 cups

4 medium tomatillos (about 8 ounces total), husked, rinsed and halved
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
Hot green chiles to taste (i.e. 2 serranos or 1 jalapeno), stemmed and roughly chopped
About 1/3 cup (loosely packed) roughly chopped cilantro
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped

1. Set a large nonstick skillet, or foil-lined sticky skillet (what's the opposite of nonstick?) over medium-high heat.  Place the tomatillos and garlic in the skillet, cut side down.  Cook about 3-4 minutes, until the tomatillos are brown, then flip and cook the other side about 3-4 minutes (flip the garlic too).  The tomatillos will be soft.
2.  Put the browned tomatillos and garlic in a blender or food processor.  Let them cool to room temperature, and then add the chiles, cilantro and a 1/4 cup of water.  Blend until coursely chopped, or to whatever consistancy you like (mine was a bit more on the finely chopped side).  Pour into a bowl for serving.  If it is too thick, you can add a little more water.
3.  Rinse the chopped onion under cold water.  Stir into the salsa.  Taste and season if necessary (about 1/2 tsp).    

  • I used 2 serrano chiles in mine, and I thought the spiciness was just perfect.  It did tone down a little when paired with the tacos.
  • Bayless suggests that if the salsa is not going to be served immediately, to wait to add the cilantro until it is about to be served, as well as the onion.  If you are not adding the cilantro in at the blending stage, it should be finely chopped, rather than coursely.
  • My salsa had no issue with being to thick, in fact I was concerned that it was too watery at first, but once I added the onion and cilantro, it ended up being just perfect.

Makes about 3/4 of a cup

1 medium ripe avocado
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
About 1 tablespoon lime juice

Cut the avocado in half, twist the halves apart, and remove the pit.  Scoop out the avocado flesh with a spoon into a small-medium bowl.  Mash up the avocado.  I used a fork, but a potato masher would also work.  Add the garlic, salt and lime juice.  Taste and add more salt or lime juice as desired.

  • I halved Bayless's recipe and it was enough for the two of us (my boyfriend and I), especially because we paired it with the salsa as well, but you can certainly double the quantities and make a normal sized recipe.  If doubling it, 1 clove of garlic will still be enough, unless you like your guacamole extra garlicy.  Also the lime juice quantity may remain the same, depending on your personal taste.
  • Bayless has 3 versions of guacamole in his cookbook- simple, herby, or luxurious.  This adaptation is a combination of simple and herby.
Source: adapted from Mexican Everyday

Saturday, May 21, 2011


So I've been making a lot of enchiladas lately (if two types in two weeks equals a lot that is), and so I had some leftover corn tortillas that were about to go to waste.  I really hate to waste food, and so I decided I should make something with them... there weren't enough for more enchiladas, and so the second thought that came to mind was to make migas- something I've been wanting to try to make forever!  I went with a Tex-Mex version which traditionally is pretty much eggs scrambled with corn tortillas, cheese, chiles, salsa, and some other ingredients- like cilantro, for example, and is traditionally a breakfast dish.  After searching for a good recipe to try, I came upon one on Chaos in the Kitchen that was linked through Tastespotting (if you haven't been to this website I highly recommend it- fair warning though- it will make you VERY hungry!).  This was excellent and just what I was craving!


Serves 2-3

6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tbsp oil
2 cups corn tortilla chips or chopped corn tortillas
1 bunch green onions (green and white parts) or 1/2 onion, diced
2 jalapenos, diced (can be de-seeded, depending on how spicy you like your food)
2 oz melting cheese, shredded (i.e. Cheddar, Colby, or Jack)
1 cup fresh salsa 
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper

1. In a mixing bowl combine eggs and milk, beat lightly with a fork.
2. Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat.
3. Fry tortillas in oil until crisp and starting to brown.  Add onions and jalapenos.  Saute until soft.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Pour egg mixture into the pan with tortillas and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Stir eggs gently until soft-set.  Sprinkle with cheese and stir to combine. 
6. Make a well in the center of the skillet and add salsa.
7. Allow salsa to warm up in the center of the skillet for a minute before gently stirring in the egg mixture.
8. Taste, and season with salt and pepper to your liking.  Turn off the heat and stir in fresh cilantro.
9. Serve immediately.

  • I didn't have any fresh salsa or ingredients to make fresh salsa in my apartment, so I used a generic salsa that I had in the fridge, and it was good, but not quite as good as I imagine it would be with fresh salsa.  Next time I make this I will definitely be making fresh salsa to stir in!  I imagine that red and green salsa would be equally delicious, but  I'm leaning toward Tomatillo salsa for my next batch.  
  • When crisping up the corn tortillas I actually ended up adding a little more oil than it called for, as the tortillas began sticking a bit.  I'm not sure whether this was due to the size of the skillet that I used (12.5 inch), but in any case, I wouldn't worry if you need to add a little more oil.  Even though mine stuck a bit, they didn't end up burning.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chicken and Red Pepper Stir-Fry

After a few days worth of cheesy meals (which don't get me wrong, were super delicious), I decided somewhat lighter far was in order.  Stir-frys always seem a good bet to me in that respect and so I chose a simple one that I've made a few times in the past, where the main ingredients consist only of chicken, red peppers, and onions.  Until fairly recently, I was under the impression that stir-frys needed to be chock full of veggies- the more the better- but for some reason, despite the over-abundance of ingredients, they always came out bland.  One fateful day though, as I was perusing the interwebs looking for something I could cook with ingredients on hand, I came upon a Thai-inspired chicken and basil stir-fry- one where only the chicken and basil were the star ingredients (and the delectable sauce that is), and that was a huge success.  After that I had a revelation- simple sometimes equals better.  Since then, I've gone for simple stir-frys, and I haven't turned back yet.

This recipe comes from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast which I only received a few months ago for Christmas, but have so far not been steered wrong by.  The recipe is for Stir-Fry Wraps, where they suggest serving the Stir-Fry in leaves of Boston lettuce.  Now, this sounds delicious, but last night I decided to go with a more standard side dish of Jasmine rice.  Maybe next time though.... They also suggest trying it served in tortillas, which sounds excellent as well.

Chicken and Red Pepper Stir-Fry

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
Course salt and feshly ground pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
3 tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
3 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp. water
Rice for serving. ( I used Jasmine rice, but you can use Basmati rice, or really whatever type suits your fancy)

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tbsp. of the oil over high heat.  Add half the chicken; cook, stirring constantly, until opaque throughout, 2 to 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
2. Add the remaining tbsp. oil to the pan, along with the onion and bell pepper.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the onion is tender and golden, about 4 minutes (reduce heat if browning too quickly).
3. Reduce the heat to medium; add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes to the pan; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. 
4. Stir in the soy sauce, vinegar, and cornstarch mixture; remove from the heat.  Add the chicken and any accumulated juices; toss to coat.
5. Serve over rice. (Or in Boston lettuce leaves, or tortillas!)

Notes: I, unfortunately, do not have a large nonstick skillet (or I suppose I should say I have one, but it is no longer nonstick), so I used my regular large stainless steel saute pan, and lo and behold the chicken stuck, but hey, it was still delicious.  I actually cooked the chicken and veggies at a medium high-heat because my burners tend to run hot (and I've been afraid of cooking with oil and high heat ever since the time I almost lit my kitchen on fire when some hot oil burst into flames).  The cooking times remained the same though on the lower heat- and I did end up having to turn the heat down when cooking the peppers and onions.  I also didn't seem to have quite a pound and a half of chicken last night, so I added extra bell pepper, and there was still definitely enough.

Hello and welcome!!

My name is Emily and I'm a 28-year-old New Englander who is obsessed with food.  This blog will be a place for me to share recipes that I've been cooking, or anything food-related for that matter.  I am not a professional cook, but rather an amateur one.  Cooking is just a dearly-loved hobby for me, but I am always trying to improve on my skills, try new foods, experience new tastes from around the world, and so I figure a blog is the best way to record my experiences in the kitchen, to share with you all out there, as well as hold keep an on-going record for myself of those experiences.

So once again welcome and enjoy :)