Monday, April 29, 2013

Chicken Parmesan

I'm assuming most of you carnivores have had chicken parmesan by now (probably lots of it). So what makes a good chicken parm? In my opinion, the responsibility lies mostly with the sauce. I guess that's true for a lot of Italian dishes. If you have a great marinara recipe, you're halfway there. The other thing I suggest is a nice buffalo mozzarella if you can find it. In my opinion, the flavor is superior to cow's milk mozzarella (it's just more robust) and super creamy. Topping the whole thing off with fresh basil really seals the deal.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed
1 cup plain dried bread crumbs
4 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 1 ½ pounds)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 (8 oz.) ball fresh buffalo mozzarella, water drained and grated
freshly grated parmesan
1/4 bunch fresh basil leaves, torn

1.      Preheat oven to 450º F.
2.      Place the flour on a plate or in a shallow pan and season with salt and pepper; mix to combine. Place the bread crumbs on a plate or in a shallow pan and season with salt and pepper; mix to combine. In a shallow pan or wide bowl, whisk together the eggs and water.
3.      Place the chicken breasts side by side on a cutting board and lay a piece of plastic wrap over them. Pound the chicken breasts with a flat meat mallet, until they are about 1/2-inch thick.
4.      Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large oven-proof skillet. Lightly dredge both sides of the chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour. Dip in the egg wash to coat completely, letting the excess drip off, then dredge in the bread crumbs.
5.      When the oil is nice and hot, add the cutlets and fry for 4 minutes on each side until golden and crusty, turning once.
6.      Ladle the tomato sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with mozzarella, parmesan, and basil. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Serve hot with spaghetti.

adapted from Tyler Florence
pounding the chicken
dredging in flour
dipping in egg
coated in bread crumbs
golden and crusty
grated buffalo mozzarella

It's so creamy, it mostly just falls apart.
sprinkled with cheeses
topped with basil

If you don't like the look of the basil on top,
you can always put it on before the cheese.
chicken parmesan
My cat Pierre was in this position the entire time I was
cooking. Clearly he's super thoughtful and trying to save me
money on costly kitty chiropractor bills by aligning his own spine.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pretzel Hot Dog Buns

I had some friends with kids over recently and thought these pretzel buns might be a fun way to dress up a hot dog. They definitely added a little something...I would say that it's the chewy, salty exterior that really improves upon the classic bun. No one wanted mustard (maybe because I made cheese sauce), but obviously a hot dog on a pretzel bun just screams for it. One of the kids said I could put the Pretzel Factory out of business with these, so she liked them. Don't worry Pretzel Factory, I only have one oven and two silpats (and no ambition).

Yield: 14-16 servings

1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 packet active dry yeast
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small cloves garlic, grated
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup bread flour
1/2 cup baking soda
pretzel salt or coarse ground sea salt, for sprinkling

1.      In a small saucepan, heat the milk, water, sugar and honey to 105 to 110º F. Add to the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast over the water mixture and wait for at least 10 to 15 minutes until the yeast blooms.
2.      In a separate saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and garlic and cook until the butter is melted and the garlic is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
3.      Combine the all-purpose flour and bread flour in a mixing bowl.
4.      Add the flour mixture to the bowl with the blooming yeast, and then add in the melted butter and garlic mixture. Mix on medium speed until the dough has come together and is smooth and elastic in texture and pulling away from the sides of the bowl, 5 to 7 minutes.
5.      Line 2 baking sheets with silicone mats. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured cutting board and form into a ball. Cut into 7 or 8 equal pieces, and then cut those in half to form 14 or 16 equal pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece into a ball and place onto a prepared baking sheet. Cover with a dish cloth and let them rest in a warm place for 12 to 15 minutes.
6.      Once rested, lightly dust your work surface again and roll the balls into 6-inch logs. Place onto the other prepared baking sheet, cover, place back in the warm spot and let rest for an additional 30 minutes.
7.      Preheat oven to 425º F. Place one oven rack high and one low. Line 2 more baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.
8.      In a large pot, bring 8 cups water to a boil, and then add the baking soda. In batches, place the dough in the water and cook for 30 seconds on each side.
9.      Using a slotted spatula, remove the logs and place onto the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle the logs with pretzel salt as they come out of the water, to ensure the salt sticks. Then cut 3 diagonal slits on top of the bread, not too deep.
10.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until deep golden brown, rotating between the top and bottom racks of the oven halfway through the cooking.

slightly adapted from Jeff Mauro

yeast sprinkled over warm milk, water, honey, sugar mixture

I put everything in the kitchen aid bowl so I
could avoid washing more dishes than necessary.
pouring garlic butter into the bloomed yeast

Because I was cheating a little and using just one
bowl, I decided to add the liquid first. It just seemed
to make more sense.
adding the flours
smooth dough
dough ball
cut into 8 pieces

This recipe originally had a yield of 8, but the
buns came out way too big, so I changed it.
As a matter of fact, I took one of the balls below
and halved it, just to check the size. Even that bun
came out slightly long, but way more manageable.
dough balls on a silpat
risen dough balls on parchment

I'd love to say that I experimented by using one silpat and
one piece of parchment so I could let you know the results,
but the truth is I could only find one of my silpats. Luckily
you can benefit from my laziness (turns out my other silpat was
easy to find if I had only looked for 30 seconds). So here are
the results: DO NOT USE PARCHMENT. The cooked rolls
stuck. And I mean STUCK. They couldn't be peeled off, but had
to be cut off (which loses some of that nice crusty, chewy outside).
dough rolled into logs
logs risen
adding baking soda to boiling water (it bubbles up)
boiling the dough
boiled dough slashed and sprinkled with salt

I didn't have any pretzel salt, so I just used kosher.
pretzel hot dog buns

You can see the baked buns on the parchment in the
background. You can tell from this photo that the parchment
is totally stuck to the buns, just by the way it's pulling up.
You can also tell how gargantuan the other rolls are compared
to the smaller one (at the very top of the silpat lined sheet pan).
This is one of the smaller buns, so you can imagine
how crazy large the other ones twice the size were.
I wish I'd taken a photo of one with a hot dog in it for
scale. Sorry about that. You'll just have to take my word
for it. They were like torpedoes. Delicious torpedoes.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fried Ice Cream

I would say the only drawback to frying (aside from infusing your diet with fat and possibly burning yourself with the spluttering hot oil) is figuring out what to do with all that leftover oil when you're done. Last month I made cannoli shells and faced that very dilemma. That time the answer was simple, just strain the oil and save it for another use. Which is why I made fried ice cream yesterday. I really just wanted to get that oil out of my fridge and have a little fun doing it. And I have to say, it was pretty great. Hot and crunchy on the outside and cold and melty on the inside. Of course now I have a nasty pot of leftover oil to deal with. What I really need is a vegetable oil powered car to justify my deep frying. I haven't crunched the numbers, but I'm pretty sure my Thanksgiving fried turkey would pay for itself.

Yield: 4 servings

1 quart vanilla ice cream
1 cup finely crushed cornflakes
1 cup finely crushed cookie crumbs (I used nilla wafers)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
coconut oil or vegetable oil, for frying
salted caramel sauce or chocolate sauce for serving (optional)
whipped cream for serving (optional)

1.      With an ice cream scoop, form 4 large balls of ice cream. Place on a waxed paper lined sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 2 hours.
2.      In a shallow dish, combine the cornflake crumbs, cookie crumbs and cinnamon.
3.      Dip the ice cream balls in the crumb mixture and freeze for 30 minutes.
4.      In a bowl, beat the eggs and sugar. Dip the coated ice cream balls into the eggs, then roll in the crumb mixture, coating completely. Freeze for 1 hour. (If necessary, or for a thicker crust, roll again in eggs and crumbs until the balls are completely coated.)
5.      Heat the oil in a large pot or fryer to 400º F. One at a time, lower the balls into the oil and fry until golden brown, about 15 to 30 seconds.
6.      Remove from the oil and place in a dessert bowl. Drizzle with caramel sauce or chocolate sauce and top with whipped cream. Repeat with the remaining ice cream.

slightly adapted from Emeril Lagasse
scooping ice cream
ice cream balls
rolling in crumb/cinnamon mixture
coated in crumbs
dipping in egg/sugar
rolling in crumb mixture again
coated again

After freezing for 1 hour, I dipped the balls in
egg & crumbs again for an extra thick coating.
frozen and ready to fry
fresh from the hot oil
fried ice cream
drizzled with warm salted caramel sauce

Friday, April 19, 2013

Salted Caramel Sauce

Apparently I'm a freak for caramel + salt because I've already made salty caramels and salty caramel ice cream and I still felt the need to make this salted caramel sauce. I'd say somebody stop me, but please don't. Clearly salt and caramel are the Burt and Ernie of the dessert world. And just like Burt and Ernie, this sauce will send you to your happy place and make you feel like a kid again. Or maybe that's just me (I can't help it, every time Burt gets suckered by Ernie all seems right with the world).

Yield: 2 cups

2 cups granulated sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
2 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel (or any other flaky sea salt)
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature

1.      Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a heavy saucepan, with a capacity of at least 2 or 3 quarts. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. You'll see that the sugar will begin to form clumps, but that's okay. Just keep whisking and as it continues to cook, they will melt back down.
2.      Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.
3.      Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slight toasted aroma. This is the point where caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, cook the sugar until it reaches 350º F.
4.      As soon as the caramel reaches 350º F, add the butter all at once. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble up when the butter is added. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.
5.      Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the fleur de sel. Slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Again, be careful because the mixture will once again bubble up ferociously.
6.      Whisk until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce.
7.      Set the sauce aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then pour into your favorite glass jar and let cool to room temperature. You can refrigerate the sauce for up to 2 weeks. Warm the sauce up before using.

sugar (starting to get clumpy)
sugar getting even clumpier

I have to admit, I didn't give my sugar the attention I should
have because I was cooking something else at the same too. If
you whisk continuously, yours probably won't get quite as clumpy.
sugar get very melty
caramelized sugar
adding the butter
butter mostly melted
butter whisked in until smooth
cream added

I can't account for the color change here. I would
have thought adding cream would have made it lighter,
but instead it got a little darker.
adding the salt

The original recipe called for the salt to be added after the
cream, but I re-ordered the recipe because the salt doesn't melt
and I wasn't crazy about the crunchy chunks of salt in the sauce.
salted caramel sauce