Friday, January 15, 2010

Fearless comfort food

It was unseasonably chilly in South Florida this week. We actually had frost on our windshields a few mornings!

I decided to make some warm, stick-to-yer-ribs comfort food this week. I made two of my favorite dishes that I have never made myself: chicken and dumplings, and shepherd's pie. I also made another new recipe: shrimp chowder.

The chicken and dumplings were absolutely delicious. We ate it too quickly to take a picture. I (mostly) used the recipe from my American Home Cooking cookbook. I already had homemade chicken broth, so I didn't use the chicken for the recipe to also make broth. I seared it and then braised it in the chicken broth, without boiling it in between to make a quickie, vegetable-less batch of broth as the recipe called for.

I made shepherd's pie with a lot of adjustments and combining of recipes. I also cheated and used ground chicken, since that was all that I had at home, and I didn't want to go brave the near freezing temperatures to get beef and lamb. I added a little bit of A1 and red wine to "beef" it up. I also cooked the potatoes for the topping in buttermilk, and then mashed them in the cooking liquid, as Cook's Country recommended just this month. Mmmm, tasty. I topped the taters with cheese and scallions. It makes for an ugly picture, but it was tas-tee.

This shrimp chowder with bacon and fennel was delicious. Our local grocery store had some lovely shrimp on sale. I was thinking of making a scampi, but I wanted to try something new. Picky made the mistake of saying he was "a little sick" of one of my dishes in the rotation, spaghetti carbonara, so I am going to be throwing some curveballs this week.

I entered in "shrimp" into my epicurious-on-the-go app on my phone, and this shrimp chowder recipe was the first one to come up. It called for shrimp, fennel and bacon, three of S's all time favorite ingredients. Since he will be gone for the long weekend, and this will be his last dinner with us for several days, I sent him off with a bang.

The recipe calls for adding the raw shrimp one minute before the end of cooking the chowder, then taking it off the heat, mixing in the cream, and letting it sit for ten minutes. The shrimp were cooked perfectly. Just past the underdone threshold. Barely not translucent. Bite, but no chewiness.

S and I both had three servings.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Maintaining the white / yolk balance

I made macaroons for a favorite aunt:

(They're more attractive than what the bad photo shows)

I recently got a shipment of food from a local-ish farm. Their egg yolks are gorgeous, firm, and richly golden. I couldn't waste them, and didn't want to freeze them. As much as I love Hollandaise sauce, I am going to be alone over the next few days (yes. for real. amazing!) and would have to make a double batch to use all the yolks. I don't even think I could manage to eat that much Hollandaise sauce, and it's best fresh.

So, I used the handy interwebs search engines, and found this recipe for egg yolk cookies.

I didn't have orange or lemon extract. My mother in law makes spice cookies with cardamom and orange juice, and it's a tasty combination. I substituted a few things, added some turbinado sugar to the top, and came up with a sinfully rich, scrumptious cookie.

Cardamom egg yolk cookies:

• 1 cup butter (or shortening for cookies that won't spread quite as much)
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 6 egg yolks (or 3 whole eggs)
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
• 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
2. Separately, beat egg yolks and add extracts.
3. Add beaten egg yolk mixture to creamed butter and sugar.
4. Blend well.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and cream of tartar).
6. Add dry ingredients to creamed butter, sugar and egg mixture, mixing until well blended.
7. Form into balls about the size of a walnut.
8. Roll balls in sugar, place on greased cookie sheet or parchment lined cookie sheet, and slightly flatten.
9. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on desired softness/crispness.

My adaptation: omit lemon and orange extract. Add 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1 teaspoon dried orange peel to egg yolks in step 2, and 1 teaspoon of cardamom to the dry ingredients in step 5. In step 8, sprinkle each cookie with turbinado sugar, and then gently press the sugar into the flattened cookie.


Next time, I will be making Avgolemono.