Gnocchi and Me

January 6, 2011

I’ve tried to make gnocchi in the past with disastrous results. Another kitchen gadget I got for Christmas is a potato ricer, which apparently is absolutely essential in making gnocchi (all the recipes I’ve tried in the past have made it sound optional). So, with my ricer in hand, I was ready to dive back into gnocchi making. This recipe has been hanging around my recipe notebook for a long, long time and I was thrilled to finally give it a try.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Fried Sage

1 1/4 lbs baking potatoes

1 (1/4 lb) sweet potato

1 egg

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/3 cup Parmesan

1 1/2 to 2 cups flour

1/3 cup olive oil

1 cup sage leaves

1 tbsp butter

Bake potatoes at 450 for 45 min to an hour until tender (I tried microwaving the potatoes in the past and it just doesn’t work – you have to bake them). Allow to cool, then peel and force through ricer onto a baking sheet. Spread into an even layer and allow to cool (I set mine outside and they cooled quickly). Mix egg, nutmeg, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a small bowl.

Gather potatoes in a mound on the baking sheet, making a well in the middle. Pour the egg mixture into the center and knead. Knead in cheese and 1 1/2 flour. Add more flour if needed and knead until it is smooth but slightly sticky.

Cut dough into 6 pieces. Roll each out into a rope about 1/2 inch thick, on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces.  Boil a large pot of salted water and add half the gnocchi, cooking until it rises to the top, then cook the other half. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet until shimmery, then add the sage, frying until they turn a shade lighter and crisp. Drain on paper towels.

Remove the sage and add the butter to the oil, cooking until it browns. Add cooked gnocchi to the butter and cook a few minutes, tossing. Serve with sage leaves and extra Parmesan cheese.

The gnocchi turned out really, really well. I didn’t do anything other than cut it into pieces (no fussing with marks from a fork). I really loved the flavor of it – the sweet potato gave it a nice taste. It was light and not gummy (unlike my previous attempts). I didn’t get any flavor from the fried sage though, so that was disappointing. I want to try a butternut squash gnocchi next.

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Fried Mozzarella

December 8, 2010

I’m loving the section of Dec Everyday Food with all the cute little party food. Who doesn’t love fried mozzarella? It’s incredibly evil, but oh so good. Of course I had to try it:

Preheat oven to 250. Put 1 cup flour in a bowl. In another, beat 2 eggs. In another, mix 1 cup panko with 1 tsp thyme. Season each with salt and pepper. Buy 1 lb of bocconcini balls (fresh mozzarella balls  – I actually thought the bocconcini were too big, so I bought whatever the smaller size was called). Dry them off and dip in flour, egg, then panko. Heat 2 cups veg oil until a breadcrumb thrown in sizzles. Fry them, 4 at a time until golden, about 2 min per batch. Keep warm in the oven on paper towels on a baking sheet. Serve with a marinara sauce for dipping.

These were crazy good. I have to make sure that it if I ever make these again that there are a LOT of people around to snatch them up because I could just keep eating them.


Mom’s Pot Roast

December 2, 2010

Do people still make pot roast? Probably not as often as they did back in the 70s when I was a kid. We had pot roast pretty regularly. I learned to make it by the time I was in junior high. I would get home from school around 4 and my mom would have left me a note asking me to put it together and put it in the oven. I pulled out my recipe notebook to consult my mom’s recipe and realized I don’t even have it written down, because I made it so many times that it was just something I knew how to make. Dollars to donuts, my mom has nothing written down anywhere either.

I haven’t made pot roast in a really long time. There’s something so homey and comforting about it and it smells so good when it’s cooking. I don’t have an actual recipe to share, but this is how I make it.

Start with a medium enameled roasting pan (the kind that are speckled) with a lid. Put a chuck roast in it. Then chop up half an onion and a few garlic cloves. Add baby carrots, 3-4 potatoes cut into 4ths, a teaspoonful of tomato paste, and some whole mushrooms (maybe half a package). Dump in some salt (you need more than you think) and pepper. Dump in some herbs (I have a “beef roast” seasoning from Penzey’s I use, if I didn’t have that I would use thyme, oregano and a little celery salt). Add about 2 cups of red wine. Then add enough beef broth to cover the meat (I used  a whole carton). When you’re done, you should have that medium roasting pan filled to the top. This does not work well in a roasting pan that is larger because the meat is not completely covered.

Roast at 350 for at least 2 hours. I had mine in for 3 hours, but the meat was still mostly frozen when I put it in.

When it comes out, put the vegetables in a bowl and the meat on a platter. Add Wondra to the juices and cook until thickened the way you like it (I like my gravies thick!).

It’s not gourmet and it’s not pretty to look at, but boy is it good!


Blondies

November 30, 2010

I have a special place in my heart for blondies. I shared my favorite recipe for them previously on this blog. Lately I’ve been obsessed with The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook. I love the idea of this cookbook – that the editors tried every conceivable way of making recipes until they hit upon the very best method. The book has a blondie recipe and I had to check it out to see if it is better than my recipe

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

12 tbsp melted butter

2 eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 cup pecans

1 /2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk brown sugar and butter. Add eggs and vanilla. Fold dry ingredients in. Fold in nuts and chips. Place in 13×9 pan lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 22-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Mine took longer to cook. These were delicious. I used only chocolate chips and did not add nuts or white chocolate, which I think would make it even better. This had that rich, buttery taste that blondies have and it was soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. It’s definitely in close contention with my recipe!

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Stuffed Chicken Breast

November 26, 2010

I must sound like a spokesperson for the Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, but I swear I’m not. My latest recipe from this cookbook is Stuffed Chicken Breasts. Chicken cordon bleu is one of those things that was always on the menu 20 years ago. And you always got a really bad version of it banquets. So I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this recipe.

Filling:

1 tbsp butter

1 small onion, minced

1 small garlic clove, minced

4 oz cream cheese, softened

1 tsp minced thyme

2 ounces cheddar, shredded

4 slices deli ham

Chicken:

1 (5-6 oz) chicken skinless boneless chicken breasts

3/4 cup flour

2 eggs

1 tbsp plus 3/4 cup vegetable oil

4 slices white bread, made into coarse crumbs and dried

Melt the butter and add onion and cook 15-20 min. Add garlic and cook 20 seconds.

Mix the cream cheese with a mixer until fluffy, 1 minute. Stir in the onion mixture and add thyme and cheddar and salt and pepper to taste.

Butterfly the chicken and then pound it to 1/4 inch thickness. Place the chicken smooth side down and spread with 1/4 of the cheese mixture. Salt and pepper it. Place 1 slice ham on top. Roll up the cutlet from the tapered end, folding in the edges to form a neat cylinder. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450. Beat egg with 1 tbsp oil. Dip chicken in flour, egg, then breadcrumbs. Place on a wire rack and let it rest 5 min.

Heat 3/4 cup oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat until shimmery. Add the chicken, seam side down, and cook 2 min until golden. Turn and cook the other side 2-3 minutes. Transfer seam side down to a baking sheet and baked at 450 about 15 min until the center is 165 degrees.

Wow. It really worked. The chicken had an incredible crunchy outside and a divine creamy center. A couple of things I would do differently: I would use less cream cheese and more of some other cheese. It was a little bland. I would also use less oil for the pan frying aspect of this. Other than that, I highly recommend this recipe!

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Neil’s Pancakes

November 24, 2010

I watched with a grumbling stomach as the owner of the Clinton St Baking Company made his pancakes for Martha on a recent episode. I have to say I am pretty committed to my own pancake recipe (which was also my mom’s) and to my oatmeal pancake recipe, which I love. However, these pancakes looked great. And apparently people line up in the street to get them, so I had to try them! The main difference is that you whip the egg whites for this recipe, which is supposed to make them fluffy and light.

Honestly, I didn’t really think these were much fluffier than the kind I usually make. I think the trick to truly fluffy pancakes is a professional griddle, which I don’t have. However, the pancakes were good. Everyone enjoyed them, Dude Martha especially, since there is vanilla in them and he likes that flavor a lot. I’m glad I tried them, but will probably stick with my own recipes for pancakes.

For a really fun, and EASY breakfast recipe, check out my crescent roll and egg muffin tin recipe on No Pot Cooking.

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Martha Mondays: Cheese Straws

November 22, 2010

Well, as you can see, I didn’t exactly end up with cheese straws! Thanks to Megan at Megan’s Cookin for choosing this one. This was really easy to make – dump it all in a food processor and away you go. I couldn’t get the dough to come together though. I tried pressing it with my hands, but I could not get it to make logs which I could roll out. So I ended up making little crackers instead, which worked out fine. I really, really liked the way these tasted, but next time I would to make them thinner. These would be great at a party. I’m keeping this recipe!

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Gaga’s Cheese Bread

November 18, 2010

Cheese bread, with and without raisins

Mr. MarthaAndMe’s grandmother was known to her great grandchildren as Gaga. Gaga was a character. Mr. MarthaAndMe has nice memories of her, but even when he was a kid, she was a lovable kook. Her name was Matilda, or Tillie for short, but when she died, her birth certificate and marriage license had a completely different name (Melinda, I think). Gaga was a bit of an anxious gal and relied on Valium to get her through. Once we arranged to visit her and showed up and she stumbled out of bed, hair sticking out, having forgotten we were coming. She had taken a Valium and had a little nap. You never knew what to expect from Gaga. She told stories of relatives in the “home land” (no one is sure what country) who were royalty and how her family gave it all up. She was born dead and miraculously came back to life. And her husband was a no good you know what.

She lived in a tiny mother-in-law apartment behind her daughter, with a tiny kitchen, living room, and bedroom. Gaga did not have many material possessions, but those she did have had meaning, or were at least iconic. She had a big picture frame on the wall where she stuck in photos. At Christmas, she had a wreath made of hard candy that had scissors hanging from it so you could snip a piece off. She had a stuffed Alf (I don’t know why). She had an ashtray that was a weird guy in a monocle with his mouth open. She had a beautiful drop front desk/secretary that now sits in our living room (and, strangely, is an exact duplicate to one my parents have). I love that desk, but associate it with the photo of her mother in a casket that she kept inside it (apparently people used to take treasured photos of corpses “laid out”). And then there was her tiny, stained, Formica kitchen table. Whenever we visited her, she would get us into the kitchen at that table and make tea (with an old, used teabag) and water heated in a saucepan and scoop sugar out of a bin. And she would always have a batch of cheese bread for us.

No one knows where the recipe came from, but she had been making it as long as anyone can remember. I have a photocopy of the recipe card in her handwriting with its vague directions (and to add to the kookiness, it’s called “cheese rolls” although she always made it as bread). It seemed that whenever she made it, she altered it, so it was never quite the same.

The cheese bread has two variations. First is an actual cheese bread, made with golden raisins and farmer’s cheese. I think she always used some cheddar too, although the recipe does not suggest that. Then there is the poppy seed version, which has no cheese at all. Once she made me a batch of cheese bread with no raisins because she remembered I didn’t like them. Often her batches had burned edges or black bottoms, which we cut off when we got it home. Even so, it was always delicious.

Gaga has been gone for quite a few years, but I still remember her fondly. And I make her bread a few times a year and think about her when I make it. Somehow, like hers, each batch seems to have its own personality, but that quirkiness just reminds me of her.

Gaga’s Cheese Bread

6 cups flour (I use 2 cups whole wheat and 4 regular)

3 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)

3 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 packet yeast

1/2 cup warm water

Mix the dry ingredients, then mix in the butter, eggs and sour cream. I usually end up using my hands to combine this. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it sit for 5 minutes, then mix that into the bread.

Now you need to decide what kind of bread you want to make.

For cheese bread:

Add in 1 lb of farmer’s cheese (you can substitute cheddar for half of it) and 2 egg yolks, and a cup of golden raisins.

For poppy seed bread:

Mix in one can of poppy seed filling.

Form into a long loaf on a greased baking sheet and allow to rise one hour. Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes.

The bread is a very moist and slightly sweet bread. It’s great with dinner, but it also yummy toasted for breakfast. The poppy seed version is sweeter. Sometimes I divide the recipe in half and do half cheese and half poppy seed.

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Cheddar Chive Scones

November 17, 2010

John Barriceli, I heart you. John is occasionally on Martha’s show and is one of the hosts of Everyday Food. I’ve got his new cookbook, Sono Baking book and so far I’ve had 3 good recipes and one terrible one.

My latest is cheddar chive scones. Oh yes, a savory scone. Super, super simple to make. I didn’t roll and cut mine out and instead just made hand-formed rounds. They worked perfectly. I did not taste the chives as much as I expected to, but other than that, this was great. I doubled the recipe and froze some for another night.

 

2 cups flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 chopped chives

1 cup grated cheddar

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

 

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and chives. Stir in cheese with a fork. Add 1 cup of cream and fold with a rubber scraper or your hands until just absorbed. Continue adding cream, 1 tbsp at a time until it just comes together and there are no dry patches.

Press the dough with your hands into a 3 x 10 rectangle and cut into 8 triangles. Refrigerate on the baking sheet for 1 hour. Then brush with 1/4 cup additional cream and sprinkle each with a pinch of cheese. Bake at 400 for 16-20, rotating halfway through.

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Chewy Caramel Popcorn and Pretzel Bars

October 12, 2010

This recipe is from Oct Everyday Food. Popcorn, caramel and pretzels sounded like an excellent combo. I wasn’t sure about the chewy part though.

You start with 12 cups popped corn and 4 cups coarsely chopped pretzels, mixed in a big, big bowl. Spray a 9×13 baking dish.

In a pan, mix 2 cups sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 cup water to a boil then boil undisturbed for 8-12 minutes. The recipe says the longer you go, the darker it gets. I went a good 12 minutes because I like it dark, but as you can see it really wasn’t all that dark.  Remove from heat and mix in 2/3 cup heavy cream and 2 cups mini marshmallows. Pour over popcorn and pretzels and press into pan. Sprinkle with salt on top.

This was a gooey mess to make. It actually tasted great, but it was a bit too gooey for me. You couldn’t really get a piece from it – there were long strings of caramel all over the place when you tried to cut a piece. You ended up with kind of a pile of glop – not a square. I would have like the caramel to be a bit harder. I think this also really needed nuts to give it some additional flavor. It tasted great, but was just a mess.

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