Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday night dinner ~

Macaroni and Cheese ~

My childhood request for my birthday dinner was my Mother's macaroni and cheese.  That and cherry pie....or spice cake.  My memories are fuzzy.  I do remember that she used crushed saltines and butter for the topping.  I don't have the guts to buy saltine's anymore - a sleeve of non-nutritional crunchy-salty white flour food that I find very appealing.  Evil things. I try very hard to avoid them entirely, I find them addictive.  Anywhoo ~

It's Foodie Friday.   I'm on West Coast I'm slipping this in under the wire.

4 T. butter
4 T. flour
2 1/2 c. whole or 2% milk
Extra 1/2 c. milk
Salt and Pepper
Pinch of cayenne
8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated - tonight I used mild
1/2 pound pasta, your favorite shape

1 - 1 1/2 bread crumbs from fresh bread
3-4 T. butter, melted
Pinch of salt
  • Combine butter, bread crumbs and a pinch of salt.
  • Get pasta to cooking.  Stop cooking before it reaches al dente.  It should have a little more than a bite to it.  Drain when ready to add to cheese sauce.
  • Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium flame.
  • Add flour to butter, whisking.  Cook for a minute or two, continuing to stir.
  • Slowly add milk while whisking constantly.  I do not warm the milk, though you may prefer to do so.
  •  Bring sauce to a low boil, whisking almost constantly.
  • Add salt, pepper, the cayenne.
  • Reduce heat to a low simmer, cook for 2-3 three minutes more.
  • Remove from heat, add cheese and stir until melted.
  • Add the additional 1/2 cup milk to loosen a little without further cooking.
  • Add the drained noodles to the cheese sauce.
  • Pour into a greased baking dish, top with crumbs.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

 Notes ~

I love a sharp raw milk cheese in this, sometimes mixed with a jack to smooth it out.  
I prefer a fusilli  or a gemelli, Italian brands.  They hold up better, having a good firmness.
Smoked Gouda and garlic is delicious and a little different.

Toodles ~

Friday, January 8, 2010

Foodie Friday ~

After school snack.  Cocoa-banana nut muffins.  Bad, Mom, bad.  *smiling*  Happy mom ~ that's me.


Toodles ~


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Outdoor Wednesday ~ simply a picture

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Nicholas cooks ~ Mushoom-shallot cream sauce with chicken

This recipe has a little history behind it.  I call it the first date dinner.  Not that it was made on any first date, but if the man made it to being asked to my home to dinner for the first time, this was most likely what was served.  Did I mention I'm referring to sometime over 20 years ago?  I also have had this recipe for over twenty years, almost 22, I think.  From Bob McKibben, who made if for me on a date at his home. I was impressed.  Men that cook.  I just smile that I have a good memory in looking at the pink notebook paper with his hand-writing on it.  He wrote it out when I asked for it, when he was cooking for the next girl he dated.  

How can one go wrong with cream and butter?  Mushrooms can be pushed aside if a person does not like mushrooms.  The shallots are mild in the cream.  Chicken, most people like chicken.  All around, it is quick, easy and decadent.   Perfect for company.

My son, Nicholas, likes to be in the kitchen, cooking.  I've not nutured that as much as he would like.  After his Christmas vacation, I asked if he'd like to cook dinner once a week, with my help when he needs it and teaching.  This recipe is good in that results are tasty if done well, still good if done not so well.  Nicholas did well!!  Even his little sister found a mushroom style she liked!  The girls set the dinner with the Christmas dishes because they aren't ready to let them go yet until next season.  It was a cozy family dinner.  A stepping stone moment in time.  

He was able to learn a few things, which was fun.  How to pick out mushrooms, discuss the differences at the store, let him decide which ones to pick.  Dredging meat.  Searing meat.  Browning veggies.  De-glazing.  I did the flaming brandy part, he is afterall, 12.  And with crossed fingers on my part, on his way to being a fine cook as a man someday.  Maybe he'll even make this for a date someday and smile.  I hope he's well loved.

Chicken with mushroom-shallot cream sauce

8-10 chicken tenders
1/2 c. flour
Salt and pepper
1 c. sliced mushrooms, or quartered if small
1/4 - 1/2 c. thinly sliced shallots - amount depending on love of shallots 
1/4 lb. butter, approximate
2 oz. brandy
3/4 pint heavy cream

  • Add salt and pepper to flour in a pan.  
  • Pat dry the chicken.  Dredge in flour and set aside on a clean plate.
  • Heat pan over medium flame, when hot add 2-4 T. butter, then mushrooms and shallots.  Salt.  Let brown.  When nicely browned, add brandy, flame.  Let warm for a couple minutes.  Remove veggies to a plate.
  • Add more butter to saucepan.  Put in chicken breasts or tenders, without crowding.  Split the number in separate batches if need be.  I do this with 4-5 tenders in one 10" pan, two batches.
  • Cook chicken to nicely browned on first side, almost all the way done on the other.
  • Add mushrooms and shallots back into the pan, along with first batch of chicken.  Add cream, warm through.  Add chicken back into pan.  No need to bring to a boil, just to coat and heat through if needed.  Taste for seasoning.
Notes ~  Bob made this with the chicken being cooked first.  Searing the chicken on one side, turning and adding the brandy.  He'd remove the chicken, then move onto the mushrooms and shallots.  

Nicholas ~ he did a great job, I'm proud of him.  I think he was proud of himself, too.   

Friday, January 1, 2010

Black bean soup ~

I crave making this dish.  I think it's because of the layers, the steps.  I like using dried beans best.  I hear my grandparents voices, could be just my grandfather - - don't be lazy!  Now, I have no actual recall of ever hearing this, but I've attributed the energy from their source.  I feel the energy when there is a more frugal option.  I do remember my grandmother not so happy with how frugal she was made to be because of my grandfather.  Those were different days for women and men.  For whatever reason I came to a place in the kitchen to love cooking the way I do, I am grateful.  I feel the history of good cooks in the women in my family.

Let's start here.  Yum!!  Slurpy-lip-smackin' yum!  Analyzing the feeling of this recipe in my head, I believe this is a main draw.  Not standing around drinking this while making this dish (though...that *is* a bonus), rather adding this dark beer with sauteed onions.  It fizzes when it hits the pan, the scent rises quickly with the onions own aroma following.  The reduction is a visual treat as it thickens.  Okay, now I sound weird to myself.  *smiling*  I'm just excited thinking about making this soup.  Here I am typing it out, so I'm all giddy again.  Did I mention one of my favorite sayings about myself is "Simple Minds, Simple pleasures"?  This soup is complex in flavor, can I be complex?  Please?

Black Bean Soup ~

2-3 yellow onions, quartered and sliced, number depending on your onion love.
Olive oil - 2-3 tablespoons
1 T. butter
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper
1/2 bottle of Porter or Stout
4- 5 c. cooked black beans
2 links chorizo, cooked in barely simmering water, then cooled, chilled and sliced.
4 cooked chicken thighs, meat removed from bone and separated into big big shreds.
1 c. diced roasted red pepper
2 T. chopped fresh oregano
2 small dried chipotle peppers - optional, and, careful, as the choizo will be spicy enough.
4 c. chicken stock

I start this the day before making the soup, getting various components ready.  I cook the black beans, skipping the overnight soak.  I cook the chorizo in water then chill it overnight, this gives a nice clean slice.  I poach the thighs with bay leaf, salt, pepper, carrot, onion.   

  • Heat a stock pot on medium flame or just below.  When it's hot, add the olive oil and butter.  Add onions, kosker salt (at least a tsp.), and the teaspoon of sugar.  Saute on medium-low until it begins to carmelize, showing some color on about a quarter of the onions.  This will take 15-20 minutes
  • Add half the bottle of porter, reduce in a low simmer until a couple-three tablespoons of wet remain.  This wil take 15 minutes or longer. 
  • Add the four cups chicken stock, red pepper, oregano, shredded chicken.  Taste, add a touch of salt if necessary.  Add the sliced chorizo and heat through.   
This just begs me to make foccacia bread.  Oh.  Lookie.  I have a bowl of dough rising in the kitchen...*smiling*

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