Thursday, April 30, 2009

Roasted Potato & Green Bean Salad

This is a great make ahead side dish, terrific served with chicken or meat.
You can leave it out at room temperature for hours until ready to serve.

Roasted Potatoes w/ Green Bean Salad:

1 lb. of baby red potatoes with skins on
1/4 red onion, sliced skinny
1 1b. green beans, trimmed

1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
1 shallot, chopped
1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
chopped fresh parsley

Whisk dressing ingredients and put aside.

You can use as many potatoes and as many green beans as you like. The more, the merrier.

Quarter your potatoes and drizzle them with kosher salt and olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and roast at 400F degrees for about 25 minutes until crispy.

Blanch your green beans in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain in a colander.
You can put them in an ice bath if you want (stops the cooking process), but I always skip that step (lazy).

Add your roasted potatoes, green beans and onions to a large bowl and pour dressing over until coated.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper & garnish with fresh parsley.

This salad is best served warm, but like I said, it is great at room temperature, made a few hours ahead!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sacrilegious: Chicken Parm

I have always had this thing against chicken parmesan.

I feel that melted mozzarella cheese & tomato sauce does not belong on top of veal or chicken, it is just not meant to be.

It's just me. I am a food snob. I consider it pizzeria food. My brother and husband always order this dish when in a red sauce joint. They love it. I always sneer when it comes to the table.

This is not a dish that is served in Italy, it is an American thing.
Well, I am an American, so I guess it would be ok to make this and get over myself.

Here goes.

I hate to admit that this was so simple and satisfying. I see why kids and boys (men) love this dish! I am now converted! I loved this! Comfort food at its best.

Stacey Snacks "Chicken Parm" (as we call it in NJ):

~ 1 package of boneless chicken breasts (don't use the thin ones)
~ flour
~ egg
~ panko or seasoned bread crumbs
~ 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
~ salt & pepper

~ fresh mozzarella cheese
~ tomato sauce
~ pesto

Dip your chicken breasts in the FEB mixture (flour, eggs, breadcrumbs mixed w/ cheese). Fry in oil about 4 minutes on each side until they start to get golden in color.

In a casserole dish, lay some tomato sauce (jar of your favorite sauce is fine) on the bottom.
Lay breaded chicken breasts in casserole.
Spoon some tomato sauce over the breasts (sounds provocative!).

Top with fresh sliced mozzarella cheese (the stuff in water is best). I dab the tops with some pesto.

Bake in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes until sauce is bubbling.
Serve on pasta if you like!

This was really good. Don't tell anyone!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Steak au Poivre: Old School

The husband's dinner request last night was for MEAT & CARBS.
His words "I am starting to sprout leaves".
I guess I have been making too many vegetables lately. Poor guy.

Let's go "old school" and make steak au poivre. A recipe that will never go out of style in my book.

It's so simple, yet so fancy.

Get out your good china.

This is the easiest and best method to prepare steak au poivre.
The recipe is from Alton Brown, and I like it even better than Julia Child's! (shhhh).

Old School Steak au Poivre: (adapted from Alton Brown)

4 beef tenderloin steaks, 6 to 8 ounces each and no more than 1 1/2 inches thick
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/3 cup Cognac, plus 1 teaspoon
1 cup heavy cream

Remove the steaks from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour prior to cooking. Sprinkle all sides with salt.

I buy the whole beef tenderloin in the vacuum package when it is on sale.
I have either the butcher trim it for me, or trim it myself, as I did this time.

Coarsely crush the peppercorns with a mortar and pestle, the bottom of a cast iron skillet, or using a mallet and pie pan. Spread the peppercorns evenly onto a plate. Press the fillets, on both sides, into the pepper until it coats the surface. Set aside.

In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil.

As soon as the butter and oil begin to turn golden and smoke, gently place the steaks in the pan.

For medium-rare, cook for 4 minutes on each side. Once done, remove the steaks to a plate, tent with foil and set aside. Pour off the excess fat but do not wipe or scrape the pan clean.

Off of the heat, add 1/3 cup Cognac to the pan and carefully ignite the alcohol with a long match or fire stick. (WHAT ALTON NEGLECTS TO TELL YOU IS TO STAND FAR AWAY FROM THE PAN WHILE IGNITING, BECAUSE THE HIGH FLAMES WILL BURN YOUR EYELASHES RIGHT OFF!).

Gently shake pan until the flames die. Return the pan to medium heat and add the cream.

Bring the mixture to a boil and whisk until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Add the teaspoon of Cognac and season, to taste, with salt.

Add the steaks back to the pan, spoon the sauce over, and serve.

It's a good thing I take requests.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ratatouille with Baked Eggs

Everyone has a different recipe for ratatouille. Some use tomato paste, some use fresh tomatoes, others use basil (La Tartine Gourmande uses tarragon!), and some use herbs de Provence.

There are no rules when making ratatouille, a Provencal vegetable stew.

I make it up as I go and it SO DELICIOUS! I use what I have on hand, sometimes yellow squash or a red onion, the possibilities are endless.....just no mushrooms please! (they just don't belong in this dish).

I guess I just love anything with eggplant in the mix!

Today's Ratatouille:

2 zucchini
1 large red pepper
1 large yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1 large eggplant (I used a bunch of these cool little "Indian" eggplants)

1 small 14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes, drained
3 tbsp of tomato paste
kosher salt & pepper
1 tbsp of herbs de Provence
(you can add: fresh basil, thyme, parsley or any other fresh herb you like)

Cut all of your vegetables into rough chunks, leaving skins on.

In a large heavy dutch oven or skillet, heat about 3 tbsp of olive oil and add all of your vegetables (except the canned tomatoes and tomato paste), sprinkle with about 2 tbsp of kosher salt (it seems like a lot, but it's not) and cook on high heat for about 10 minutes until vegetables start to soften.

Now add your tomatoes and tomato paste, herbs de provence and fresh herbs if using.

Turn the pan down to a very low simmer and simmer for about 1 hour.
If you like your vegetables soft then cover the pot for the first 45 minutes, if you like them firmer, you can leave the cover off.

This is good served hot or cold. I love to fold it into an omelet or on top of crostini to make a great appetizer.

Here is the most beautiful way to serve ratatouille. From the book The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan.
OEUFS AU PLAT A LA RATATOUILLE: Baked Eggs with Ratatouille

"When you have leftover ratatouille, spread into a buttered baking dish and make hollows in the middle. Crack your eggs in the holes, drizzle with olive oil and bake in a 425F oven for 15 minutes until eggs are set......."

The possibilities are endless!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Insecure Cook

The original name for this blog before I decided on Stacey Snacks was The Insecure Cook.

I bought the domain name, set up the blog, but never used it.
Thinking back, I am not sure why I changed my mind on the name, but it was a unanimous decision.

I have always been an insecure cook. Must be in the genes.

My grandmother would wear a "shift" over her clothes (with her diamonds of course), and serve everyone huge meals.

After second helpings, she would walk around the table again with the big spoon and if you refused a THIRD helping of whatever she was dishing out, she would say "What's the matter, you didn't like it?".

No Grandma, we are so stuffed, we are going to EXPLODE!

I am the same way.

If you don't tell me as soon as the food has touched your lips that it is the BEST THING YOU HAVE EVER EATEN AND PLEASE MAY I HAVE THE RECIPE AND TAKE SOME HOME?, then I may start to cry.

I always ask my husband as he is trying something for the first time, "Is it good? Do you like it? Should I make it again?". I think he wants to kill me.

Recently I went to a blogger dinner in Brooklyn with some really accomplished cooks, one being a professional chef. I brought a French meatloaf terrine, and before anyone took a bite, I told them how it wasn't any good, and didn't come out as good as I expected. So don't even bother eating it.

I really am going to make an effort to be better and stop being so insecure in the kitchen, otherwise this blog is changing its name.

* photograph courtesy of Cheryl McLaughlin Photography titled MY INSECURITIES

Friday, April 24, 2009

Really Good Arroz con Pollo

Arroz con Pollo is just Spanish for Rice with Chicken.

Does that mean you can take a chicken and cook some rice, put them together and call it arroz con pollo?

You may, but the food police might arrest you.

I haven't made this traditional Spanish dish in years.
I have seen so many different Latino versions, Spanish versions and bad American versions.

Here is my version, and it's pretty damn good.

Stacey's Arroz con Pollo:

8 chicken thighs, with skin and bones
salt and pepper
olive oil for the dutch oven

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 slices of smoked ham (or bacon) chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 generous pinch of crumbled saffron threads
1 tsp of sweet paprika
1 red or green pepper, chopped

2 cups of chicken stock
1 1/2 cups of chopped canned tomatoes

1 cup of long grain rice (I had jasmine rice, not really traditional in this dish, but it came out great).

chopped fresh parsley
defrosted frozen peas
roasted red pepper strips for garnish (or pimento)

Season your chicken thighs w/ salt and pepper.
In a heavy dutch oven (Le Creuset is good) heat olive oil and add your chicken and brown on both sides for about 8 minutes until skin is getting crispy.
Remove chicken from pan with tongs and set aside.

Pour off all of the fat except for about 2 tablespoons.
Now add your onions, smoked ham, garlic and peppers. Saute a few minutes and add your spices: saffron, cumin, salt and paprika. Coat the onion mixture with the spice mixture for a minute.

Now add your stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
Add your 1 cup of rice to the pot and place your chicken pieces back in the pot on top of the rice.

Simmer this on low, partially covered for about 25-30 minutes, scraping up the brown bits that have stuck (yummy soccarat) to the bottom of the pan once or twice.

Garnish with peas, parsley and roasted red pepper strips.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dolce Italiano: Zucchini Olive Oil Cake

Since we have established that I like to bake, here is yet another delicious, simple cake from Gina DePalma's book Dolce Italiano.

Gina is the pastry chef at Mario Batali's Babbo Ristorante, and is one of my favorite bakers. Most of her recipes use nuts, chocolate, polenta and many use olive oil. It's tough to choose which one to make.

Since I had leftover zucchini in the fridge, this was a no brainer.

There is something about using good olive oil instead of butter in cakes. I am addicted to these olive oil cakes. They are so moist and have such a wonderful consistency.

I have made Giada's Olive Oil cake, Michael Chiarello's olive oil cake and my favorite is Dorie Greenspan's Lemon Olive Oil Yogurt Cake, which I could eat everyday. I have been using Colavita extra virgin olive oil only of late, since I have been cutting back on extravagant purchases, such as $30 bottles of olive oil, which I use up in 2 weeks! Colavita is half the price of my pricey Sicilian stuff, and the results have been fabulous.

I couldn't resist adding some golden raisins to this recipe. I never did follow the rules.
I also didn't bother with the lemon crunch glaze, because the cake was good enough with just powdered sugar sprinkled on top. You don't need the extra sweetness, believe me.

This was a gorgeous, moist cake, made in a bundt pan.
Great with coffee.
And it has zucchini in it, so it's healthy, right?

Dolce Italiano's Zucchini Olive Oil Cake

1 cup (75 g) walnut pieces, toasted
2 cups (240 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
1-3/4 cup (306 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (237 mil) extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups (438 g) grated zucchini (about 2 small zucchini)
1/2 cup of raisins (optional)
confectioners sugar, for dusting (optional)

1/4 cup (59 mil) fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup (58 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (130 g) confectioners sugar

1. CAKE: Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º F/175º C.

2. In the medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of the stand mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, and olive oil together on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat in the vanilla extract.

4. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined, then increase speed to medium and mix for 30 seconds.

5. Stir in the zucchini and walnut pieces until completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

7. Bake for 50 minutes. Rotate the cake halfway through baking to ensure even browning. Tester should come out clean and the cake edges should start to pull away from the sides of the pan.

8. GLAZE: Make the glaze while the cake is baking. In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice and granulated sugar, then whisk in the confectioners sugar until the glaze is smooth. Strain any lumps as necessary.

9. Remove the baked cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Place the wire rack over a piece of wax paper and invert the cake onto the rack. Use a pastry brush to brush the glaze all over the hot cake. It will stick to the cake and set as the cake cools, leaving a nice crunchy surface. Allow the cake to cool completely and the glaze to dry completely. OPTIONAL: You may dust the cake with confections sugar before serving.