Thursday, December 25, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Pappa Al Pomidoro

I had never heard of Pappa Al Pomidoro but I always enjoy soup - especially this time of year.  My wife doesn't really like tomatoes but she is usually ok if there are not chunks of tomato so I decided to give it a shot.  I did try to chop the tomatoes a little finer than the recipe intended for my wife but I don't think it took anything away from the recipe.

I must just shop at the wrong places but this is the second recipe in a row where I have had trouble finding an ingredient.  I don't think I have ever seen a thick sliced pancetta.  I suppose a good deli probably has pancetta that has not been cut an pre-packaged.  I decided to substitute good american bacon for the pancetta.  In most recipes I like the flavor of bacon better than pancetta anyway - although it probably added a little too much fat to the soup.

I also seem to be having trouble reading recipes lately.  When I got to the part of the recipe where it said to add the salt - 1 Tablespoon of salt seemed like a lot but I added it anyway.  Well it was too much and the soup turned out a little on the salty side.  It is only now that I see in the ingredient list that I was supposed to use kosher salt.  It should be no issue using table salt in place of kosher salt but 2 tsp table salt would probably be about the same as the Tablespoon of kosher salt.  Oh well - it wasn't too bad.  I should have at least trusted my instincts and left out some of the salt until the end when I could do the seasoning to taste.

I think it was a good soup but I don't think I will be making it again.  My wifes review of the soup is "too tomatoey".  I am not really sure that is a bad thing for most people in a tomato soup but it is for her.

Have I remembered to thank my wife for my dutch ovens?  I have always wanted one but could never bring myself to plunk down $200-$300 for a single pan.  Well last year I found the Mario Batali cookware at Crate and Barrel that looked pretty nice.  Then I also saw that Martha stewart had some nice looking dutch ovens at Macys.  My wife ended up buying me both a 5.5 and 7 quart Martha Stewart Dutch oven earlier this year.  I can definitly say that they have been great.  I thought it would be something I would use a couple of times a year but I am using them all the time.  I have never used Le Cruset but I can't imagine how they would be much better than these.  They look great and so far the finish is holding up well.  I think she said she got both of them for less than $100 - can't beat that; I am sure there were coupons and sales involved.

Thanks to Natalie of Burned Bits for this recipe choice.  I'm always up for soup.

Pappa Al Pomidoro
(Source: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, Page 68)
Serves 6

  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
  • 1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes, crusts removed
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
For the topping
  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes
  • 2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. For the topping, place the ciabatta cubes, pancetta, and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine. Reheat the soup, if necessary, beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning. Serve hot sprinkled with the topping and drizzled with additional olive oil.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Cookie Time - Chocolate Turtle Cookies

It is a busy time of year but I decided I wanted to make some cookies.  My wife was invited to a neighborhood cookie exchange and she also had a cookie contest at work so I decided it would be the perfect opportunity.  

I saw this recipe on the web somewhere and then got my December issue of Cooks Country and it had the same recipe.  I needed 80 cookies for the exchange so I ended up making 9-10 dozen of these.  The recipe in Cooks Country did not have the pecan halves on top but I thought they added a nice touch.

I need a lesson in reading the recipe all the way through.  Where it says one egg separated plus one white I missed the separated part and threw the entire egg plus the whites into the cookie so my five batches of cookies had 10 egg whites in it that were not supposed to be there.  It was late at night and I didn't have the ingredients to make another five batches so I tested it out.  I am not really sure it affected the cookies much.  I think maybe they might have spread out a little more than they were supposed to but they tasted good and still looked nice.

I didn't win the contest - I blame the judging.  The cookie exchange had another cookie almost the same with chocolate in the center instead of the caramel - oh well.  They were still good and I had fun making them.

Chocolate Turtle Cookies
Makes 2 dozen

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon slat
  • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, separated, plus 1 egg white
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped fine
  • 14 soft caramel candies
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 24 pecan halves

  1. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in bowl.  With electric mixer on medium beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add egg yolk, milk, and vanilla and mix until Incorporated.  Reduce to low speed and add flour mixture until just combined.  Refrigerate dough until firm, at least 1 hour.
  2. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk egg whites in bowl until frothy.  Place pecans in another bowl.  One at a time, roll dough into 1 inch ball, dip in egg whites, then roll in pecans.  Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared sheets.  Using teaspoon measure, make indentation in center of each ball.  Bake until set, 10 to 12 minutes, switching and rotating sheets half way through baking.
  4. Meanwhile, microwave caramels and cream in bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.  Once cookies are removed from oven, gently press existing indentations with teaspoon measure .  Fill each indentation with 1/2 teaspoon caramel mixture.  Cool 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Coq Au Vin

Oh no - it is only my third or forth Barefoot Bloggers post and I have already missed a deadline. The post for Coq Au Vin was supposed to be done the 11th and it is already the 20th. I cooked this on the 12th but have not been able to pull myself together enough for the post until now. Am I the only one that is busy this time of year - I am guessing not. I have now got all my Christmas baking done and got our last Christmas purchase made today so I have a break for a couple of days. Good news is I have already completed the next recipe so I should manage that one on time.

I don't think you can really go wrong with Coq Au Vin. I have made a different version of this for Valentines dinner in the past. It has the good parts of a stew with the carrots and mushrooms and pearl onions cooked in flavorful liquid. The sauce is way better than a stew and I sop up every drop of it with my potatoes and bread. It has been a while since I made a Coq Au Vin so I can't really compare this recipe to it but I can say that this one was very good.

My wife decided that since I was making something semi-fancy that she should take the opportunity to invite someone over. I am not sure it would have been my #1 choice to invite our pastor over on the night I am making a recipe with 1/4 cup Cognac and a half bottle of red wine but that it what she did. I kept tasting it while it was cooking and let it cook until it didn't taste too strong of alcohol. The pastor was our new associate pastor who works mostly with the youth. The pastor and his wife have a daughter about the same age as our 17 month old son so it is fun seeing the two of them together.

The one comment I would make on the recipe is - where do you find these frozen onions? I have never seen frozen onions in the store. I did assume that these were supposed to be pearl onions so I got fresh pearl onions and used those instead and they turned out great. The recipe also said it served three so I threw in a few extra chicken thighs since we were having company and there was still plenty of sauce and veggies for all of the chicken.

Thanks to Bethany of this little piggy went to market... for choosing this months recipe.

Coq Au Vin
Serves 3

  • 4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
  • 1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy
  • 1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy
  • 1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 pound frozen small whole onions
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  3. Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.
  4. Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.
  5. Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Mexican Chicken Soup

It is the 27th when this blog entry comes out but I actually made this one a few weeks ago.  I think most of the Barefoot Bloggers, at least the ones in the US, are probably going to be pretty busy on the 27th - I know I am.

While there are things I will use a canned or boxed broth with - or even some concentrate, soup is not one of those things.  I always try to keep some homemade broth in the freezer for cooking but it appears I just ran out.  That means I ended up starting this meal a few days early making some more chicken broth.  I won't bore you with that recipe - I made a pretty simple one with chicken parts and onions as the only main ingredients.  

I made about twice as much as I needed for the soup so I could freeze some.  I normally just freeze it in Ziploc bags but I had seen a hint somewhere that you should freeze it in ice cube trays so it is easier to get a small amount out.  This seemed like a good idea since I normally have to thaw out a whole bunch to get 1/2 cup of broth.  We just moved into a new house a few years ago and apparently my wife decided to de-clutter by getting rid of the ice trays - we didn't need them now that we had a new fridge with an ice maker.  After searching around a while she did manage to find something more me to use - check out the end result:
It works - there are two hearts in a quarter cup.

The soup was pretty good.  I did leave out a few things.  I left out the avocado - I knew my wife wouldn't eat it and I wasn't sure it would really add that much to the soup.  I also left out the jalapenos - I know that is probably a big thing to leave out of a Mexican soup but my wife does not like peppers at all - I just spiced my bowl up with some sriracha before I ate it.  I also used some fire roasted tomatoes which I think add a little flavor.  

The soup ended up being a pretty good chicken soup.  I was just coming down with a cold so it was just the right time for some homemade soup.  The one thing I would change is the tortillas.  I know they are there because it is a "Mexican" chicken soup but I think they end up being like a soggy noodle.  They didn't taste bad but the texture was not good at all in my opinion.  I think next time I will just forget it is Mexican and use egg noodles instead of the tortillas.

Thanks to Judy from Judy's Gross Eats (Not sure about the name - they don't seem gross) for this months recipe.

Mexican Chicken Soup
Serves 6 to 8

  • 4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
  • 2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
  • 6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas
  • For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Herb-Roasted Onions

I have been doing a lot of roasting lately so it was nice to see this recipe for roasted onions. I have never made roasted onions outside of a beef roast or something.

Most roast vegetables you just put oil and some seasonings on them and then roast them. For this recipe you make a vinaigrette and toss the onions in it. At the end of the recipe you pour the left-over vinaigrette over the cooked onions. Both Lara and I thought it had a little too much lemon flavor. I think next time I might try not putting the vinaigrette on at the end - or at least using a little less of it. Thanks to Kelly of Baking with the Boys for this months recipe pick.

Herb-Roasted Onions
(Source : Barefoot Contessa at Home)
Serves 3

  • 2 red onions
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Remove the stem end of each onion and carefully slice off the brown part of the root end, leaving the root intact. Peel the onion. Stand each onion root end up on a cutting board and cut the onion in wedges through the root. Place the wedges in a bowl.
  3. For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the onions and toss well.
  4. With a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a sheet pan, reserving the vinaigrette that remains in the bowl. Bake the onions for 30 to 45 minutes, until tender and browned. Toss the onions once during cooking. Remove from the oven, and drizzle with the reserved dressing. Sprinkle with parsley, season to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Roasted Butternut

I've been on a little bit of a squash kick lately. I just can't resist when I see all the different types of squash in the supermarket. I love it just roasted but I figure I should broaden my horizon with a few different ways to cook it. I made my barefoot bloggers butternut squash risotto a week or two ago and I still had half a butternut squash left over. I combined it with half of another squash that I am not sure what it was ( looked sort of like a buttercup - but not exactly).

To make the soup you just roast the squash along with some shallots just like when making the risotto from two weeks back. It is not necessary but the squash might look a little nicer if you remove any real black leaves from the shallots when it is done roasting. When done roasting you just puree it in a blender and combine with the other ingredients on the stove.

The soup was terrific. It was sweet, creamy, and warm - nice for a cool fall night. After I cooked this I saw pretty much the same recipe in Cooking light except they used ginger instead of nutmeg and they left out the cream. That version is probably a little healthier but the 1/4 cup of heavy cream for 4 servings is not really going to make it that bad for you.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
(Source: Cooks Country Oct/Nov 2008)
Serves 4

  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled, and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • 3 medium shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 450 degrees. Toss squash, shallots, oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large bowl, then arrange in single layer in roasting pan. Roast, stirring occasionaly, until golden brown and softened, about 45 minutes. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth to pan and scrape up any browned bits with wooden spoon. Return to oven and cook until liquid has reduced and vegatables are glazed, about 5 minutes.
  2. Working in 2 batches, puree squash mixture and remaining broth in blender until smooth. Transfer pureed squash mixture to large saucepan and stir in syrup, vinegar, nutmeg, and cream. Bring soup to simmer over medium-low heat, adding 1/4 cup water at a time as necessary to adjust consistency. Serve.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Apple Tart Tatin

In my last post I mentioned I always wanted to cook Tart Tatin. Lara mentioned one of her friends from out of town was going to be in town this week and she wanted to know if I would make dinner. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.

First you make up the dough. It is a tart dough, which is like a pie dough only it has sugar and an egg in it. When the dough has been rolled out it goes in the fridge and you start on the apples. The recipe called for Granny Smith. A lot of recipes call for Granny Smith because they are good for baking, they are available all year, and they are available everywhere. If it is apple season, feel free to support your local farms and buy any good baking apple. I am using Braeburn here.

You quarter the apples and cook them on top of the stove in butter and sugar. You cook them on high heat until the butter/sugar starts to caramelize a bit and the apples brown. This takes 10-15 minutes. At this point you flip all the apples over with a fork. As you can see from the picture it looked nice at this point.

Once the apples have been flipped you continue cooking on high for another five minutes to brown the other side of the apples. This is where everything went wrong.

It doesn't take very long from the point where the apples look great and the caramel starts to burn and turn very black. I took a quick taste to make sure it was really bad and it was. I didn't have enough apples to start over and no other options for desert so I decided to try and fix it. It was only about a quarter of the apples that burned - it was mostly just the caramel. I took each apple out, cut off anything that looked black, and carefully placed it into a new pan. Some of the apples fell apart and it didn't look nearly as nice, but I saved most of the apples. I then quick cooked up some butter, sugar to make a new caramel (not burnt this time) and poured it over the apples.

At this point I continued on with the recipe by topping it with the crust and baking it in the oven. Overall it didn't turn out too bad. It definitely didn't look as nice as it should have. It is supposed to be the nice ring of apples all perfectly spaced - but that is hard to do when cutting off burnt pieces while burning your fingers on 500 degree caramel. You could also taste a little bitterness in spots because of the burning - but not bad considering. I would make this again for sure but next time I will keep a better eye on it near the end.

Apple Tart Tatin
(Source : Cook's Illustrated Feb 1996)
Serves 8


Flaky Egg Pastry
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter chilled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 large egg, cold and beaten
Caramelized Apples
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 pounds Granny smith apples (six large), peeled, quartered, and cored
Tangy Cream Topping
  • 1 cup heavy cream, cold
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, cold

  1. Mix flour, sugar, and salt in food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter over dry ingredients; process until mixture resembles cornmeal, 7 to 12 seconds. Turn mixture into medium bowl; add egg and stir with fork until little balls form. Press balls together with back of fork , then gather dough into ball with hands. Wrap with plastic, then flatten into 4 inch disk. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. (Can be stored overnight; let stand at room temperature to warm slightly before using).
  2. Unwrap dough and turn onto well floured surface. Sprinkle with additional flour. Roll into 12 inch circle, strewing flour underneath to preven sticking. Slide lightly floured, rimless cookie sheet or pizza peel under crust, cover with plastic, and refrigerate while preparing apples. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle; heat oven to 375.
  3. For the filling: Melt the butter in a 9 inch oven safe skillet; remove from heat and sprinkle evenly with sugar. Arrange apples in a circle around outside of skillet. Lift each quarter onto its edge while adding the next apple so that the quarters stand almost straight up. Fill the middle of the skillet with the remaining quarters.
  4. Return skillet to high heat; cook until juices turn from butterscotch to rich amber color, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and using fork or paring knife, turn apples onto uncaramelized sides. Return skillet to high heat; boil to cook uncaramelized sides of apples (about 5 minutes).
  5. Remove skillet from heat. Slide prepared dough over skillet, and, taking care not to burn fingers, tuck dough edges against skillet wall.
  6. Bake until crust is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Set skillet on wire rack; let cool about 20 minutes. Loosen edges with knife, place serving plate over skillet, turn tart upside-down, then remove skillet.
  7. For the topping: With electric mixer, beat heavy cream and sour cream until mixture thickens and holds soft but definite peaks. Accompany each wedge of tart with generous dollop of topping.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Eating out at the Bayport Cookery

I enjoy cooking but I enjoy eating out as well. Lara and my eighteenth anniversary is on the 27th - which is a Monday - so we decided to go out and celebrate on Saturday. I have had the Bayport Cookery on my lists of places to try for a few years now. It is a nice restaurant that gives you the option of 9, 6, or 3 courses. We had to pick nine of course. Here is what we got for our $85:

We started with a Wild Mushroom soup - topped with puffed wild rice. It also had what they described as a mushroom grilled cheese with it. It was all very good. Lots of mushroom flavor.

Next came a Wilted Escarole salad. Not really much "salad" here. The main part of the dish was a chicken liver agnolotti (a stuffed pasta). It was topped with roasted pear and hot bacon dressing. Neither my wife or I like liver but these were good. The liver was very mild - especially when mixed with the dressing.

Third course was a tempura shrimp. This was probably the best tempura I have had - very delicate coating. It was on top of an apple slaw - which had a mild curry flavor.

Next we were served chicken stuffed with coppa and figs. This wasn't real exciting if you ask me. It did have some spiced port wine au jus on the plate that was tasty.

The 5th course was a braised pork belly. It was sitting on butternut squash and topped with a crabapple chutney. This was not bad - but I like the chutney and squash better than the pork belly.

The bison short rib was my favorite of the main courses. It was topped with a horseradish creme fraiche. It had some gnocchi on the side that were pan fried - very good that way.

The seventh course was a cheese plate. The cheese was pleasant ridge - an artisanal cheese from Wisconsin. It came with some candied walnuts and some carrot raisin bread.

Finally - time for desert. The first desert was an apple tart tatin - I have always wanted to try making this. On the right is a maple flan.

The ninth and final course was a Chocolate Genoise cake and some pumpkin ice cream. I'm not a big chocolate guy but the cake was very good - it had a hazelnut mousse filling. The pumpkin ice cream was very good (Better than the cheese ice cream I had at my last nine course meal).

While the Bayport cookery was not as fancy of a setting as other nine-course meal places we have gone - the food was definitely on par and the setting was very nice. The restaurant does different theme menus during the year (Chocolate, wild game, mushroom...) so it would be a good place to go back to in the future.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Butternut Squash Risotto

Since I joined Barefoot bloggers halfway through the month I figure I only have to do one recipe this month. Normally I suppose I should do the second recipe which is Vegetable Pot Pie. While the recipe sounded good, I just made Chicken Pot Pies. Hopefully it is OK if I make the first October recipe instead.

This is a night of firsts for me. This is my first barefoot bloggers recipe. This is my first time making risotto. This is my first time cooking with saffron.

I had always thought that risotto was a little difficult to make. It is not really that difficult. A risotto is just a short grain rice (normally Arborio) that is cooked slowly. You add a little liquid and cook until it is absorbed, then add a little more liquid and cook a little more, repeat...

I noticed a lot of the other Barefoot bloggers skipped the saffron. There is good reason for that. Saffron costs about $10 for 1/2 gram. It comes in a spice bottle - inside the bottle is a little envelope - inside the little envelope is a littler envelope - inside that is a small amount of the red threads which are saffron. It takes an acre of flowers ( a crocus) to harvest 5-7 pounds of saffron. Saffron is the most expensive spice by weight - but I have read that is is not the most expensive by use since it takes such a small amount. Anyway, saffron was on sale at Target this week. It still cost me $11 but I got 1.5 grams of it - now I need more recipes for it - if you have any good ones let me know.

It is a good time of year for this recipe. It uses butternut squash which is plentiful in the fall. You dice up the squash and roast it in the oven. It turns nice and brown on the edges and looks very nice in the rice. I would not have thought of adding squash to a risotto but it added a little bulk to the rice that was nice - I would have been satisfied with this as my main dish.

I wish I had made one without the saffron so I could compare and see if it was worth it. I am sure it would be great without the saffron but in my opinion the saffron probably made it better. Saffron has kind of a fragrant flavor. My wife said it took some getting used to but she ate seconds so I guess it was not too bad for her.

Thanks to Rachel from Rachel Like to Cook for this recipe.

Butternut Squash Risotto
(Source: Barefoot Contessa Family Style)

  • 1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.
  3. Heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.
  4. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned.
  5. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total.
  6. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Maple-Orange Glazed Chicken

I just started a subscription to Cook's Country. I used to subscribe to Cooks Illustrated - which I loved - a great cooking magazine and you can't fail using any of their recipes. Anyway, the same company publishes Cook's Country. I decided to get it for a change. It seemed like it might have more "everyday" recipes. It has a section with 30 minute recipes every month. These are not the kind of 30 minute recipes that have a can of Campbell's soup as the main ingredient, not that there is anything wrong with that occasionally.

Anyway my first magazine just came last week and it has quite a few recipes I want to try. I tried their Beef Stroganoff, a crockpot recipe, last week and it was very good. This week I decided to try the Maple-Orange Glazed Chicken. This was one of the 30 minute recipes and it was very easy to make.

You start out mixing the ingredients for the glaze - just five ingredients. Then you season the chicken breasts and fry them on one side. Then you put them in the oven to cook the rest of the way. When done cooking you take the chicken out and cook up the sauce in the hot pan.

I thought it was kind of silly that the recipe mentioned that the handle on the pan would be hot after it comes out of the oven, duh. Well guess what I did. Unfortunately the recipe didn't mention that the handle is still incredibly hot 3 minutes later after cooking the sauce. Yes - I burnt my fingers pretty good.

The recipe came out good. I wasn't expecting it to be very orangy since the only orange was a small amount of zest. Well it had good orange flavor and nice sweetness from the maple. It was messy and sticky, Lara thought we needed wet naps.

Maple-Orange Glazed Chicken
(Source: Cook's Country October/November 2008)

Serves 4
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, halved crosswise
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Whisk maple syrup, mustard, zest, vinegar, and thyme in bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat until oil is just smoking. Cook chicken skin-side down, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Turn chicken skin side up and transfer chicken to oven. Cook until chicken is deep golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate and tent with foil.
  3. Wearing oven mitt (pan handle will be very hot), pour off any fat in pan. Add maple mixture and cook over medium heat, scraping up any browned bits with spoon, until thick and syrupy, about three minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Off heat, return chicken to pan and turn until well coated with glaze.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Who are the Barefoot Bloggers

I think one of the first food blogs I started following was breadbasketcase, a blog by a local Minneapolis woman, who started out her blog with the idea of cooking all 82 breads in the Bread Bible in a year. She was successful and has gone on to make many more interesting breads. I liked that idea but I am not sure I need that much bread.

I liked the idea of a food theme like that. Well I started looking at a lot of food blogs and I found a few groups of bloggers that made the same recipes using some theme and blogged about them. This seemed like a good way to motivate myself to make some new things. I found groups that focused on baking, and groups that made just pie. I would love either of those but my diet would not.

I then ran across the Barefoot bloggers. I first discovered it on The Brown Eyed Baker - a very good food blog. According to the site this is what the Barefoot Bloggers are about:

We're an [extra]ordinary group of cookers and bakers with a love of all things Ina. We'll be testing (and retesting) Ina Garten's (Barefoot Contessa) recipes as a group and blogging about them on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month.

I think that is a pretty good description. For anyone that doesn't know Ina Garten has a cooking show on the Food Network called the Barefoot Contessa. I think she has six cookbooks and a lot of recipes available on the food network. The blog group has over 100 members (I think at least two other men). Each month the next two bloggers in line pick a recipe from Ina Garten's collection. Everyone is then supposed to make each of the recipes that month and blog about them. It sounds like fun to me - most of the recipes they have done so far look good to me.

I will be starting my posts in the Barefoot bloggers this month, and hopefully I will be able to keep up with my two posts a month after that. Hopefully everyone, including my wife Lara, will enjoy.

It's my Birthday!

Let me start this by saying that my wife is not really a cook. She is not really detail oriented when it comes to cooking and usually ends up skipping a step or two. When she mentions that she might cook breakfast she usually means oatmeal. So when ever she asks if I want breakfast I say I would like a Pannekoeken or something that I know she will never make.

Today is my birthday and Lara decided to actually make pannekoeken. Somehow we actually had all the ingredients so she was able to do it. I think the only mistake she made was the oven temp and this was corrected before it was too late. As you can see it came out nicely. The apples were very good - a little sweet - a little tart. It is apple season now and I think it was Braeburn apples that were used instead of the Granny Smith called for in the recipe. The recipe wasn't in the breakfast section of the cookbook - it was in the dessert section - so you know it was going to be good. I ate the last piece later on with a little vanilla ice cream and it was just as good for dessert as it was for breakfast.

German Apple Pancake

(Source: The New Best Recipe)

Serves 4

  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 medium Granny Smith apples (about 1 1/4 pounds) peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch slices.
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
  • Maple syrup, warmed, for serving
  1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat to 500 degrees. Combine the eggs, half and half, vanilla, salt, and granulated sugar in food processor or blender and process until well combined, about 15 seconds. Add the flour and process until mixed and free of lumps, about 30 seconds; set the batter aside.
  2. Add the butter to a 10 inch non-stick oven-proof skillet and heat over medium-high until butter is foaming. Add the apples and sprinkle brown sugar on top. Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples turn light brown, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until apples are golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from heat. Quickly pour the batter around the edge of the pan, then over the apples; place the pan in the oven. Reduce the oven heat to 425 degrees and cook until brown and puffed, 16 to 17 minutes. With a heatproof spatula loosen the pancake. Invert the pancake onto a serving platter, dust it with confectioners' sugar, and serve immediately, accompanied by the warm maple syrup.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chicken with Mushroom Cream Sauce

Lets get this started with a real food post. I have been trying a lot of new recipes since I have been a stay at home dad - a lot of them scrounged from different places on the web. This one is from the Simply Recipes blog.

The recipe is pretty simple. You start with a pretty standard pan fried chicken. You then put the chicken into a roasting pan and pour some broth over it and stick it in the oven for 40-50 minutes. I think the oven time is only so you have time to make the pan sauce - otherwise it would be good if the chicken was just cooked in the pan. I did make a modification to the recipe since 40-50 minutes sounded awfully long after being cooked on top of the stove. Perhaps I browned on top of the stove longer than the recipe intended, but my chicken was done at 25-30 minutes.

The recipe also mentioned using a rich chicken broth over the chicken - even describing how to make one quickly with the giblets. I normally do have some homemade chicken broth around but I am currently out. I used some low-sodium canned broth. I would not use canned broth where it is the major component of a recipe but in this recipe I hardly think it mattered.

The pan sauce was nice and easy. You save 2 Tablespoons oil from cooking the chicken and fry up some onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Then add sour cream and cream. I made a few changes here as well. The recipe has you remove your garlic at the end. I just ran my garlic through a press and there is no need to remove it at the end. I also did not have cream but used half & half instead. I was still plenty rich and creamy - I think you could probably even use milk with good results to save a few more calories.

The final results were very good. The sauce was very flavorful and rich. The recipe makes a lot of sauce so make sure to serve with potatoes or noodles or something. We had it with mashed potatoes.

I just made Beef Stroganoff the other day and my wife Lara wanted it without sour cream. She is not real adventurous with food so recipes can be difficult to adapt at times. I made her try some with sour cream but she thought it was too "tangy". With this recipe I decided to make it with the sour cream and not tell her (is that wrong?). Well she took seconds of both the chicken and mashed potatoes and put sauce on both. She said the sauce was really good. When I asked her if the sauce was too "tangy", I think she got the hint - the sauce is 50% sour cream.

Chicken with Mushroom Cream Sauce
(Source: Simple Recipes)


  • 1 5-pound roasting chicken, cut into serving pieces (bone-in, skin on)
  • Flour, salt and pepper
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil, or canola oil (or other high smoke point oil)
  • Butter
  • 1/4 cup rich chicken broth
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Put a cup of flour, a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper in a brown paper bag. Piece by piece, put a piece of chicken in the bag and shake to coat the chicken with flour mixture.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. On the stove top, in a large frying pan, heat oil to medium high heat. Place the chicken pieces in the pan. Watch the oil carefully, you don't want the oil to be so hot as to burn the chicken, you just want to lightly brown it. Brown the chicken pieces on all sides, turning when necessary.
  3. Butter a roasting pan generously. Arrange the chicken pieces in it, pour broth over it, and bake at 350°F until the chicken is tender and cooked, about 40-50 minutes for pieces from a 5-pound chicken. (See my note above 40-50 minutes may be too long). You know that the chicken is done by poking a thigh with a meat fork (the thigh meat is dark meat and takes longer to cook than white breast meat). If pink or red juice runs out of the hole made by the fork, the chicken is not done. If only clear juice runs out, the chicken is done.
  4. About 20 minutes before the chicken is expected to be done, start cooking the onions and mushrooms. In the same frying pan as was used to cook the chicken, empty the pan of all but 2 Tbsp of oil. Add the onions to the pan and saute on medium heat until softened. Add the crushed garlic clove and the mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are no longer crisp. Remove and discard the garlic, and add the sour cream and the heavy cream to the onions and mushrooms. Lower the heat. Keep warm, but do not boil. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When the chicken is done, remove from oven. Serve on a platter with the mushroom sauce spooned over it, or served on the side.
Serves 6 to 8.

Serve with noodles, rice, or Spanish rice.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My new blog

I got my taste of blogging while doing my blog on Victor's adoption.  I kind of enjoyed it but since the adoption is done it doesn't make much sense to continue with that.    

Since the adoption Lara took three months off work to stay home with the baby, then I took three months starting in June.  At the end of August we decided we liked that arangement and I quit my job in order to become a full-time stay at home dad.  

Being a stay at home dad has been a wonderful expirence.  Besides being able to spend the time with my son - I think being able to cook more is my favorite part.  I have always enjoyed cooking but when both of us worked it was hard to make the time and we ended up eating out all the time.  Now I am able to cook most days of the week.

I am not a professional cook and my only training was my Foods III class in high school, a couple of community classes, and my time at TJ's Big Boy cooking breakfasts on the line.  I do enjoy cooking though and I like trying new things.

I am not sure how much I can add to the food blogging community - there are a lot of great blogs out there now - but I'll do this as long as it is fun for me.  I am hoping it helps motivate me to keep doing new things.  

As far as what I will be blogging about - you probably guessed it - Food.  I would like to blog about new recipes I try.  I might throw in some Restaurant articles if I go some place I really like.  If I ever get to travel again (might be hard with the new baby) I might blog a little on that if I go anywhere interesting.

Thats enough for now.  Hopefully there are some people that enjoy this - let me know if you do.