Monday, January 31, 2011

Chicken N' Dumplings

Okay, so according to the "weatherman" we are supposed to be hit with one of the worst storms the NE has ever seen. I'm hoping he's wrong! Anyhow, in the spirit of hunkering down I decided to make chicken n' dumplings.

Dan has been bugging me to make more "man food"; i.e. keep it simple and go with comfort food of old and not try and make things that are too fancy. I generally try and make something he'll like for dinner so I thought this would be a winner. My dad loves chicken n' dumplings and often would throw this together as a winter meal.

My new friends at Fleisher's, hooked me up with a lovely young chicken. Seriously, if you are anywhere close to NYC/Hudson Valley you've got to check these guys out. (I'll likely do a post about them soon so stay tuned for more!)

I walked in and was browsing around while trying to brainstorm about what I would make for dinner over the week. I like to go to the butcher and the farmers market and try and get my inspiration from what is fresh and in season. Nicholas helped me talk through things and helped me get all that I would need.

I was running errands and what not for most of the morning and just butchered the chicken (which was interesting in itself since I don't do much butchering as a baker) and tossed it in my giant stock pot with the veggies and let it do its thing for 2 hours while I took Remi on a nice walk and straighted up around the house.

The dumpling dough takes hardly any time at all to mix together, roll out and cut to size and it was all finished and simmering on the stove waiting for Dan to come home.

Needless to say, Dan loved this meal and according to Dan, my father-in-law will be jealous that he wasn't here when he sees this post; Papa S, we'll make some chicken n' dumplings for you the next time you visit!

Chicken N' Dumplings (Adapted from a Cracker Barrel-esk recipe)

--3 quarts water (there are 4 cups in a quart, so 12 cups)
--1 (3 -4 lb) chicken, quartered
--1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
--1 Tblsp. lemon juice
--1 small onion, sliced
--2 shallots, quartered
--2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
--2 carrots, roughly chopped
--1 garlic clove, peeled and quartered
--1 bay leaf
--handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, whole
--1 tsp fresh ground pepper

--2 cups AP flour
--1 Tblsp. baking powder
--1 1/4 tsp. salt
--1 cup + 2 Tblsps. milk
(I used buttermilk because I had some in the fridge that I wanted to use it up)

Prep Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 3 hrs

1. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add chicken, 1 teaspoon of salt, onion, celery, carrot, garlic, shallot, bay leaf and parsley to the pot.

2. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook the chicken, uncovered, for 2 hours. (The liquid will reduce by roughly one third.)

3. When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pot and set it aside (cover to keep warm).

4. Strain the stock to remove all the vegetables and floating fat (toss the veggies, etc.--you just want the chicken and stock).

5. Pour 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) of the stock back into the pot (freeze the rest--great for other uses!)

6. Add coarsely ground pepper, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the lemon juice, then reheat the stock over medium heat while preparing the dumplings.

7. For the dumplings, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and milk in a medium bowl. Stir until smooth, then let the dough rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

8. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface to about a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut dough into 1/2-inch squares and drop each square into the simmering stock (be sure to use all of the dough.)

9. The dumplings will swell and then slowly shrink as they partially dissolve to thicken the stock.

10. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until thick. Stir often to cook dumplings evenly. Remove the skin from the chicken and cut into chunks (discard skin and bones).

11. Continue to simmer the chicken n' dumplings for another 5 to 10 minutes. When the liquids have reached the desired consistency, ladle four portions into bowls.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Old Bananas

I have a habit of getting bananas at the store, eating one, and then leaving them on the counter the rest of the week; the intention is good, I know that I should be eating bananas, but by the time I get a hankering for a banana again after the first one they are beyond snacking (see above).

My old COS Mike said his wife freezes them and then makes them into smoothies for the kids, a great idea; I however lean toward the not so healthful spectrum and think banana nut bread.

I decided to try a recipe from the May Issue of Saveur (as is) and then since I had five bananas, I tweaked a few things with another batch using the extra bananas. (Dan was playing with Remi during the baking process to keep him out of the kitchen; this is a bad shot but Remi fits perfectly on Dan's forearm, I just thought they looked cute.)

In my extra batch I kept the bones the same; think high school chemistry experiment here, you don't change everything, just a few things to see if they make a noticeable difference. The only differences in the second batch were that I added honey to the mashed bananas (above), used light brown sugar instead of white and I used a combo of walnuts and pecans verses straight pecans.

There was a color difference in the two (naturally due to the brown sugar) but the taste was not all that different; it has a bit more sweetness and more of a crunch with the addition of the more substantial walnut verses the tender pecan.
However, like the Saveur article, I am with Ben in that I think I like the original with maybe the addition of honey and some cinnamon for depth of flavor (which is what you will find below; I also am including the link to Saveur for the original).

Slightly adapted "Mom's Banana Bread" from issue #129 of Saveur
Serves 6-8
--1 cup flour, plus more for pan
--3⁄4 tsp. baking soda
--1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
(this is NOT coarse kosher salt--use a fine grain!)
--3/4 cup white sugar
--1/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)
--1⁄2 cup canola oil
--1⁄3 cup buttermilk
--1 tsp. vanilla
--1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
--2⁄3 cup chopped pecans
--1/2 tsp. cinnamon
--3 very ripe bananas, mashed

--2 Tbsps. honey(preferably a dark grade like buckwheat)

1. Heat oven to 350°. Grease a 9" x 5" x 
2 3⁄4" loaf pan with butter and dust with flour; set pan aside.

2. Mash bananas with a fork, add 2 Tbsps. honey and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside.

4. Crack 2 eggs into a small bowl (reserve extra can freeze this is an ice cube tray for another use or use for a meringue or omelet!). Add vanilla w/eggs; set aside

5. Whisk sugars and oil until smooth in a medium bowl. Add eggs/vanilla, combine until smooth. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and whisk until just combined; do not over mix. Add pecans and mashed banana/honey mixture and fold gently to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean, 60–65 minutes.

Let cool for 30 minutes before diving in!

1. When adding nuts or chocolate chips, berries, etc. I take a small amount of the flour that is used in the recipe and toss that with the nuts/chips to coat so that they won't sink to the bottom of whatever you are making be it bread, muffins or a cake.

2. If you don't have buttermilk, don't fret. If you have milk and either lemon juice or white vinegar you've got a substitute. Put a Tblsp. of juice/vinegar in a measuring cup and then fill with milk until it reaches the 1 cup mark. Instant buttermilk. (It is not as good as a cultured buttermilk but it gets the job done; you want the acid in the lemon/vinegar to create a chemical reaction with the baking soda).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Monument Cafe Honey Mustard Dressing

As most of my friends from college can attest; I had/have a slight obsession with the Monument Cafe in Georgetown, TX. I had my girl's brunch before my wedding there; I am serious about this place people! By senior year I was eating there for breakfast every day and often times we would go for lunch or dinner if my roomie Ang twisted my arm, which wasn't hard!

I always looked forward to going in and seeing familiar faces. The owner, is really a cordial guy and fun to chat with at the bar over a cup of coffee if you can catch him.

One of my favorite lunch items is the Monument Club sandwich; they serve it on a good whole wheat bread with tortilla chips and homemade salsa on the side (yum) but my friends and I always order it with a side of their honey mustard dressing. It may sound weird and maybe it is a southern thing (like ranch dressing with pizza) but it rocks.

From a few experimentations, below is my version of their masterpiece (Rusty, if you are reading this and happen to want to send me the real deal I wouldn't mind that one bit!!)

Patricia's version of Monument Cafe's Honey Mustard Dressing
--1/3 cup mayo
--1/3 cup sour cream
--juice from half of 1 lemon
--3 Tbsps dijon mustard
--1 Tbsps country dijon mustard (the kind with the seeds)
--1 Tbsp harvest course ground (it is new--I usually use 2 Tbsps of the country but saw this and gave it a whirl--this version will be great as a coating for a pork loin or ham!)
--4 Tbsps good quality honey (add more depending on personal taste preference--I like the bite from the mustard)

I also picked up this lemon tart from Bread Alone...I could not was pretty much perfect. The lemon filling was tart but smooth and the meringue was gorgeous; it makes me want to try and whip up a version of these or at least some lemon curd. We shall see.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Football & Braised Beef Short Ribs

Dan is from Chicago and therefore a tried and true Bears fan. My dad never really had sports teams that he was die hard about and subsequently neither do my sister and I. Dan and his fam truly enjoys watching all Chi-town teams throughout the year. I digress, since Dan and I started dating I have adopted his teams, Bears, Hawks, Cubbies and Caps and I have attempted to become more of a "fan" by his terms but it's rough. The only team that I've ever really jived with is the Caps; they are fun to watch and I've followed them enough to somewhat know the players.

Today, the Packers vs. Bears game was a big deal for Dan (though he said the Bears would likely lose...and they did) just because of the historic nature of the event. Thus, I decided to show my enthusiasm through food. I made a little snack spread for him for during the game (it was a 2pm start) and a hearty dinner of braised short ribs and mashed potatoes. I thought with 2 big football games a rustic, somewhat old school, Sunday night meal was in order.

The first picture is of my short rib spread that I got from Fleisher's late Saturday afternoon.

The two above shots are the gorgeous "rainbow" carrots from the Breezyhill Farm Market. They not only look beautiful but they were delicious as well; I thought it was interesting that the ones that were purple on the outside were actually bright orange on the inside; these are the things I am learning by eating fresh from farm vs. uniformly from the supermarket.

Midway through the cooking process; this is basically my giant dutch oven full of yummy simmering goodness.

Above is the finished product. The recipe I turned to is one by John Besh--chef and owner of August in NOLA--below is his recipe with a few slight tweaks

Serves 4
--4 lbs beef short ribs (His calls for a flanken style (across the bone) or English style (parallel to the bone), noting that flanken are easier to deal with but slightly more fatty; I honestly have no clue what I used--I just asked the wonderful guy at Fleisher's for 4 lbs of short ribs and I used those!)
--Coarse salt and black pepper (used maldon salt here and fresh cracked pepper)
--3 cups zinfandel (I used a red version from Cali that my local shop recommended)
--1/2 cup sugar
--6 oz canned chopped tomatoes
--2 cups beef stock (JB's version calls for broth but Fleisher's has lovely stock)
--1 tbsp minced garlic
--3 sprigs fresh thyme, picked off stem
--2 bay leaves
--3 oz canola oil
--1 large onion, diced (2 cups)
--2 medium carrots, diced (1/2 cup)
--2 stalks celery, diced (1/2 cup)

Note: John also uses 2 oz dried mushrooms, preferably porcini; Dan and I are not the biggest fungi fans so I omitted this, but I'm sure that it adds a lovely earthy element.

1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper; don't be stingy here. In a separate bowl, whisk together wine, sugar, tomatoes, beef broth, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and a pinch of salt.

2. Pour canola oil into a Dutch oven (at least 5 quarts) and place over medium high heat (you really don't need to put cast iron on super high because it holds heat so well). When oil is hot, working in small batches, brown the meat on all sides.
3. When all beef is browned, set aside on a plate, cover under foil and keep warm. Add onion, carrots, and celery, to the pot with oil allowing veggies to cook until browned, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Return beef to the pot and add wine/stock mixture at this time. Allow wine to come to a boil before reducing heat, skimming fat from surface. *If you are going to add the mushrooms, allow to simmer for several minutes and then add to the pot.

5. Cover and simmer over low heat until meat is fork tender and nearly falling off the bone, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

6. Once the beef has cooked, remove from pot and keep warm. Turn up heat a bit and reduce the pot liquids until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

7. Eat!
We served these over mashed potatoes because I wanted more of a meal, and who am I kidding, I have an affinity for mashed spuds.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bread Alone Bakery & Cafe, Rhinebeck, NY

Since moving to the Hudson Valley I have found that I love Rhinebeck...LOVE. As soon as when drove through the quaint downtown area Dan looked at me and said "you want to live here don't you!"...gotta love that man. Well, we don't live in Rhinebeck...yet...but we are close enough that I go there often!

In Rhinebeck there is this great bakery cafe called Bread Alone; they not only make delicious products but they are doing it the right way. They also use Counter Culture coffee, which is what Peregrine in DC uses (well, in addition to Aida's farm and maybe some other fair trade folks) and we all know how much I love Peregrine!

Counter Culture from what I have read/heard is a great company (never met the folks) but their beans yield a far superior cup of Joe than anything else I've found to date and they seem to be the supplier of the beans for all of the coffee shops that I have loved.

Bread Alone has this great pastry display that draws you to the counter and straight to the glass to see what they are offering; doesn't the meringue above look fabulous?

Thus far I have had several loaves of bread (challah is tasty...get it if they have it), bagels, their soups, salads, a sandwich and far far far too many iced vanilla lattes. I have yet to be disappointed; other than the CIA Apple Pie Bakery, I think this might be my local spot.

Oh, I couldn't resist a piece of the pecan pie (above), it must be the southern gal in me. Well, technically I am making a version of this southern classic next week and I wanted to have a little comparison

I liked the filling but I wasn't too thrilled about their crust; it was a bit more crisp than I like. I'll try a butter/lard combo for my crust to hopefully yield a more fork tender crust. However, I ate this whole it wasn't too shabby!

In all the atmosphere is good; friendly staff and welcoming environment with tables that can be for two or you could easily pull several together for a crowd. The only thing I would add are a few comfy chairs in a corner somewhere for bums like me who want to come in for coffee and stay to read a good book.

Below is my turkey sandwich; naturally, what you might expect from a good bakery, the bread makes this sandwich. The only thing I would add is a side of Monument Cafe honey Dijon mustard (my TX folks know what I mean when I say Monument Cafe honey mustard...I'll post my version of it is super easy and oh so yummy with a club sandwich.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wrapped in a Winter Blanket

Soooo, Dad was NOT satisfied with my pictures of Remi in the snow; he wanted landscape shots. Thus, Remi and I took the camera along with us and took some shots around the area (in the snow mind dedication here...that's love Dad!)

The landscape is truly beautiful; I'm not really doing it justice with my shots. It is hard to capture the magic of beautiful snowflakes gently falling and coating the land with my amateur skills.

We had freezing rain yesterday and then nice powdery snow today. I learned that freezing rain in these parts really stinks where as the snow is not so bad. I almost ate it on our ice rink driveway yesterday. Remi loved it; I'm pretty sure he is aware that he is low enough to the ground to not be affected by ice. However, he is mischievous enough that he also discovered that he could easily dart to one side and watch me go careening toward a wall of snow, flailing with one arm as I tried not to fall on my rear.
The above view is from our deck and the ones prior are from the kitchen window. I was attempting to do the assigned task of taking photos without leaving the comfort of my pjs.

Then Remi needed to go outside and it was still snowing so we suited up and braved the elements with our trusty camera.

These next few are really random. We live on land that used to be a resort for New Yorkers; they had a dance hall and bar and several out buildings. At one point there was a fire that destroyed most of the property except for the main house, due to the tin roof. The current owner has really done a lot of work to make the place resemble it's early 1900's grandeur.

We have only been here a few weeks but we've really enjoyed it thus far. This weekend we'll be doing a few projects--mainly building some storage for our bedroom--the place is great but it is lacking in storage space. I'll post about our DIY experiments later!

The ice/snow combo on the trees is truly lovely. Every year we try and go to the White House to see the holiday themed decorations; they do a fabulous job. If you ever get the chance to go you should! Anyhow, one of my favorite design elements this year (beyond the gingerbread house...I love the gingerbread house every year) were these beautiful icy looking trees flanking the exterior of the blue room (where the seal of the President is above the to the Kennedy painting). The past few days I have experienced God's version; wow!

I love the wide porches around the house; they will be lovely in the Spring when folks can really take advantage of them and sit outside and enjoy their morning Joe. (We live with a house full of folks, which I think I failed to mention; it's a fun group. We have a communal garden and strawberry patch and potentially in the summer I have heard that we might be getting chicken coups...fresh eggs...yum!)

Above is the house from the driveway; it may not look like much but it is very charming in person. Below is a shot from down the street looking up at the house from the side.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mid-Hudson Snow Day

At the beginning of January we packed up our stuff in DC and headed to the Hudson Valley. I've been accepted into the Culinary Institute of America which I hope will give me the knowledge and skill to further my love of food. Thus, expect many more food related posts in the upcoming months!

We had our first big snow storm last Wednesday and my dad has been bugging me to post pictures. The majority of my photos from that day were of Dan and Remi thus this is what I have to include here. I know that Remi likely looks like a total dork in his jacket and "boots" but I think he looks smart and thus I will continue to subject him to the embarrassment of such!

This photo was taken of Remi retreating in shame after playing with another dog in our neighborhood who doesn't have to wear dorky clothes or even use a leash. He's giving me his best sullen teenager look here.

A close up of Remi's "boots" or Muttluks; it seems silly and a bit costly, but these things really work. Remi is a furry guy and when we have wet snow it tends to clump on and around his paws eventually making it painful for the little guy. These boots allow him to have more snow time fun.

It is hard to tell with my bad lighting here but Remi had to crawl through the snow because the banks outside our door were as big as him.

Walter covered in snow (picture taken prior to Dan digging him out and clearing him off); we're looking into getting a car cover for Wally to help protect him.

While Dan shoveled off our deck and shoveled out the cars I made French toast; okay, mostly I sat on the chaise with my coffee reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but French toast was made as well.

Remi was pooped after playing outside and thus crashed on the back of the couch; Dan was mimicking him and I was able to get this half decent shot before they busted me.