Thursday, January 31, 2013

Super Bowl Snacks: Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

When I go to a super bowl party, I don't want to eat chips with queso dip (ew), chili, hot dogs or chicken wings.

I know it's tradition, but can we please step it up a bit?

Since I'm not a big fan of football, unless the NY teams are playing, I just go for the food, which is usually a big disappointment (sorry).

I made a big pot of chicken soup this week, and had enough shredded chicken for the soup and 2 other meals, so I came up with a great way to use up the meat.

These are the perfect Super Bowl appetizer!
Many of you have asked me for some super bowl ideas, so here they are. Dig in! (You can also visit my mini BLT's, and the Caprese Skewers.....also easy appetizers).

Everyone seems to be on a low carb or gluten-free diet, so they can indulge too.

My husband said it was his new favorite lunch, can I make them all the time?

You can make any version of chicken salad you like to fill the lettuce cups, even one with mayo, but these are a fresh and healthy alternative to mayo and have delicious Asian flavors.

Since I used chicken that was boiled for 3 hours (from making soup), it was nice and moist.

A good idea would be to boil up some chicken thighs with skin and bones in a pot of water for an hour or more. Throw in an onion, some carrots, celery and peppercorns if you like, so you can use the liquid for stock for later. The chicken will be super moist.

If you don't feel like going thru the chicken soup process, then just buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it up, discarding the skin and bones. (lazy bones).
Or, use leftover roast chicken. It's all good.

I used Kikoman Ponzu sauce with lime, which someone sent me to try, so I had it. I actually liked the citrus flavor in it, but you can use regular soy sauce.

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps:

Romaine lettuce hearts, trimmed and halved
1+ cups of cooked, shredded chicken
handful of chopped scallion (green parts only)
1 peeled carrot, grated
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce (I used Kikoman Ponzu sauce w/ lime)
1 tbsp sesame oil
squeeze of fresh lime juice
1 tsp honey
salt & pepper
chopped peanuts and fresh cilantro for garnish

Cut the Romaine leaves in half, so you have 2 boats to fill for each lettuce heart.

Mix the shredded chicken in a bowl with the other ingredients. Taste for seasonings. Season with a little salt & pepper.

Spoon the chicken salad into the lettuce boats and arrange on a platter.

Sprinkle w/ chopped peanuts and cilantro.

You could add water chestnuts or peas, whatever you like. There is no science, but these flavors worked beautifully together.

Put them out and watch them disappear!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Best Belgian Beef Carbonnade

We eat very little red meat in this house, however, once a year I make this Belgian Beef stew known as "carbonnade" with Belgian Ale and onions.
Reserved for winter months only.

It is my go to beef stew and I love it best the next day.

It makes the whole house smell yummy.

I recently brought a pot of carbonnade over to my friend Rosemary's house (check out her wonderful blog Content in a Cottage) for dinner, and it made a cold winter night seem cozy and warm.

Remember to get a good sear on your meat. You will need to do this in 2 batches.
Crowding the meat will steam it.

Have all your ingredients ready to go and this is a cinch to make. Mise en place.

I suggest using a Belgian Ale, not a light beer and definitely not a Corona.
My dad brought this 6 pack over of Palm Belgian Ale, and since I am not a beer drinker, I was waiting to use it in this stew!

Best Belgian Beef Carbonnade:

3 lbs. good quality chuck meat (stew meat)
3 onions, sliced thick
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 slices bacon, chopped
2 bottles Belgian dark beer or ale (or 1 bottle of beer plus 1 cup of beef broth)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
kosher salt and pepper
a splash of cider vinegar (optional) for finishing

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Salt & pepper your beef cubes and set them aside.

In a large heavy Dutch oven, fry up the bacon slices until crisp.
Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve 1 tbsp of the bacon fat.

Sear the beef cubes in 2 batches as to not crowd them (or they will steam).
This should take about 7 minutes for each batch, total.
Be patient, a good sear is important.

Set cubes aside in a bowl for later.

Add a small amount of olive oil and cook the onions until wilted. Add the garlic at the last minute. About 5 minutes total.

Now add in the can of tomatoes w/ juice, the 2 bottles of beer, the beef, bacon, herbs and brown sugar.

Bring to a boil then cover and immediately transfer to the oven.

Braise for 2 hours in the oven with the lid on.

I've seen many authentic recipes where they splash a bit of cider vinegar at the end.
That's up to you, but it makes it even more delicious.

Serve over egg noodles and stay warm!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

BEST Almond Olive Oil Cake

I know I say a lot of recipes on this blog are "fantastic", "my favorite", "fabulous", "awesome".

I get very excited when I find a recipe that comes out great. And there are many.

I only post recipes I truly like/love or would make again, and would serve to you.

I choose recipes that I think will work, whether I make them up, or borrow them from a cookbook or magazine or another blog.

Once in a while, something doesn't turn out that great (or is garbage worthy) and I either say it was crappy, or I just don't post it. I'm not one to hold back.

We all use different cookware and baking sheets, and some ovens run hotter than others, hence the burned cake or underdone chicken you just blamed me for. One brand of lentils is not the same as another, my olive oil is not as fruity as get what I am trying to say here.

To be a good cook means you can adapt recipes to your liking and what ingredients you have in the house and work with a recipe. Use your own sense of taste and smell and stop whining.

I have a few favorite cakes I've posted on this blog over the years:

My Pistachio Cake, my Chunky Apple Loaf, The Best Damn Blueberry Ricotta Cake and now this.

I am always in search of the best olive oil cake, as you know.
And here it is folks. I have finally found it. Mazel Tov.

Another Gina DePalma (pastry chef at Babbo) recipe, by way of Lottie & Doof.
I skipped the brown butter in my icing because the reason I made this cake was so I did NOT have to use butter.

Use a mild olive oil (like Colavita), nothing too peppery or fruity. This cake was super easy to make and super delicious.

A+, 5 star, great, super, delish, yummo! Whatever. It's my blog and I love this cake.
(and so did everyone else who tried it!).

Make it.

Almond Olive Oil Cake with Brown Butter Glaze (adapted slightly from Gina DePalma & Lottie & Doof)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal (ground almonds, Trader Joe's sells them in a bag)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup + 1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (use a mild olive oil like Colavita)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
Grated zest of an orange (I used 2 clementines)
1/2 cup orange juice

For Glaze:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tbsp milk
2 tbsp orange juice
1/2 cup sliced almonds for the top

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, salt, and set aside.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in very thoroughly. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45-60 seconds. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined; continue whisking until you have a smooth, emulsified batter, about 30 more seconds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake the cake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning. The cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back slightly when touched, and a cake tester comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack.

Mix the glaze ingredients together with a fork (including the almonds) and pour over the warm cake. It will harden.

This cake is good eaten warm or the next day or the next, if it lasts that long.


Monday, January 28, 2013

An Evening in Abruzzo

We had the pleasure of attending a special dinner hosted by Ciao Chow Linda and cooked by Chef Joe Cicala of the well known Abruzzese restaurant Le Virtu, in Philadelphia, owned by Francis Cratil Cretarola and Catherine Lee.

The cuisine of Abruzzo is different from what you would eat in Naples or Piedmont.

It is an hour and a half drive east of Rome and is very mountainous with 1/3 the region being parkland with the Adriatic to the right.

It is an area that is not heavily traveled by tourists, is rustic and filled with the best natural ingredients from the land.

There are not many cow products in this region, sheep's milk cheeses reign (think different types of Pecorino), and did you say you like lamb?
You've come to the right place.

Saffron from L'Aquila is supposed to be the best in the world. And pork and garlic are very important to Abruzzo, as is chitarra pasta (long strands of pasta made on a guitar string cutter).

I had the pleasure of sitting next to well known cookbook author and writer Domenica Marchetti, of Domenica Cooks, and I can't wait to dig into her books on pasta and Rustic Italian Cuisine. Domenica's mother is from Abruzzo and her roots and cooking style is strongly influenced from this region.

Chef Cicala made us a feast (fasten your seatbelts), starting with antipasti of arancini (rice balls), the best we have ever had.

Potato croquettes and lamb skewers.
And an amazing crostini with sheep's milk ricotta drizzled with honey and almonds.
He has my number.

To start the meal we had the most amazing housemade salumi.

These were some of the best cured meat products we have ever had. Rivals any charcuterie or salami we've eaten in the US or Europe. All products made with local lamb and farm raised pig and each taste was unique and special. I can't wait to go to the restaurant and order a platter of meats.

Next course was a gorgeous bowl of Ceci soup w/ chestnuts and farro. The chickpeas were nice and firm, and if I could eat this everyday of my life, I would be a happy girl (Chef, may I have this recipe, please?).

2 pastas: yes, I said two.

A gnocchi (not made w/ potato or ricotta, just flour) with smoked lamb sausage, and a gorgeous chitarra with lamb bolognese. I told you, you had better like lamb.

NEXT: a gorgeous roasted lamb, tied and stuffed, made like porchetta, served on broccoli rabe and roasted potatoes. I'm getting full.

Dessert: an anise semifreddo with poached pears and a platter of homemade biscotti and assorted Abruzzese cookies.

Cheese course to end the meal (my favorite!).

We tasted 4 amazing cheeses from the region from Marcelli Formaggi, an organic, artisan farmstead cheese from Abruzzo. Bob Marcelli explained how each of these special cheeses were made and the history behind them. You can purchase his amazing cheese at Eataly or via his website.

Each cheese was paired with a special Italian honey and you know I was in heaven.

All dishes were paired with wines of the region. A DOCG Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and a lovely Aglianico, which was new to me, and I loved.

When in Philadelphia, make sure Le Virtu is on your list of places to dine. It will be a special meal, one you will never forget.

Thank you to Linda for hosting the evening, Chef Cicala and Francis & Catherine for putting this wonderful evening together.

It was a truly a memorable experience.

I'm still stuffed!


Friday, January 25, 2013

Winter Random Bites and I'm NOT the Pita Chip Lady

For the past 5 years I have had a food blog called STACEY SNACKS (in case you thought you were on Smitten Kitchen's blog).

Every few months I receive an email from a disgruntled person who is complaining that they bought a bag of Stacy's Pita Chips and half the bag was broken.

I usually reply with "I will let my quality control dept. know about it, thank you."

But this one, I could not let go by without posting.

I received a photo from a man in Georgia saying that his Boston Terrier named "Vinnie" loves Stacy's gingerbread flavored pita chips so much he can't keep his head out of the bag! (really? gingerbread flavored chips?).

I had to tell this nice man that I was in fact, NOT the pita chip lady, but thank you for making me laugh.

My name is StacEy, her name is StaCy.

Every once in a while someone comes up to me and says "I didn't know you also own the pita chip company?".

I wish.


We ordered our seeds for the Militant Garden.
It seems like such a long way away until planting time.

I have been loving Brenne Whisky.

It's a new single malt whisky aged in French cognac casks and is the hottest thing all over NYC.
It tastes smoothe like honey with a hint of vanilla and is so lovely.

Check out The Whiskey Woman's blog here.

I bought these silicone king cube ice trays so I can drink my cocktails in style.

I found this great big Staub cocotte with the rooster handle at TJ Maxx!

I have been coveting this heavy Dutch oven since I saw it in Paris last year.
It is in a beautiful silver graphite metallic grey and cleanup and cooking in it is a dream......look out Le Creuset!

Another visit to Razza Pizza Artigianale for a farm to fork meal in Jersey City.

I love that I don't have to fight for parking and pay that $20. toll to cross the Hudson into Manhattan for the BEST local, organic food.

Last night:
Kale Caesar Salad
Roasted sunchokes and carrots with bagna cauda. Really?
Shaved fennel salad w/ blood oranges. Really?

A farm pie with Brussels sprouts, Iberico ham, caramelized onions and fresh mozz. Really?

Yes, really. All in my state of NJ.

This is by far the BEST pizza we have ever eaten and Dan & Fred make you feel right at home.

If you live within 30 miles from this place, and you haven't been here yet, what are you waiting for?
I mean it.
It's two stops from lower Manhattan on the PATH train (easy to get to from Brooklyn too).

and they have a liquor license. A rare commodity in the Garden State.

Razza Pizza Artigianale
275 Grove St.
Jersey City, NJ 07302

Have a nice weekend everybody.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cook the Book: Lidia's Baked Fennel Gratin w/ Prosciutto

I made this for a recent holiday dinner party, served along side Lidia's Chicken Cacciatore, and it was the perfect winter dish (with polenta and broccoli rabe of course!).

I love dishes like this, you prepare it in the morning, and then pop it in the oven before serving.

Sorry I don't have much more to say about this dish, except make it, it was SO GOOD.

Lidia's Baked Fennel Gratin w/ Prosciutto: (adapted from Lidia's Italy)

2 1/2 pounds fennel, trimmed and cut in wedges (I used 4 small heads)
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 oz smoked prosciutto (also known as "speck"), thinly sliced
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

Bring about 4 quarts of water to the boil in a large pot. Drop in the fennel wedges and cook them at a gentle boil for about 8 minutes, just until you can pierce them easily with a sharp knife tip. Lift out the wedges and drain well.

Cut the prosciutto slices crosswise into strips, about 1/4-inch wide.

Set a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 375F degrees. Coat the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with a spoon or 2 of the melted butter.

Lay the fennel wedges in one layer, filling the dish, and scatter the prosciutto strips over and in between the wedges. Drizzle the remaining butter all over. Sprinkle on a bit of salt & pepper.

Finally, sprinkle over the grated cheese, covering the whole dish evenly. Bake the dish for 35 minutes or until the top is crusty and golden and the edges of the prosciutto and fennel are also colored and crisp.

Great with a roast pork for a Sunday dinner. The perfect winter dinner party food.