Monday, November 30, 2009

My First Chocolate Cake

"What do you mean?" you ask. "It can't be your first chocolate cake. You have been making chocolate cakes for half your life and eating them for all of it."

This isn't the first chocolate cake that I have made, and certainly not the first one I have eaten. It is, however, MY first chocolate cake. This was my idea and my recipe.

I always liked baking because it was such an exact science. If you followed the recipe, you would get the right result. Cooking isn't always as exact, but then again, there is more room for error. That's why I do almost all of my baking with recipes, but play and experiment often with cooking.

Let's face it though. My "original" recipes for cooking are often made up of multiple recipes that already exist that I have cobbled together into something new. Sometimes I will use someone else's "base" recipe and simply change the bells and whistles. Why can't I do that with baking?
That still can make for an original baking recipe.

I have occasionally made up my own baked good recipes. Some have been better than others. My Tiramisu bars were the first flop ever recorded on TERP. My Orange Bourbon Pound Cake, on the other hand, was one of the best cakes I ever made (and it wasn't even chocolate!) I think I know enough about cakes and baking to come up with a cake.

Monday I had my last day off from Thanksgiving break before going back to work. I was broke, the weather was crappy, and I was stuck alone at home. It's days like these that just beg for baking. I had a decent number of supplies in the house. I had some squares of unsweetened chocolate, some milk that was getting close to expiration, butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Why not make a chocolate cake? The real question was what chocolate cake would I make? I have endless chocolate cake recipes (as last summer proved). Why was one better than the other?

I decided to make a bold move. I would take a look at a bunch of my chocolate cake recipes, see which elements they had in common in terms of ingredient measurements, and then use those proporations to put together a cake of my own. I've baked enough cakes over the years to know the process of baking a cake. All I really needed was a good idea of the right ingredient measurements. With a little research I was able to come up with a recipe that I felt would succeed using flour, butter, eggs, milk, and, in Ina Garten fashion, a pinch of coffee powder.

The cake had a very nice deep chocolate flavor that wasn't cloyingly sweet. The texture was fluffy and almost had a melt-in-your-mouth quality. I think this may be my new recipe for whenever I need a go-to-chocolate cake. It's that good. It is a cake I have to handle with care though. That "fluffy" texture means it's very light and delicate. If I made this into a layer cake, I would have to be verrrrrry careful moving the layers around.

I might want to tinker with this from time to time though. Maybe I'll try different dairy ingredients, different types of flour (how might cake flour change the texture?), or different proportions of eggs and butter.

I didn't have anything to make a frosting. I had to eat it plain. Oh well. I could try to develop a new chocolate frosting recipe, but I don't think there is a chocolate frosting recipe out there that I like better than the one Emily uses on the chocolate peanut butter cake.

The Short (dis)Order Cook's Chocolate Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 sticks unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbl instant coffee powder
1 cup milk

Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour 9"x13" pan

In a bowl sift togther flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream butter for about 2 minutes until you have a nice, soft, workable fluff. Add sugars and beat another 3 minutes until all is fluffy and beautiful.

Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing about 1 minute after each addition. Stir in vanilla, coffee, and melted chocolate. Blend well.

Stir in flour mixture and milk alternately in about 4 batches, ending with the flour. When all is absorbed into a happy cake batter, spread into prepared pan.

Bake 40 minutes or until it springs back when you lightly touch it and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Odds & Ends

I was cruel to not include the links for my Thanksgiving bread recipes. Forgive me. I lost them when I first typed up that blog. I found them again.

Cranberry Walnut Bread
Rosemary Rolls

I confess I have no clue how to use my Foodbuzz account and so I don't go to FB very often. I keep a Foodbuzz ad on my blog, but I don't have that big one that some of my friends do that beautifully displays the food of the day.

Lucky for me, my friends do display that nice big ad, because I found a great recipe on it. As soon as I saw these "Naked Ravioli" I knew I had to make them for dinner. After all that turkey, I needed something less meaty for dinner.

I made my own marinara recipe instead of the one listed here, but otherwise, followed the recipe and it was delicious. SPP liked it too.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

New Kid in Town Part 6 - Roasted Peppers

We are now up to 9 new restaurants in the neighbordhood in the past two years, and last night SPP and I tried one of the newest, Roasted Peppers. They just opened on Monday. We were wandering around the neighborhood, thinking we might have Asian, but the Asian places were all too crowded (my favorite one, Red Plum, now requires reservations). I remembered that Roasted Peppers had just opened and suggested we try it.

Since I didn't set out to try a new restaurant, I didn't take a camera with me, so I'm afraid this review is photo-free.

I have complained quite a bit about corporate dominance and how it's smashing the little guy. Well, this place can make me happy for a couple of reasons. You see, my mom-and-pop-dominated strip had its first Starbucks. Residents complained about how the character of our neighborhood was changing. What would become of the independent coffee shop two doors down? Then Starbucks had its mass store closings and my local Starbucks folded after less than year. Roasted Peppers is where Starbucks used to be. Score one for the little guy!

Roasted Peppers has a nice, minimalist decor, that is still reminscent of the Starbucks that was there before. The problems is that with the exposed brick wall and tile floor, it has a bit of an echo. The place was pretty empty (we were one of three tables that were occupied during the time we were there and they were not all occupied at the same time) which didn't help. They have a lot of staff for such a small restaurant. Waitress was very nice -very attentive and seeming a bit nervous. I guess when you have been open less than a week, everyone is a bit jumpy.

They don't have a liquor license yet, although there is a huge bar area, so I assume they intend to have one eventually. It seems that problem is afflicting more than one restaurant in the area. I joked to my husband that Molly Spillane's must be putting in a fix with the powers that be so that other restaurants can't serve liquor and will go to Molly's to drink. ;-D.

When we sat down we were served a bread plate of bread that was oiled, grilled, and pressed. We had roasted pepper hummus on the side. It was a pretty promising start.

We started off our dinner with salads. Kevin had a simple house salad with a lemon vinaigrette. He didn't seem impressed one way or another. He was really a bit jumpy about eating in a restaurant that was so empty as if the food must be really bad (instead of just realizing the place was less than a week old). I had a spinach and fennel salad with a "citrus" vinaigrette. My salad was pretty good, but it needed a better balance of sweet and savory ingredients. It had dried cranberries, and mango, and candied pecans. It would have been a little better if one of the sweet ingredients had been left off - or even if more fennel had been added. A little cheese or avocado or bacon would have been nice to counter all that sweetness. I really liked the dressing and I understand where they were trying to go with it. I give them credit.

For dinner I had skirt steak topped with a corn and black bean salsa and husband had red snapper tacos. The tacos really made him perk up. He called them very "professional" and raved about them. He wasn't excited about the place right away, but the tacos really won him over. My steak was good. It was perfectly cooked (not a bit above the medium rare that I asked for) and melt-in-your-mouth tender. The salsa was a bit bland. It was grilled corn and black beans - and not much else. A little lime, some garlic, a little cumin, some chili pepper - any of that might have woken up the taste a bit.

For dessert he had a jalapeno brownie with coconut ice cream. I had bread pudding. He loved his brownie. He could really taste the jalapeno and thought it was quite clever. The bread pudding had raspberry jam nicely sandwiched between the bread layers. I thought the custard could have used a bit more flavor. They advertise it as having "almond-spiced whipped cream", but there was only a little tiny dollop on there. A little almond in the custard (or perhaps just a little more vanilla) would have made it perfect. I also had a scoop of that delicious coconut ice cream.

The nervous waitress checked on us often to make sure we were happy with everything as did the owner (or person I assume was the owner). Everything was served in a timely fashion. No complaints at all about the service.

All in all it was an enjoyable meal, but there was room for some improvement. We will definitely go back and see how the place evolves. It was so empty last night (although it was around 8:30) and I really hope they make it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Disasters and Bread Heaven

After two years of hosting Thanksgiving at my place, it was time to call it quits. I loved cooking Thanksgiving dinner. I loved my recipes, both the ones I came up with and the ones I pilfered. I loved the abudance. I loved the myriad desserts that people brought. I loved being able to drink as much as I wanted because I didn't have to drive anymore.

Ah, but that's the crux of it all. I didn't want to need to drink so much. The cooking part of the dinner is fun. The logistics not so much. I had to bring in extra tables and chairs. Although as a hostess I don't like to ask my guests to provide too much, I definitely had to make sure they provided some of the things I didn't have the time or money to provide. Then there was the cleanup. My dishwasher can only hold so much and so can my sink.

Although I hate the idea of choosing between parents, I knew it was time to start splitting up the holidays again. I said whatever parent asked me first would be the parent that I had Thanksgiving with and I'd do Christmas with the other one. Mom jumped in almost immediately. Her boyfriend and his daughter were hosting Thanksgiving this year and wouldn't Kevin and me come?

Unlike me, they don't like doing all of the cooking themselves. On top of that, Daughter is a vegetarian. When I asked what I should bring, I was told, "The Turkey."

I didn't think doing the turkey myself would be such a bad thing. I've done it before. What's the big deal? Sure, I'd bring the turkey.

I bought my Turkey from Heritage Foods USA. I figured that was one way of placating the vegetarians. I would buy the most politically correct turkey possible (and the cost of it cost me almost as much as last year's entire dinner).

It was one fresh turkey. Do you know how fresh it was? This turkey still had the stubs of feathers stuck in the skin. It's as if someone hand plucked it and grew a bit lazy. Before I stuck this thing in the oven, I was going over it with a pair of tweezers trying to remove all of these feather remnants. Some of them were small and sort of disintegrated when I tried to pull on them. Some of them were quite large and quill-like and were easy to yank out. I'm surprised I wasn't more grossed out by this. At least it was noontime when I did this, so I had Arlo Guthrie to keep me company as a picked the thing over, because, after all, it's Thanksgiving, and you can't have Thanksgiving without Alice's Restaurant.

I'm afraid I don't have 27 8-by-10 color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against me. This is all you get.

As per Sue, it always has to be turned upside down when it comes out of the oven. Looks goo doesn't it? It's nice and brown and juicy. Appearances can be deceiving.

Knowing it would be a late dinner, I waited until the early afternoon to put the turkey in the oven. I had been told heritage turkeys don't take as long as others to cook. I decided not to use any weird roasting techniques this year. After brining it overnight in my delicious cider brine, I slathered lots of sage-and-thyme-infused butter under and over the skin and shoved it into the oven at 350 with a probe thermometer in the thigh. After 2 hours and change, the thermometer told me it was the right temperature. I can only think that there might have been a problem when I saw just how brown, almost black, the breast was becoming, and I covered it with foil, trying to keep the legs exposed. Maybe the foil changed the way it cooked. Eventually, my brother came over to help me transport it. He took it away to carve at Don's house.

I arrived at the party. We had a couple of hours worth of appetizers. There was lots of cheese and wine. There was also my homemade bread.

My most special project this year, was the bread. I've mentioned that in the past I used to bake bread all of the time. I was particularly fond of a recipe for whole wheat bread that I found in my mother's old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I had numerous vacation days before and after Thanksgiving due to it being the end of the fiscal year at work and I had a bunch of unused vacation days. I decided to use that time to do some bread baking projects.

Here are two rounds of cranberry-walnut wheat bread. I forgot to take a picture of them before I wrapped them and I didn't want to have to re-wrap them. This bread tasted absolutely wonderful and was a huge hit with the whole family (except for the nut-and-fruit-hating kids of course). I definitely want to make this one again.

I also made some rosemary rolls. I found these a little dry, but several of the guests thought they were wonderful. I'd give these another shot, but I'd make sure I ate them the day I baked them. I baked these the day before.

It was getting close to dinner time when my brother went to the kitchen to carve. A few minutes later Don's daughter came out and said dinner would be delayed because the turkey was still "a bit pink" and had to go back in the oven. I went into the kitchen and saw my brother dimembering the turkey. "A bit pink" was a HUGE understatement. Yes, the thigh was the correct temperature, but it seemed the whole underside of the turkey was raw. I was just mortified.

It wouldn't fit back in the oven whole (long story), so my brother was carving it up and trying to re-cook it that way. The turkey, although it had a great flavor from the brine, was quite tough and dry. I couldn't believe I had allowed such an expensive turkey to be ruined like that.

I also had to donate my Triple Chocolate Pudding Pie. This has become a Thanksgiving staple and is a lifesaver for those of us who don't like pumpkin. It's a very easy pie to make, so it's not a big deal to bake it. The kids couldn't wait to get their hands on it, and rightly so. It was the only pie they seemed to enjoy that night. It was the only pie I ate that night. The delicious chocolate was the only thing I had a stomach for after three hours of snarfing cheese and appetizers and then trying to chew my way through the turkey jerky.

I have a leftover packet of yeast and quite a bit of leftover bread flour, so I now have to carve out some time to bake some more bread soon.

ADDEDDUM: I must give credit where credit is due. Rather than make a last-minute gravy I did the more relaxing thing and used a make-ahead turkey wing gravy, using Cathy's recipe. Excellent idea and excellent gravy.

A few other photos for your amusement.

My attempt to get a photo of some of the feathers pulled from the skin.

Living room, appetizer table, dinner table.

Random family shots.

Cool centerpiece.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Doing Thai A Bit Better This Time

It was Friday night. I had cilantro, basil, and lemongrass in the fridge. I needed a slightly more authentic Thai dish than a turkey burger. I was lucky enough to also had an internet pal post a Thai red curry recipe to the community we both post to.

I do love Thai food. I tried it for the first time in my early years of college and I become an immmediate addict. The bad part is that it took another year or two before there were any Thai restaurants locally. Once a Thai recipe opened in this area, I remember making all of my friends come with me to try this wonder known as Thai food. I am smitten with the coconut curry.

I had to modify my friend's recipe. He suggested a half a bottle of red curry paste, but I found my bottle a bit emptier. That's okay. The stuff if way spicy and there is only so much heat Sir Pickypants can tolerate. He also said to use full-fat coconut milk and cook the paste in the cream. My store only sold light, so I had to wing it a bit. He also called for Thai basil. Again, that's as hard to find as kaffir lime leaves (unless you grow it yourself) so I used a mix of regular basil and cilantro. The recipe suggests any mix of vegetables. I used a package of frozen broccoli cuts and a two chopped red pepper. I also added a touch of lemongrass. I served it over brown rice instead of white because SPP and I are both gaining weight and are trying to cut back on the white starches.

The recipe below is my version. It was pretty good.

Thai Red Curry Chicken

2 Cans coconut milk
2 Tbl Thai red curry paste
1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, cut into pieces
2 Tbl fish sauce
2 Tbl brown sugar
2 small red bell peppers, diced
1 package frozen broccoli cuts
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 Tbl chopped fresh lemongrass

Lightly salt the chicken and brown it up in a pan. Set aside.

In a pan, whisk about a quater cup of the coconut milk with the curry paste. Bring to a boil. Keep whisking for about 5 minutes until the liquid really begins to evaporate and the mixture becomes very fragrant. Take it to where you almost think it will burn.

Add the remaining coconut milk, fish sauce and brown sugar. Simmer 5 minutes. Add the vegetables and cook till just about done. Add the chicken and simmer till it's cooked through.

Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice and herbs. Serve over rice.

Friday, November 13, 2009

First Meal on the New Stove

Look what I got!

My old stove was really getting me down. It was crusty and hard to clean and the handle was cracking off the oven door. It was time for a change. For a birthday present (back in July) SPP gave me a contribution towards a new one, but I never got around to ordering a new one till last week. It was hard finding the model I wanted from a place that would deliver it to me. I finally found a place right down the street from my office. I'm loving the lack of coils to clean around!

Getting this thing installed was no easy feat. I needed to get my super to install it, but when he came to my apartment to do so, he found that delivery men had actually cut the connecting wires that attached me old stove to the wall instead of unscrewing the panel and actually removing them properly. Super had to go out and purchase some new parts. Even though I was off of work, I wasn't able to get much done because I had to spend so much time sitting around the house waiting.

So anyway, it was Friday night and that means I don't want to put too much effort into cooking. I wanted something simple and tasty and would use up that aging pile of basil I had in the fridge and the can of tomatoes in the cabinet.

I opted for pasta shells stuffed with turkey and topped with the simplest tomato sauce. The turkey was flavored with spinach and basil pesto.

I love my spinach-basil pesto because it's better for me than traditional pestos (pesti?) due to the nutritional boost from the spinach, but it's not overpoweringly spinachy due to the strong flavor of the basil. I sub out some of the oil for lemon juice, which cuts the fat content a bit as well.

Stir it into ground turkey. Top it with sauce. Stuff and bake. Add some shredded mozzarella on top if you're not Sir Pickypants.

I had a hard time photographing this artisticially. I couldn't get the shells neatly on the plate. I swear they tasted better than they look here. They tasted pretty awesome actually. SPP agreed.

Spinach Pesto Turkey Stuffed Shells

1 lb ground turkey meat
1 pound large pasta shells
Shredded mozzarella (optional)

2 Tbl olive oil
Pinch red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup white wine

Pesto (measurements are rough)
1 package baby spinach
1 cup fresh basil leaves
4-6 cloves garlic (depending on size and how much you like garlic)
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbl olive oil
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan

Start by making the sauce. Heat the olive oiil in a pan. Add red pepper flakes and let them infuse. Add the garlic and cook till fragrant. Add the tomatoes and wine. Allow to cook about 30 minutes so flavors can blend.

Make the pesto. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend till you have a gritty paste.

Heat oven to 350.

Mix the ground turkey with the pesto.

Cook the shells in boiling water about 5 minutes. You want them to still be firm. Put a little sauce at the bottom of a baking pan. Fill the shells with turkey pesto mixture and place in pan. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella if you're using. Spoon sauce over the top. Bake for 30 minutes.

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's Braising Season! (No, it's duck season. No it's rabbit season...)

Sempre L'Estate Di San Martino

In Europe, they call Indian Summer St. Martin's Summer. November 11 is St. Martin's Day and it's supposed to signify the beginning of winter weather. Summer goes out with a bang because it's always unseasonably warm and spring-like on St. Martin's Day or the days surrounding it. It's supposed to be due to the miracle of St. Martin.*

*I learned a poem about it in Italian class in high school (see above). St. Martin was a knight who kept a beggar warm on a cold day by cutting his cloak in half and giving it to the beggar. He was rewarded by having the sun come out and the flowers bloom, etc.

Earlier this week we definitely experienced St. Martin's Summer. The temps in the high 60s and the sun shone the whole day long. The temps are dropping now and the clouds are moving in, along with a sprinkle of rain here and there. I know that winter is on its way, no matter how much these mild days try to trick me. It's time to think of real winter recipes. For once I'm going to make the kind of food people expect to eat in the winter. I'm not just going to make ice cream until July (where I begin baking regularly...)

For years I shied away from just about any form of braised beef. I avoided beoef bourgonoine and beef stew and pot roast. I hated the stuff. Why? It's because the stews and pot roasts I was raised on weren't terribly good (or I didn't think they were).

The worst part was the potatoes. They were always russet potatoes and as the stew cooked, they would get mushy and infiltrate the stew with their starchy badness. I never liked the taste or texture of russet potatoes (still don't). The only way I will ever eat them is mashed with lots of butter and salt (and other flavors are welcome) or made into french fries. It was only in the past decade or so that I discovered yukon golds and their pleasant taste and texture. Those little red ones aren't so bad either. I always assumed that if I disliked russets, then I disliked all potatoes. I never realized that there were edible ones out there. I never thought to try a stew or braise made with another type of potato until I met a man who doesn't eat beef!

I also disliked the carrots. I love eating carrots raw and as a child they were one of the few vegetables I would eat. I refused to eat them cooked though and I hated the carrot mush that permeated a stew or pot roast. To this day I dislike recipes that feature mushy vegetables. I don't like ratatouille or giambotta. I'll eat my vegetables as long as they're roasted, sauteed with lots of garlic, or possibly blanched or steamed.

I had to approach my braised beef cautiously then. I had never made something like this before and if I was going to to it, I had to do it my way, and do it in a way that was fun and original so I could brag about it on my blog. I decided to try doing it a little sweet.

I started by browning a chuck roast.

Next came some bacon cut into pieces and then in the fat I sauteed carrots, onions, and parsnips. I solved the mush problem by removing them after they were brown and adding them back to the pot in the last half hour of cooking.

Add lots of red wine (I chose Zinfandel. Why Zinfandel? Why not?), beef stock, and the beef. My seasonings were cinnamon, bay and allspice.

I used whole spices. The stick went in by itself and so did the bay leaf. In order to not have to fish out the smaller spices, I put them in a tea ball.

My finished product. I escaped the whole potato mess thing by using yukon golds and mashing them on the side. The flavors here were really excellent. The wine and my choice of spices played off each other well.

My only problem was that I really didn't simmer this as long as I intended to simply because I got a late start in cooking dinner and didn't have time to wait to eat this. Thanks to the long hours Kevin works, we eat late enough as it is. I'm not a night owl and would never stay awake for a 10PM dinner. I think with proper cooking time, it would be perfect and I will definitely make this again for myself when I have more time to spare.

What about Sir Pickypants whose delicate widdle tum-tum can't handle beef? Halibut with dill for him (recipe from Closet Cooking - from one Kevin to another. Dude, I can so relate to the "small kitchen" thing) along with the mashed potatoes. I served him the carrots (but no parsnips for him) as his vegetable. Yes, the carrots have been soaking up beef juice. Deal with it.

These dishes share the distinction of being the last dishes ever cooked on my old stove. My new stove is coming tomorrow. Yay!

Zinfandel-Braised Beef Short(dis)Order Cook Style

1 chuck roast
2 pieces of bacon, cut into small pieces
3 large carrots, cut into chunks
1 large parsnip, cut into chunks
1 large onion, coarsely diced
2 cloves minced garlic
2 cups beef stock
2 cups red wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 tsp allspice berries
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for sauteeing

Sprinkle your chuck roast with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large pot and brown the roast well on all sides. Get a nice crust on it. Remove from pan.

Add bacon to the pot and cook till it begins to crisp up. Drain off any fat you feel is excessive. Then add onions. When they soften, add your carrots and parsnips. Cook them until they take on some of that nice brown color and remove from pot.

Add the roast back into the pot. Now add your wine, stock and spices. Scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. You can put your cinnamon stick and bay leaf into the pot whole. You might want to put your allspice into a cheesecloth bag or a tea ball as I did.

Simmer this for 2 hours. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, add your carrots and parsnips back in.

When the meat is fall-apart tender and the vegetables are tender, but not mushy, remove the roast from the pot, slice, and serve with the pan juices over mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Little Housekeeping Update

I just wanted to let my readers know that I have just made TERP a little more search-friendly.

When I started TERP, I made my "recipes" very freeform. I started the blog with the idea that, "a recipe is just a story about food". In keeping with that line of thinking, my recipes were written like, "I cut up a chicken, added some spices, browned it in a pan, added some white wine..." My recipes were barely recipes. They were more like food streams of consciousness. Combine that with the fact that I didn't have photos in those days, there was no reason to wonder why I had no readers in the first few months!

I did eventually start putting my recipes in classic recipe format and eventually got a camera so I could photograph them, but I didn't catalog them well. I had posts tagged as "cooking", which might be either freeform recipes or links to other recipes, or else tagged as "recipes", which meant that the recipes were more explicit, or might also be linked to bloggers or websites.

I realized that if I wanted people to try my recipes, they had to find them. People don't want to look at a long list of assorted recipes. Cookbooks divide into chapters by recipe type. My blog should do the same.

I now have new categories that can help cross-reference the posts for easier viewing. I have these new categories:

Ingredient - You can now look for posts tagged as chicken, pasta, fruit, vegetables, etc.
Misc. Desserts
Pie (includes tarts)
Ice Cream
Barely Recipes - Anything freeform, written as a story, or "so easy you don't need a recipe"
Blogger Recipes - If I pilfered from your blog, you have your own category
Online Recipes - Posts where I linked to a recipe from a website

This was a big undertaking, but I'm glad I did it because I think it will make searching this site a bit easier. Enjoy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Italian Restaurant Classic - Easy and Delicious

When I say "Italian Restaurant" here, I'm not talking Babbo. I'm not talking Scarpetta. I'm not even talking Lusardi's or Mulino. I'm talking about your neighborhood "Red Sauce" joint.

I'm talking about the kind of restaurant that makes the kind of Italian-American classics that everyone grew up on as "Italian food". It's Italian food as intepreted by immigrants who had to cook their family recipes with the limitations presented to them by what was available in the U.S. They were also using new things that weren't available to them in Italy, but they liked. This was further refined and interpreted by their descendants.

These restaurants were once scoffed at as inauthentic by true aficionados of real regional Italian food, but they are finally getting their due. Italian-American food is a cuisine in itself and if done well, can still be delicious, whether they eat it in Italy or not.

A good red sauce place will always have certain dishes on its menu. There will be Chicken Cacciatore and Chicken Scarpiello. There will be Pork Chops Contadina and Steak Pizzaiola. There will be breaded chicken and veal cutlets (called "Milanese"). There will be Chicken, Veal, and Eggplant Parmigiana (and a good restaurant will spell it correctly). There will also be Chicken (and likely veal) Francese.

Why is it called Francese? What makes it French and why say French in Italian? ;-) It's a dish that is not just a favorite of your neighborhood Italian restaurant, but it's also a favorite of caterers. I even served it at my wedding. Although Chicken Francese can be interpreted a few different ways, it always contains eggs, butter, and lemon. This night I made it with garlic and white wine.
This recipe is so easy, you don't need a recipe.

Start with boneless, skinless chicken breasts that you have pounded a bit. You can use thighs too. Dredge them in seasoned flour and then dip them in egg.
Cook through in olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) and keep warm.

Add some garlic (about 4 cloves) and cook until fragrant.

Deglaze the pan with the juice of two lemons, a half a cup of white wine, and a half a cup of chicken broth. Allow to reduce a bit.

Add about two tablespoons of butter and swirl them in. Pour over warm chicken.

Serve with greens and maybe some roasted potatoes or pasta if you like.