Monday, January 31, 2011

Cuban Pork Chops with Mojo

This recipe is in honor of my step dad Bill, one of the best cooks I know. He made this recipe, adapted from Guy Fieri on Food Network, a while ago when I was in NY, Needless to say, Shaun and I LOVED it! I have made it three times since then, which is sort of a big deal for me. I don't frequently repeat recipes unless they are amazing because there are so many new recipes for me to try out!

The pork chops are so flavorful since they have plenty of time to marinate in the fridge and are then followed up with an amazing spice rub. The recipe has many different steps but if you prep your ingredients while the meat is marinating you can get it done in no time. I wouldn't make any changes to the step-by-step instructions for this recipe but did make a few modifications to the ingredients listed, as you can see below. Don't start drooling on your computer when you see the list of ingredients for this mojo. These pork chops are both tangy and savory - a.k.a. YUMMY!

1 cup plus 1/4 cup orange juice, divided
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, divided (I used bottled which works fine)
1/4 cup vinegar
4 (1-inch-thick) bone-in pork chops
1 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp kosher salt (it was salty so I would cut this in half next time)
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp dried oregano
3 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup watercress, for garnish (I used 2 cups of baby spinach since I had this in my fridge already - plus I like the fresh greens in this dish)
1 Roma tomato, chopped, for garnish (I used one in the sauce and one for garnish)
1/2 avocado, sliced, for garnish (didn't have this so omitted it)

In a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag, combine 1 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup lime juice and vinegar. Add pork and let it sit and marinate for about 1 hour in refrigerator.

In a small mixing bowl, combine all dried spices. Pat the pork chops dry with a paper towel and rub with the dry spice mixture.

Heat oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Place the pork chops in the pan and sear on 1 side until brown. Flip over and turn the heat down to medium-low. Add onion and saute for 2 minutes. Then add the garlic and continue to cook until garlic browns.

Pour in the remaining 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup lime juice and white wine. Simmer until the liquid is slightly reduced and begins to thicken. The chops should be cooked through.

Remove the chops from pan and put on a warm plate. Continue to reduce juices in pan by half. Pour over the chops and serve immediately. Garnish with watercress, tomatoes and avocado.

Tutti Mangia!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Roasted Carrots with Honey

I have to admit, I felt bad posting that last blog since it was such a difficult recipe. So I have decided to follow that one up with an extremely easy recipe! Easy but still delicious - don't you worry! I make this recipe at least once every two weeks because it is inexpensive and a great side dish to a weeknight dinner.

The recipe I first duplicated was from Martha Stewart's magazine - EveryDay Food. A great magazine to find new ideas for fast flavorful cooking!

1 1/2 lbs carrots, cut on the diagonal into 2-inch lengths and halved lengthwise if thick
1 tbsp olive oil
Course salt and ground pepper
1 tbsp honey (I used more!)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss carrots with oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until tender, 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven, and toss with honey. The reason you toss the carrots with honey after they bake is so that the honey does not burn in the hot oven.

See I told you that was easy! Tutti Mangia!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Leek and Mushroom Gratin

The word "gratin" is French and comes from the words gratter and gratine. Gratter means to scrape, as in the scrapings of bread or cheese and gratine is a verb form of the word for crust. This all makes perfect sense if you happen to know what a gratin is. For those of you that don't - here is a cooking lesson...

Gratin is a culinary method in which a prepared dish is topped with a crust consisting of breadcrumbs and/or cheese mixed with bits of butter. It is usually baked in a shallow dish in the oven until brown and crispy. This shallow dish is now called a gratin pan because it is served directly from the oven in the same dish. Technically, according to this term, baked macaroni and cheese is a gratin dish because of its top layer of breadcrumbs. Makes sense, doesn't it?

*This recipe was adapted from the Gourmet Today cookbook and the October 2009 Gourmet magazine. Sadly, that magazine is not printed anymore, but the Epicurious website still holds all of those amazing recipes!

3/4 stick unsalted butter, divided
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/4 lb Gruyere, finely grated (2 cups) (I used swiss cheese)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (I used dried parsley, same amount though)
3 lbs leeks, root ends trimmed (I only had 2 leeks so I am not sure this was enough?)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest (I used the zest of a whole lemon)
1 lb cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced (2 - 8oz packages)
Equipment: a 1 1/2 quart oval gratin or other shallow baking dish

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then cool. Toss melted butter with bread crumbs, cheeses, garlic, parsley, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper in a bowl until combined.

Trim each leek to an 8-inch length. Halve leeks lengthwise, then cut crosswise into roughly 1-inch pieces. *Wash leeks, then drain well.

Melt 1 tbsp butter in a 1-1 1/2 quart heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook roux (a roux is a mixture of butter and flour, cooked until bubbly - to thicken a sauce), whisking, 1 minute. Add stock in a slow stream, whisking, then bring to a boil, whisking. Add nutmeg and zest and boil, whisking, 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter baking dish.
Melt 1 tbsp butter in a 12-inch heavy skiller over medium-low heat. Add leeks and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper, then cover leeks directly with a round of parchment paper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed and leeks are tender and just beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tbsp butter in a large heavy skiller over medium heat until foam subsides. Add mushrooms and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed and mushrooms are just beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Remove parchment from leeks and stir in mushrooms. Transfer mixture to baking dish, spreading it evenly. Pour sauce over vegetables and top with crumb mixture. Bake until gratin is bubbling and topping is golden, about 15 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

*Leeks need to be washed very well because they carry lots of dirt in-between their layers. The best way to do this is to slice and cut them according to the recipe and dump them into a strainer. That way you can rinse them easily under water while separating all the layers - therefore getting dirt out.

I absolutely LOVED this dish but would make a big change next time around... I would start by doubling the amount of mushrooms required so that there is a more equal ratio of filling to topping. I would keep all the other ingredients and amounts the same though. It was delicious regardless. In your first bite you can taste the zest of the lemon, the creaminess of the sauce and the saltiness of the cheese and mushrooms - all at once! The way the leeks were steamed with the parchment paper really helped them to stay soft and melt into the sauce. Overall, an A+ in my book. The only downside to this recipe is the amount of time needed to prepare the dish - not ideal for a weeknight meal or side-dish. Luckily for me, I worked from home the day I made this and had plenty of time to whip this up along with mashed potatoes, roasted carrots and a rotisserie chicken from the store.

Just so you know, upon doing my research for this dish, I also learned that "le gratin" in French is an term denoting "the upper crust" of society. So go ahead, stick up your nose and bake this gratin for dinner tomorrow night. Tutti Mangia!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cranberry Orange Scones

I don't need an excuse to use my new Kitchenaid mixer - nor do I need an excuse to bake on a snow day! Last week I actually made 3 desserts in one day - whoops! This particular recipe was adapted from and made by Ina Garten. I love making Ina's recipes because she has such a wide range of dishes to experiment with. This scone recipe was not one of the easiest ones to make but I was up for a challenge since I had never baked scones before. 

4 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
2 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp grated orange zest
3/4 lb cold unsalted butter, diced
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 cup dried cranberries
1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp water or milk, for egg wash
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus 2 tbsp
4 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (For some reason, my oven started burning the bottoms of these scones after 10 minutes so I lowered the temperature to 350 F.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter and mix at the lowest speed until the butter is the size of peas. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy! (It was definitely very thick!) Combine the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup of flour, add to the dough, and mix on low speed until blended. Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough. Keep moving the dough on the floured board so it doesn't stick. Flour a 3-inch round plain or fluted cutter and cut circles of dough. Place the scones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Collect the scraps neatly, roll them out, and cut more circles.

Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The scones will be firm to the touch. Allow the scones to cool for 15 minutes and then whisk together the confectioners' sugar and orange juice, and drizzle over the scones. Makes 14-16 scones. I actually got double the amount of scones so maybe mine were smaller?

I think these scones were a tad bit dry but the glaze definitely helped that cause! Most people eat scones with coffee or tea in the morning so I think it is okay for it to be a little dry... they are actually known to be more dry in the United States. Next time I make these (which I definitely would), I will be sure to double or triple the recipe for the glaze. I think they need to be covered, not drizzled, with the glaze! Look at how awesome they looked even before going into the oven! You can see all the yummy specs of butter, dried cranberries and orange zest! Tutti Mangia!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tomatillo Chicken Soup

Delicious for a cold day! This is a great easy home-made soup! It can even be made vegetarian by omitting the chicken and using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

6 medium tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
1 1/2 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 32oz box chicken broth
1 medium green sweet pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 4oz can diced green chiles
1 tbsp snipped fresh cilantro (I used the dried version and only used 1/2 tbsp)
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (I used canned jalapeno slices)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp chili powder (I used 1 tsp and it was still spicy!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Garnish: Sour cream, chopped green onion, sliced jalapeno peppers, tortilla chips

1. Chop three tomatillos. Place remaining tomatillos in blender. Cover; blend until smooth. In a 3 1/2 or 4 quart slow cooker combine pureed and chopped tomatillos, chicken, broth, sweet pepper, onion, celery, chiles, cilantro, jalapeno, cumin, lime juice, chili powder, garlic and 1 tsp each salt and pepper.
2. Cover, cook on low for 6-7 hours or on high 3-3 1/2 hours. Remove chicken; let stand until cool enough to handle. Shred chicken; return to soup. If desired, top with garnishes above. Serves 4-6.

Now of course you can follow the recipe above OR you can do it my way - which really only uses the same ingredients... When I decided to make this recipe, I did not remember that it required using a slow cooker. I normally love using it but I was hungry and wanted dinner in 1 hour, not 6-7. So, I tweaked it! Here are my instructions using the ingredients above:

1. Chop chicken into bite-size pieces and cook through on a grill pan. Set aside.
2. Chop sweet pepper, onion, celery, tomatillos and garlic and put into large stock pot. Cook until onions turn translucent. Add chiles, cilantro, jalapeno, cumin, lime juice, chili powder and 1 tsp each salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute to let the spices come together.
3. Add in chicken broth and cooked chicken. You may want to add extra water at this point if you think the soup is too salty. Let heat through and allow the vegetables to become soft; cooking on medium heat for about 20 minutes or so. If desired, top with garnishes above. I crushed up Lime Tostitos on top - it was just the extra flavor and crunch I wanted!

Tutti Mangia!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rocky Road

This is a family recipe that we have been making every Christmas for as long as I can remember. It is a special treat that I HAVE to have now on that holiday - which is why I made it although I wasn't going home to New York this year *tear*. Rocky road can be many things such as ice cream, cookies and fudge. The recipe my family makes is the latter - fudge. We omit any nuts because of the allergies in our family but I don't miss them at all.

I did a little googling today and found out that there is a special day deemed "National Rocky Road Day" on June 3rd. What an awesome day that is HAHA! You better believe I will be making an exception on that day and making this special treat outside of the Christmas tradition! As you scroll down glancing at this long recipe, you may be discouraged - please don't be though! There are indeed a lot of ingredients and quite a few different steps but it is simple overall and very worth the end result.

Base of the Fudge:
1/2 cup margarine
1 oz (1 square) unsweetened chocolate, cut up
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Butter and flour a 13" x 9" baking pan. In a large saucepan, melt margarine and 1 oz chocolate over low heat, stirring until smooth. (Be careful and remember to stir contantly - you do not want to burn the bottom of this) Add flour and remaining base ingredients; mix well. Spread into the pan.

Filling for Fudge:
1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened (reserve 2 oz)
1/4 cup margarine
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 (6oz) pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 cup)
2 cups mini-marshmallows

In a small bowl combine all filling ingredients except the nuts, chocolate chips and marshmallows. Beat for 1 minute at medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Spread over the chocolate base mixture in pan. Sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately sprinkle with mini-marshmallows over the top. Return to the oven for an additional 2-5 minutes or until the marshmallows are slightly brown.

Frosting for Fudge:
1/4 cup margarine
1/4 cup milk
1 oz (1 square) unsweetened chocolate, cut up
2 oz reserved cream cheese
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

While bars are in oven, prepare frosting. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, combine margarine, milk, 1 oz chocolate and reserved 2 oz cream cheese; stir together until smooth. Remove from heat, add powdered sugar and vanilla; mix until smooth. As soon as you take the bars out of the oven with the marshmallows on them, spread frosting on immediately and swirl with a knife so that the hot marshmallows and frosting looks marbled. Refrigerate until firm. (Store in refrigerator, not on counter.) This recipe is so popular at my house during Christmas that we usually double this recipe - easy enough.

Notice the almost-empty pan - I saved those for me - YUM! Tutti Mangia!

I love you Mama - thanks for the memories!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Nothing says Christmas better than this recipe. Cinnamon, white chocolate and dried cranberries - need I say more? Perhaps it is the oats in it that makes it even more homey. It is a fairly simple recipe that is done in about a half hour, including cooking time. Honestly, keep this one in your recipe drawer the entire winter season - they will make you happy even when there is two feet of snow on the ground.

Did you ever wonder what makes white chocolate white? Of course I did. Do you want to know the answer? I'm going to tell you anyway... It does not have cocoa liquor in it. Apparently there is a big controversy over whether or not it should be called chocolate at all! This also means that it lacks the nutritional value that cocoa gives you. Oh well, that won't stop me from eating it!

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
6 oz white chocolate chips (I used white chocolate chunks and coarsely chopped them)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a large bowl using an electric mixer combine the sugar, brown sugar and butter; mix well to cream together.
3. Add in egg and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
4. Add the cinnamon, baking soda, salt and flour and mix well.
5. Fold in the oatmeal, dried cranberries and white chocolate chips - making sure that all ingredients are uniformly distributed. (Dough will be very thick - that is fine though.)

6. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place 3 inches apart onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes, just until the edges are lightly golden.
7. Remove from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer cookies to cooling rack. Makes 36 cookies.

You need to keep your oven light on and really watch these cookies - my entire first batch burned so I had to start over and make a new batch! For those of you who like thinner, darker cookies, I was able to salvage some and they were still delicious!

Here is a picture of all 3 cookies I baked for Christmas...
These cookies are to the left, Rocky Road in the middle (blog post to come soon),
Ginger cookies on the right (blog post from last month).

Tutti Mangia!

Monday, January 3, 2011

French Raisin Apple Pie

I am not French, but I will not argue the fact that the French can bake! What makes this recipe different than traditional American (or Dutch) Apple Pie is the lack of a second crust. This pie has a crumbly, sweet streusel topping instead. I happen to love streusel toppings on anything. In case you were wondering where the term streusel came from, we have the German's to thank for that. It means "something scattered or sprinkled", from the verb streuen. This recipe is not to be confused with the popular Tart Tatin - an upside-down apple tart made with caramelized apples - also delicious.

1 cup raisins
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp plus 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 tsp salt
4 cups (4-6 medium) peeled, chopped tart apples (I used Pink Lady apples)
1 tbsp lemon juice (I omitted this)
1 9-inch unbaked pie dough round or shell
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter or margarine

Directions: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine raisins, sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, cinnamon and salt. Mix with apples and lemon juice. If using pie dough, fit into 9-inch pan according to package directions. Pour fruit into pie shell.

Combine remaining 3/4 cup flour, brown sugar and butter until mixture
resembles course crumbs. Sprinkle
crumbs evenly over raisin-apple mixture.

Bake on lowest oven rack for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake an additional 45-55 minutes (my oven took 55 minutes) or until golden brown. Serve warm or cold.

Your house will smell incredible as this pie bakes. Take my word for it. It was my holiday gift to our neighbors. They told me they thoroughly enjoyed it - Tutti Mangia!
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