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Arctic Weather and Homemade Soup

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been having a proper Minnesota winter.  More often than not the highs were topping out in the single digits with wind chills hovering around -15 degrees Farenheit.  If you’ve ever lived in this climate, you know how appealing a piping hot bowl of soup can be.  In the middle of this cold snap, our friend Ring came over for a visit and I decided to make some homemade french onion soup.

This is yet another example of the necessity to properly read through the recipe and plan accordingly.  The first night I ended up staying awake until one in the morning cooking the onions.  Not the best thought out plan.  Of course, the other option was to be eating at 10 p.m. the next night.  But, I digress.

The recipe I used is from the 9th season of America’s Test Kitchen.

Ingredients – Soup

  • 3 Tbs Unsalted Butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 6 large Yello Onions (approx. 4 lbs), halved and cut into 1/4″ slices
  • Salt
  • 2 C Water, plus extra for deglazing
  • 1/2 C Dry Sherry
  • 4 C low-sodium Chicken Broth
  • 2 C Beef Broth
  • 6 sprigs Fresh Thyme, tied with kitchen twine (I just used a heaping Tbs of dried)
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Black Pepper

Ingredients – Cheese Croutons

  • 1 small Baguette, cut into 1/2″  slices
  • 8 oz shredded Gruyère Cheese (approx 2 1/2 C)  (I used Mozzarella because I’m too cheap to drop $20 on cheese for one recipe)

For the Soup:  Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Generously spray the inside of a heavy-bottomed pot (at least 7 quart) with nonstick cooking spray.  Place the butter in the pot and add the onions and 1 tsp salt.  Cover, and cook for 1 hour.  The onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume.  Remove the pot from the oven and stir, scraping the bottom and sides.  Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar.  Continue to cook the onions until they are very soft and golden brown.  This will take 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer.  At the 1 hour mark, stir the onions and scrape the bottom and sides again.

(This is a good stopping point if you want to split up the cooking.  Just let the pot cool and stick it in the fridge till you are ready to get back to the cooking.)

DSC00967_2

First part of the cooking done and I was off to bed.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven and place it over medium-high heat.  Using oven mitts to handle the pot, cook the onions, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot until the liquid evaporates and the onions brown, approx. 15 to 20 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the bottom of the pot is coated with a dark crust, approx. 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.  Stir in 1/4 C of water, scraping the bottom to loosen the crust.  Cook until the water evaporates and another dark crust forms.  Repeat the deglazing 2 or 3 more times until the onions are very dark brown.  Stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates, approx. 5 minutes.

DSC00970_2

Starting to look like a proper french onion soup.

Stir in the broths, 2 C of water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp salt.  Scrape up any final bits of browned crust on the bottom and sides of the pot.  Increase the heat to high and bring up to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove and discard the herbs.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

DSC00973_2

Liquid added, flavors melded, and almost ready to eat.

For the Croutons:  While the soup simmers, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree F oven until the bread is dry, crisp, and golden at the edges, approx. 10 minutes

DSC00971_2

Lacking the proper bowls, I found an alternative path to get the crouton with melted cheese on top of the soup.

To Serve:  Adjust the oven rack to 6″ from the broiler and heat the broiler.  Set individual broiler-safe crocks on a baking sheet and fill each with 1 3/4 C soup.  Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (don’t overlap) and sprinkle evenly with the cheese.  Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges, approx. 3 to 5 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

DSC00974_2

Not quite the standard french onion soup presentation, but every bit of the flavor is there.

From start to finish, this recipe took me around five and a half hours to complete.  Granted, half of that time was waiting for the onions to brown in the oven, so it was time-consuming, but not very labor intensive.  Just make sure you give yourself a nice big block of time when you plan on cooking this.

Ring gave me crap about not properly melting the cheese on top, but my feelings would have been hurt otherwise.  Lindz said that this even surpassed the french onion soup at one of the restaurants where she used to work, which previously was her favorite.  Score one for the TJ!  For a relatively short list of ingredients, I thought that this method gave a nice depth to the flavor of the soup.

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RI: Saltimbocca

The one non-seafood meal (other than lunch / snacks) that I planned for the trip was one that had caught my eye about a week before we took off East.  I had a hard time believing that I could be led astray with chicken, sage, and prosciutto.  Not surprisingly, I found the recipe in my copy of the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook.  Yup.  Love that cookbook.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C unbleached AP Flour
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • 8 thin-cut, boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (about 2 lbs), trimmed of ragged edges
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh Sage leaves, plus 8 large leaves
  • 8 thin slices of Prosciutto, cut into 5″ to 6″ long pieces to match chicken (about 3 oz)
  • 4 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 1/4 C White Wine
  • 2 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 4 Tbs Unsalted Butter, cut into 4 pieces and chilled
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh Parsley Leaves
  • Salt

Salty-hamy goodness.

The this-n-that which fills out the ingredient list.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 200 degrees.  Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in a shallow dish.

There really is no purpose to this picture. It’s just flour and pepper, but I bothered to snap a picture, so I’m bothering you by putting it here.

Pat the cutlets dry with paper towels.

Another pointless photo. This time it’s chicken breasts cut in half. Ooh!

Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off any excess.  Lay the cutlets flat and sprinkle evenly with the minced sage.  Place one slice of prosciutto on top of each cutlet, pressing lightly to adhere and set aside.

This picture, which actually serves a purpose, I almost forgot to take it! Hence, the one corner of prosciutto that is folded up.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer.  Add the sage leaves to the skillet and cook until the leaves begin to change color and are fragrant, about 15 to 20 seconds.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the sage to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.  Add half of the cutlets to the pan, prosciutto-side down, and cook until light golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.  Flip and cook on the other side until golden brown, about 2 minutes more.  Transfer the chicken to a wire rack (set on a rimmed baking sheet) and keep it warm in the oven.  Repeat with the two remaining tablespoons of oil and cutlets.  Transfer these to the oven as well to keep warm while preparing the sauce.

One big tray of happiness right out of the oven.

Pour off the excess fat from the skillet and stir in the white wine, scraping up the fond.  Simmer until it reduces to about 1/3 cup, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in the lemon juice and turn the heat to low and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time.  Off heat, stir in the parsley and season with the salt and pepper.  Remove the chicken from the oven and place on a platter.  Spoon the sauce over the cutlets before serving.

This is a great buttery pan sauce.  And surprisingly, fairly light.

The one glaring mistake that I made was using too much sage.  While in the process of making it, I knew I was using far more than the recipe called for, but I went ahead with it because I bought a package of fresh sage specifically for it.  The other option was to throw it away.  I should have went with my first instinct and follow the recipe.  Other than that, I think it turned out really well.  With the cost of ingredients, I’m not going to be making this all the time, but I would like to make it again in the near future.  Using the proper amount of sage, of course.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled post . . .

. . . to bring you this breaking news story.

I just signed up to be a recipe tester for Cook’s Illustrated.  They are going to e-mail me a recipe every so often, I’ll make it and then fill out a short survey afterwards.  I’m excited about this because I’ve always thought it would be a blast to work for the America’s Test Kitchen company.  At this point in my culinary adventures, I’m more than happy to be connected on a voluntary basis.  Will keep you updated as things progress.

Chicken Kiev v0.5

As promised, I took another stab at doing the chicken kiev.  This time I made it for my folks over Thanksgiving.  I even made some for Grandma, but I’ll get to that in a bit.  I took some extra care when I was butterflying and pounding out the chicken breasts and it worked out much better.  Also, I used a gallon baggie instead of plastic wrap,  which was an amazing difference in the ease of the whole process.  I finally got the seasoning right, so they didn’t taste like a salt lick.  They still leaked all over the pan, but I didn’t care because they tasted great.  The breasts that I picked up were still attached to the breast bone and ribs so I had to do some minor butchering to get them ready.  In the process I ended up with a large and small muscle from each breast.  After trying to figure out what to do with the small ones, I eventually came to the “what the hell, I’ll give it a shot” idea of making mini-kiev’s.  They ended up being slightly larger than a jalapeño popper.  This solved my problem of what to give to Grandma.  She really doesn’t eat large meals anymore, plus she has never liked leftovers, so my logic was that she could microwave a couple and keep the rest in the freezer for later.  Yeah.  They never made it to the freezer.  She had a meal of them and less than a week later, she finished them off.

Objects in image are smaller than they appear.

Not very seriously, but I am tossing ideas around as how to make these quicker and easier because I would like to get them into our regular supper rotation.  I may just end up making a crap load over one weekend and freezing them uncooked to be pulled out on short notice.  I’ve also given some thought to the idea of cutting a cavity to stuff thereby bypassing the butterfly / pound / roll steps.  Whatever I decide, I’m sure I’ll post it here.

Categories: recipes, supper Tags: , ,

It’s Chicken Kiev Time

Easily one of my all-time favorite preparations of chicken is Chicken Kiev.  Yes, even those overly processed ones that can be found in the freezer section.  So imagine my surprise and delight when I found a recipe in My New Favorite Cookbook™!  That’s The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook by the way.  This is great on another level too.  My wife, Lindsay, LOVES Chicken Kiev as well, especially with a side of wild rice and cottage cheese.  So this was a complete win for a recipe.

A quick note before I delve into the cooking.  There are aspects of this recipe that are fairly tricky.  I will try to explain what I did, and what I will do differently next time.  Trust me.  There will be a next time.  Also there is a lot of prep work and waiting involved, so plan accordingly.  We didn’t eat that night until 10:30, but it was worth it.  Even with turning the entire kitchen into a hazmat zone:

I can be messy when I cook

Once again this is adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook (p. 67-68) and I will type it out the way I did it.  I still strongly suggest purchasing the book because it is well worth it.

Ingredients – Herb Butter

  • 8 Tbs unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 Tbs Lemon juice
  • about 1 Tbs white Onion, minced
  • 1 Tbs Parsley
  • 1/2 tsp  Tarragon
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt (or 3/8 tsp table salt)
  • 1/8 tsp Black Pepper
Ingredients – Chicken
  • 4 slices white Sandwich Bread, torn into quarters
  • Table Salt and Black Pepper
  • 2 Tbs Vegetable Oil
  • 4 (8 oz) boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts, trimmed
  • 1 C unbleached all-purpose (AP) Flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp Mustard

For the Herb Butter:  Mix the ingredients in a medium sized bowl with a rubber spatula until thoroughly combined.  Form into a 3″ square on a sheet of plastic wrap.  Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm, about an hour.

For the Chicken:  Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and heat to 300 degrees.  Add half of the bread to a food processor and pulse until it is coarsely ground, about 16 pulses.  Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining bread.  Add 1/8 tsp table salt and 1/8 tsp pepper to the crumbs.  Add the oil and toss until evenly coated.  Spread the crumbs on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown and dry, about 25 minutes.  Make sure you stir the crumbs a couple of times to prevent burning.  Cool to room temperature.

Starting on the thinnest side of a chicken breast, butterfly it by slicing lengthwise halfway up.  Do not cut all the way through!  Open up the breast to create a single flat cutlet.  Put the cutlet between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound, starting in the center, to 1/4″ thickness.  The outer edge, pound to an 1/8″ thick.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  Be very careful when you do this.  I ended up getting tears and holes in the breasts which just caused a lot of unnecessary headache when I was trying to stuff the butter.  Place the chicken on a work surface and lightly season both sides with salt and pepper.  Now unwrap the butter and cut into four rectangular pieces.  With the chicken cut side up, place a piece of butter in the center of the bottom half of the breast (a quarter of the way up from the “tip” of the breast).  Roll the bottom edge of the chicken over the butter, then fold in the sides and continue rolling to form a nice tight package.  Press on the seams to seal everything together.  Repeat with the remaining breasts and refrigerate for an hour to allow the edges to seal.

This is what I ended up with:

Looks pretty

They look a lot better in the picture than they did in real life.

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat to 350 degrees.  Place the flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in separate plates.  Season the flour with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper.  Season the bread crumbs with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Add the mustard to the eggs and whisk to combine.  Dredge a chicken roll in the flour, shaking off the excess, then coat with the egg mixture, allowing the excess to drip off.  Coat all sides of the chicken with the bread crumbs, pressing gently so the crumbs adhere in an even layer.  Place on cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining breasts.  ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE:  I placed the chicken into individual aluminum foil boats because I was certain that they would leak and I don’t have a rimmed baking sheet.  This worked great.  My mom suggested using a cake pan as another approach.

My aluminum boats

My aluminum boats

Bake until the center of the chicken registers 160 to 165 degrees, about 40 to 45 minutes.  Let rest for 5 and serve!

Num!

Roasted acorn squash with butter and brown sugar, wild rice, and chicken kiev.  Everything tasted great, but the kiev ended up being a bit salty.  I’m pretty sure I over salted the chicken after I butterflyed it.   Also, I really only needed about a half cup of the AP flour for the breading.  All in all, it was a fun challenge that I look forward to tackling again.

New Cookbook!!!

A couple of weeks ago, I got a new cookbook!

The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook is a compilation of the last eleven years of recipes from America’s Test Kitchen.  This is my new favorite cookbook because ATK tests and retests recipes to make them the easiest and most foolproof as possible.  Plus they give a brief explanation of why the recipe works better the way they printed it.  They explain the science of cooking without losing any of the fun of preparing really amazing meals.  That’s the other reason why I love this cookbook; the meals cause you to drool like my in-laws dog Ty.  Even though there are some pretty high-brow dishes in this book, all of the recipes call for ingredients that can be purchased at most supermarkets.  The ones that are harder to find, can be substituted pretty easily with other things.  See my previous post about the Horseradish Crusted Beef as an example.

Do yourself a favor and purchase this book (cover price of $39.95) or at the very least, flip through it the next time you are at a bookstore.

Categories: cookbook Tags: ,

Horseradish-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

Computer is fixed.  Break in work.  So back to posting!

I love to watch America’s Test Kitchen.  In my ever so humble opinion, it is the only real cooking show on TV these days (I’m not counting reruns of anything Julia Child).  Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch Food Network, it’s just that they tend to be more song and dance than substance.  One of my favorites is a prime example of this, Guy Fieri with Triple D and Guy’s Big Bite.  Both very entertaining and interesting shows, but not too big on the whole learning experience.

I saw this a little while ago and I thought it sounded really good.

Horseradish-Crusted Beef Roast

The recipe calls for a cut of beef called a Châteaubriand which is basically the center third of a whole tenderloin.  Since I’m basically flat broke and cannot afford such a cut, I substituted a top round roast that I stole from my parents.  I rolled it up and tied it off with some kitchen string so that it had the right shape.  I also tweaked some of spices because I didn’t have what they called for.  Namely, I used dried herbs instead of fresh ones.  I will post the recipe as I made it.  If you want the original recipe it can be found on p. 636-7 in The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2011. (See future post)

Ingredients

  • 2 lb Top Round Roast trimmed of fat and silver skin, rolled and tied into a log
  • Kosher Salt
  • 3 Tbs Panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1 C plus 2 tsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tbs Onion minced
  • 6 Garlic Cloves, pressed through a garlic press
  • 1/4 C prepared Horseradish, well drained
  • 2 Tbs Italian Seasoning (mix of parsley, rosemary, thyme, etc)
  • 1 small Russet Potato (about 6 oz) peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 1 1/2 tsp Mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tsp Yellow Mustard
  • 1/2 tsp powdered Gelatin (can substitute an egg white wash)

Sprinkle the roast with 1 Tbs salt, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.  This is season the meat and draw out a bit of the moisture.

Toss the bread crumbs with 2 tsp of oil, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper in a 10″ skillet.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until deep golden brown.  About 3 to 5 minutes.  Transfer to a cookie sheet and cool to room temperature.  Wipe out the skillet.  Once cool, toss the bread crumbs with the onion, garlic, 2 Tbs of horseradish, and the Italian Seasoning.

Rinse the grated potato under cold water, then squeeze dry in a kitchen towel.  Transfer the potatoes and remaining cup of oil to the skillet.  Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until golden-brown and crisp.  About 6 to 8 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon transfer the potatoes to a paper towel-lined plate and season lightly with salt.  Let cool for 5 minutes.  Reserve 1 Tbs of oil and discard the rest.  Once the potatoes are cool, crush until coarsely ground.  Transfer the potatoes to the cookie sheet and combine.

Pat the exterior of the roast dry with paper towels and sprinkle evenly with the remaining tsp of pepper.  Heat the reserved Tbs of oil in the skillet  on medium-high until the oil is just smoking.  Sear the roast on all sides until it is well browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Transfer the roast to a wire rack over a plate and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Combine the remaining 2 Tbs of horseradish, mayo, and mustard in a small bowl.  Just before coating the roast, add the gelatin and stir to combine.  Spread the horseradish paste on the top and sides of the roast, leaving the bottom and ends bare.  Roll the coated sides of the roast in the bread-crumb mixture.  Press gently so the crumbs adhere in an even layer that just covers the horseradish paste.  Pat off any excess.

Return the roast to an oven-proof skillet and roast until a thermometer inserted into the center reads (approximately) 135 degrees for  medium.  About 40 minutes.

Transfer the roast to a carving board and let rest for 20 minutes.  Carefully cut the meat crosswise in 1/2″ slices and serve.  Note: I did have some difficulty removing the strings from under the crust coating.  A different possibility to try would be to use toothpicks to hold the roast in the proper shape.

I ended up only using about half of bread-crumb mixture.  I just pan fried the rest for a couple of minutes on medium heat and used it as a topping.

I oven roasted some potatoes, broccoli, carrots, garlic, and white onion as the side.  Just toss the veggies lightly with some olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.  In this case I roasted them with the meat at 400 degrees for approximately 40 minutes.  I pulled them out when the potatoes were fork tender.

Oven Roasted Veggies

The Whole Sha-Bang.

Supper was served and everyone enjoyed.  Ok, it was only me and Lindz, but it still was very tasty.