24 September 2010

Chicken Pot Pie - A Comfort Classic


Chicken pot pie is one of my all-time favorite cool-weather comfort classics. Sometimes I make a 9-inch round pie or even a 13x9x2-inch pie, but individual pot pies are just so cute! Especially these petite ones in 8-ounce ramekins, the perfect size for a "something different" first course or for pairing with soup and/or salad for a light lunch. You could even make them for a chic little "small plates" party! I always make the big pies with both top and bottom crust, but I like the petite pies with just a top crust.

Petite Chicken Pot Pies

Pastry (see below)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup finely diced onion
1/3 cup finely diced celery
1/3 cup finely diced red bell pepper
2/3 cup finely diced carrots
1 1/2 cups halved, finely sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons dry sherry, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups shredded or diced cooked chicken
3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas

1 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In medium skillet, melt butter and saute onion for 3 minutes. Add celery, bell pepper and carrots; saute for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt; saute for 5 minutes. Stir in flour and cook for a minute or two. Gradually add broth, cream and sherry; cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly and thickened. Season with remaining salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Stir in the chicken and peas. (It's easy to forget about the peas because all the other vegetables went in at the beginning. But don't! The peas are wonderful.) Adjust seasoning. Divide mixture among six 8-ounce ramekins.

2 Roll out the pie crust to nearly 1/4-inch thick. Using your ramekin as a template, cut out 8 circles about 1/2 inch greater in diameter than the ramekins. Top each ramekin with a circle of dough, fold excess under, press down the edges or crimp with a fork, and cut a 1-inch slit, or prick with fork, to vent. Place on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

If you like, prepare ahead of time. Chill filling, assemble, cover pies and keep refrigerated until ready to bake. Preheat oven to 400 degrees 45 minutes before serving time. Put pies in oven 30 minutes before serving time. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Pastry
(food processor* method)


1 1/2 packed cups (7.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and frozen for 10 minutes
1/3 cup ice water
1 tablespoon
lemon juice or cider vinegar

1 With metal blade in place, add flour, salt and baking powder to work bowl of food processor. Turn on for three seconds to combine. Add half the frozen butter and process for 10 seconds or until mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Add remaining butter and pulse for six 1-second pulses, or until the frozen butter is the size of small peas.

2 In cup, combine lemon juice and ice water. Pour over all of flour mixture; pulse for six 1-second pulses or just until dough forms large clumps; do not over-process. (The amount of water you will need depends on your climate and the moisture content of your flour. You may not need to use quite as much water as I do.)
3 Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten slightly into a 4-inch round disk; double wrap; refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to three days. (Let thoroughly chilled dough stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling.)

* I have the DLC-10E, which (understandably after all this time) is no longer available. See the "
My Little Shop" page for a current model.

17 September 2010

Cupcakes - In or Out, Trendy or Passe, Who Cares?








Cupcakes (or fairy cakes, as they are sometimes called in the UK) are something I like well enough, but I might never have gotten around to blogging about them if I hadn't just read that they are cliché, passé and "so over." Puh-lease!

I find trends, in general, rather tiresome. Whether it's a food, a style, a color, anything at all, this celebrity-mad, trend-mad culture of ours slaps the "trend" label on it and beats it to death, then treats it with disdain when the next trend comes along. It's all sooooooo junior-high!

I'm not saying I don't enjoy new dishes by new chefs. My blog is about comfort food classics, but I've done a fair amount of more "fashionable" cooking and dining in "foodie" circles. What I object to is not the food but all the nonsense that too often surrounds it.

Snobbery is always ridiculous, but never more so than when it comes to food. Think about it. Does getting all uppity about what we eat make sense in a world where something like one-sixth of the population is starving?!

Okay, I'll have myself crying in a minute, so I'll just get on with my poor, pitiful, passé cupcakes! When I was developing the recipe, I experimented with different amounts of the various ingredients. With just two tablespoons more butter, the paper bake cups were positively greasy when the cupcakes were done! Cutting back on the butter by two tablespoons solved that problem without cutting back on the wonderful things butter does for cake batter. No need to separate the eggs and fold in the whipped egg whites--these cupcakes could not be any fluffier!

Tell me what you think about cupcakes, trends, food snobbery ...

Luscious Lemon Cupcakes/Fairy Cakes

(Makes 24)

3 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 packed cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
Grated zest of 2 lemons (about 1 tablespoon)

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 2½-inch paper bake cups in two standard muffin tins. In small bowl, lightly combine the eggs, a quarter of the milk, and the vanilla.

2 In large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for a minute to "sift." Add the softened butter and remaining milk. Mix on low speed until combined. With mixer on medium-high speed, beat for a minute and a half. Scrape the bowl.

3 Beat in the egg mixture in three batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape the bowl and, with spatula, stir in lemon zest. (I do it by hand because the zest tends to get tangled up in the beaters.)

4 Using a 1/4-cup measure, fill the bake cups with a scant 1/4 cup of batter. (If you use a full 1/4 cup, the baked cupcakes will have a bit of an "overhang" on them, and you might only get 23 of them.) Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 24 minutes or until they are golden and test done with a toothpick.

5 Immediately remove from pans and cool on wire rack for an hour. They must be thoroughly cool before frosting.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting

10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound powdered sugar, unsifted
1/16 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons lemon juice

In bowl of stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the powdered sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the salt, vanilla extract and lemon juice and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

You'll need to cut back on the liquid, probably by half, if you're going to get fancy with the frosting. I thought about it but couldn't decide which decorating tip I wanted to use, so I just put my cake decorating gear away and swiped on the frosting with a small offset spatula and threw on some long strips of zest for color.

10 September 2010

Cornbread - Or Is it Corn Bread?




Some people say cornbread; others insist on corn bread (two words). Who knows, but I'm going with cornbread. That's just one of the controversies surrounding cornbread. Then there's sugar or no sugar? Milk or buttermilk? Flour or no flour? Yellow or white cornmeal? I even add to the persnicketiness of it all by specifying the grind of the cornmeal. I use Bob's Red Mill stone ground yellow medium grind. You might prefer the fine grind, but I like the crunch the medium grind gives the cornbread.

We could never agree on cornbread in my family when I was growing up. My mother, having been raised in the English manner, favored what some call "Northern" cornbread--higher, fluffier, sweeter. My father, having been raised in the Southern manner, favored "Southern" cornbread--flatter, no fluff, no sugar. Of course, many Southerners would say that's okay, as far as it goes, but that it's not really Southern unless there's some bacon grease involved.

When I'm missing my father (I always called him "Daddy," in the Southern manner), I'm inclined to cook up something he liked. Today, that's beans and cornbread. Now, mind, he was a real meat and potatoes (and a couple of vegetables) man; but there were days when he liked nothing more than a bowl of beans and a pan of cornbread. I'll tell you about the beans another day, but here's the cornbread. Two ways. Baked in an 8-inch square Pyrex baking dish AND in my new Belgian waffle maker!

Sometimes Daddy would eat leftover cornbread crumbled in a bowl and topped with milk. And milk? He would call milk "sweet milk" when the Southern was coming out in him. Apparently that was to differentiate between milk and buttermilk or even clabbered milk (I don't have a clue about that one).

So, tell me, where do YOU stand on all these different cornbread/corn bread issues?

Cornbread

(Makes eight 2x4-inch servings or eight 4.5-inch waffle squares)

1 cup stone ground yellow cornmeal
1 packed cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
3 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup organic canola oil

(That's one or two eggs more than you usually see in a cornbread recipe. Goes back to my vegetarian days when I was trying to squeeze in more protein anywhere I could. You could probably just use 2 eggs and increase the milk and buttermilk to 3/4 cup each.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Oil (or, if you want to get really Southern, bacon grease) an 8x8x2-inch pan (I use a Pyrex baking dish). In medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In small bowl, whisk together wet ingredients. Add wet to dry and beat just until smooth. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 425 for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. If you like your cornbread flatter, just use a slightly larger pan and bake for a shorter time.

One recipe makes two large square waffles in my Cuisinart WAF-100 4-Slice Belgian Waffle Maker, 2 cups of batter per waffle. Then I cut each 4.5-inch square in half diagonally and have 16 triangles.

Serve hot with plenty of unsalted butter.


03 September 2010

Belgian Waffles - Perfect Comfort Food Breakfast







Belgian waffles might be the perfect comfort food breakfast, but we've been known to make Belgian waffles for dinner! And I don't mean a savory version, I mean the breakfast version with just butter and syrup. Years ago we had a stovetop Belgian waffle maker that we wore completely out. When we recently decided to replace it, we researched all the electric ones and decided on the Cuisinart WAF-100. (Update 2014: That model has been replaced by the Cuisinart WAF-300 4-Slice Belgian Waffle Maker.)

Besides all the other good things about it (see Equipment Review - Cuisinart WAF-100 Belgian Waffle Maker), it takes 2 cups of batter. So the recipe I had developed for regular waffles, and which works just as well for Belgian waffles, will make two of these. Exactly. No leftover batter. That's important to me. I hate waste. And the leftovers are great! I mean it. Great. I put the two leftover squares in the refrigerator and heated them in the toaster the next day, and they were as good as new! So I stirred up another batch specifically for freezing. Just thaw the desired number of squares in the refrigerator overnight (or in the microwave in the morning), pop them in the toaster, and there you go! No need to ever eat a store-bought frozen waffle again. Ever.

This is my basic recipe. Sometimes I use different whole grain flours or throw in some very finely chopped pecans, but I always use this formula. We like to think the three eggs transform it into a seriously nutritious, high-protein breakfast. Tell me: How do you like your waffles? And do you prefer Belgian or regular? People tend to feel very strongly about that!

Buttermilk Belgian Waffles
(Makes two Cuisinart WAF-100 Belgian waffles or six 7-inch round regular waffles)

1 3/4 packed cups (8.75 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup buttermilk powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temperature, well beaten
1 1/2 cups milk, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons organic canola oil

1 In 2-quart glass measure, whisk together dry ingredients. In a 1-quart glass measure, whisk together the eggs, milk, butter and oil. Pour into dry mixture and combine. Let batter rest 5 minutes before using. Spray both upper and lower grids with cooking spray, or apply a little canola oil with a paper towel or pastry brush. Preheat waffle iron.

2 Ladle 2 cups batter onto center of waffle iron (or 1/2 cup onto each of the squares); spread batter evenly over the grid. Close the lid and bake until the green light comes on and the audible tone sounds, about 5 to 6 minutes. When the tone sounds (another signal is that the steam stops), open lid and remove the waffle. Close lid and wait a minute or two for iron to reheat. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with cold unsalted butter and warm real maple syrup or whatever you like.


01 September 2010

Equipment Review - Cuisinart WAF-100 Belgian Waffle Maker


Update 2014: This Belgian waffle maker model has been replaced by the Cuisinart WAF-300 Belgian Waffle Maker with Pancake Plates. It appears to have all the great features of the model I have plus an added feature and an improvement! The new feature is the Pancake Plates. 

The improvement takes care of the one tiny problem I had with the original model. I mentioned it in my original review; see two paragraphs down, where I said: "The only thing they could improve is the 5-setting browning control. The sliding control is a bit wobbly, so you don't feel confident that it's really on the number you've selected." They have solved the problem!

Original Review

We love Belgian waffles and finally, after considering all the possibilities, got around to getting a Belgian waffle maker, the Cuisinart WAF-100 4-Slice Belgian Waffle Maker. My regular waffle maker is round, and I was gravitating toward round for the Belgian. But the Cuisinart is a large square, giving you a lot more waffle each time (four 4.5-inch squares). Since it is so large, storage could be a problem; but they've made it so that it can be stored on its back edge with the lid locked in place and the cord neatly wound and out of the way.

In addition to the red and green indicator lights, it has an audible "ready" signal. So handy for those of us who get too distracted to notice the indicator lights! It looks good, is easy to use, makes great waffles, is easy to store and all that. The only thing they could improve is the 5-setting browning control. The sliding control is a bit wobbly, so you don't feel confident that it's really on the number you've selected.

The Cuisinart WAF-100 4-Slice Belgian Waffle Maker takes 2 cups of batter for each 4-slice waffle. I discovered that the recipe I had developed for regular waffles works just as well for Belgian waffles. It makes either six 7-inch round regular waffles or two of these, with no leftover batter. Any leftover waffle squares can be wrapped and refrigerated for the next day or frozen for a more distant day. They reheat beautifully for a quick breakfast on a busy day. No need to ever eat a store-bought frozen waffle again.

Here's the recipe for my Belgian Waffles.

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