Category: Recipes

Mom’s mac and cheese

Mom’s mac and cheese

My mother never made macaroni and cheese from a box for us, even though that blue box was created back in 1937, before I was born. She always made it from macaroni, milk, cheese and a little flour to thicken it. She also usually included wieners in the mix  and backed it in the over until it was brown and bubbly. So we’ve been making it mac and cheese based on her model ever since.

Mom probably include a bit of onion in her cheese sauce, and we always have. And sometime in the last couple of decades, we started added a little chopped green (and red) peppers to pick the flavor a little. But it still is a quick meal, taking just over half an our from start to finish.

I think she always used elbow macaroni, because all the other cool shapes weren’t yet available. We’ve settled on shell macaroni, but you can use any shape you like. Our latest revision of this recipe uses heavy cream instead of making a bechamel sauce. If you go this route, be sure to NOT use light cream, which will curdle when you bake it.

  • 1 lb macaroni, any shape you like
  • 1 lb wieners
  • 1 sweet green pepper or a mixture of any colors you like, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • Olive oil
  • ½ lb cheddar cheese (or any mixture of cheeses you like), cubed
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 Tb Worcestershire sauce
  • Breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 375˚
  2. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni until tender. Avoid stopping at al dente as the pasta will soak up the cheese sauce while baking.

3. While the pasta cooks sauté the onions and peppers in the olive oil until tender,
4. Add the cream and Worcestershire sauce.
5. Stir in the cubed cheese and stir and heat until melted.

6. Slit the wieners lengthwise so they will heat through and lay in a casserole dish.
7. Add the just-cooked macaroni, but don’t over fill the dish.

8. Pour the cheese sauce over the macaroni, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
9. Bake 20-25 minutes until the cheese sauce is bubbling and hot.

baked

Serve at once.

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Egg Foo Yung: an easy dinner

Egg Foo Yung: an easy dinner

This simple recipe can be considered a “Chinese omelet,” with meat and vegetables. It takes very little time to prepare and served with rice makes quite a satisfying meal. This recipe is derived from one by Joyce Chen.

ingredients

  • 7 eggs
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • ½ cup celery, cut in thins strips
  • ½ cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup cooked pork or chicken
  • 1 Tb sherry
  • Olive oil

Gravy

  • 1 cups chicken stock
  • 1 Tb soy sauce
  • 2-3 Tb flour mixed into 1/3 cup of water

If you are using pork, cook it briefly so it is still tender. We found that if you use a boneless pork chop, you can cook it most effectively by placing the chop on the trivet of an Instant Pot with 1 cup of water. Cook for 1 minute and do a slow release for about 5 minutes. This should give you pork at about 138˚ F. You can then cook the rice in the pot while you are making the Egg Foo Yung.

  1. To make the gravy, heat the chicken stock in a saucepan and add the soy sauce. Mix the flour and water together in a small cup and slowly add to the stock with stirring until the gravy is thickened. Discard any lumps.
  2. Cut the pork or chicken into strips and then into small pieces for the “omelet.”
  3. Cut up the mushrooms and mince the onion.
  4. Cut the celery by shaving strips off the stalk so they are similar in size to the bean sprouts.
  5. Put the bean sprouts, celery, mushrooms, onion, sherry and pork in a mixing bowl and add the 7 eggs.

6. Mix the eggs gently with the meat and vegetables using a rubber spatula so as not to break up the pieces.

7. Heat the oil in a wide frying pan and scoop out about ½ cup for each patty. Fry on both sides until browned lightly.

Serve with rice and gravy.

 

 

 

Rustic Bread: Great bread with almost no work!

Rustic Bread: Great bread with almost no work!

I am grateful to Bob Scrofani for pointing out this simple bread recipe published on YouTube as Rustic Bread by “Flavors of Spain in the Southwest.” This is an experience report on how I did it and how you can, too.

The recipe is embedded in the video and in the comments, and it assumes you have a kitchen scale. There are hundreds of reasons to have one around, but I give the U.S. measure equivalents as well. The recipe uses all-purpose flour, and I use King Arthur for this. The cup/weight equivalent may vary for other flours.

This recipe takes very little work, but a bit of time, include 4 episodes of folding, 20 minutes apart. and a slow 12 hour rise.

  • 1000 g all purpose flour (7 ¾ cups)
  • 20 g salt (1 Tb plus ¼ tsp)
  • 1/8 tsp yeast (they suggest 1 g, but yeast particles vary a lot between vendors)
  • 780 ml water (26 oz) at 80˚
  • A plastic storage container (with lid) that holds at least 12 cups.

You will also need either a 4 qt cast iron Dutch oven or an equivalent casserole dish. We used a 2.5 quart Corningware casserole dish, and it was plenty big enough. Our storage container held 21 cups, and the dough never rose more than halfway inside the container.

  1. Weigh out the flour in the storage container, and add the salt, yeast and water. Mix with your gloved hand. You can try a wooden spoon, but it doesn’t pick up the flour along the bottom as well. Mix until all the dough is cohesive. Cover for 20 minutes.

2. After 20 minutes, you can begin folding the dough over itself inside the container until it is together in the middle. Try to stretch it each time you pick up a corner. You can do this best with a moistened hand. Cover for another 20 minutes.

stretch

3. Repeat folding after 20 minutes

4. Repeat folding the 4th time after another 20 minutes.

5. Cover and allow to proof/rise for 12 hours. If you can’t bake it at that time, refrigerate the dough, covered until you can.

6. When you are ready to begin baking, put the casserole or Dutch oven into a 475˚ F oven to heat.

7. Turn out the dough on flour board and divide it into two. Fold and stretch each one into a ball, and put each ball in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or a plastic bag and let it rise for an hour.

8.  Remove one dough ball and flour it. Take out the baking dish and cover. Lay one dough ball into the disk, cover it and put immediately into the oven.

9. Bake covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes.

in casserole10. Remove the bread to a cooling rack. Make sure it is done by tapping on the bottom. You should hear a hollow sound. Be sure to let the dough cool at least 30 minutes.

11. Reheat the baking dish and cover in the oven and bake the second loaf the same way.

Even after all this baking and cooling, it is possible that the bread may be slightly damp.   I suggest you slice it half an hour ahead of dinner to make sure the slices dry out.

sliced

If you have left-over bread, you can make it into very good toast. In fact, you can slice the whole loaf, freezing the slices and take out a few for toast any time you want.

toast

 

The best way to cook corn on the cob!

The best way to cook corn on the cob!

Boiling, microwave, Instant Pot. Which is best?

There isn’t much to cooking corn on the cob: you just shuck each ear, maybe cut off some of the stem, peel off the corn silks and drop them into boiling, salted water, and cook for 5 minutes. That’s it. The water should be salted enough that it smells like the ocean, and it is easiest to use kosher salt to achieve this. Serve with butter and salt on the side.

boiling

What’s wrong with this? Nothing except you might need a big pot for a large crowd. And, of course, you are steaming up your kitchen.

But some people rave about using the microwave or the Instant Pot for cooking corn, so we compared all three methods.

Microwaved corn

Some people claim that the microwave does the best job and you don’t have to heat up the kitchen with a pot of boiling water, so we tried this.

We cut the base off an ear of corn, but left the husk on, and using our best Internet research, microwaved the corn for 4 minutes. Taking a hot ear of corn out of the microwave requires hot pads and some care, and removing the hot, steaming husks is a challenge. And, all the silks come off smoothly, unlike the other methods.

The disadvantage again, is one of scale: you can only microwave a few ears at a time and removing the steaming hot husks from a bunch of them is best done with gloves or oven mitts. And, frankly, the corn tastes awful! (more below)

In the Instant Pot

2 in IP

Lots of people are enthusiastic about corn on the cob cooked in an Instant Pot. You have to shuck the corn as usual and pull of most of the silks by hand, but you can probably get 4-6 or more ears in an Instant Pot at once. We recommend putting the ears on the little trivet so they don’t stick to the pot. Add a cup of water and cook the ears for 3 minutes. Of course, by the time the water in the pot comes to a boil, this actually takes at least as long as boiling the water on the stove would, but you can cook a lot of ears quickly, and you don’t have to deal with scalding yourself on the husks.

How do they compare?

group

  • Cooking the ears in a pot of water tastes the best.
  • Ears cooked for 4 minutes in an 1100 watt microwave are hot and hard to handle, because the cobs are very hot, too. Further the corn takes on a bitter, cobby taste from the cob being heated. Actually they are really terrible.
  • We repeated the experiment, cooking the corn for only 3 minutes and this removed some (but not all) of the bitter aftertaste.
  • Our best corn came from cooking for 4 minutes at 50% power, where the bitterness is least apparent.

Surprisingly the corn cooked in the Instant Pot was little better.

  • Pressure cooking the corn for 3 minutes also cooks the cob, and some of that bitter aftertaste was present in the Instant Pot corn.
  • So, we repeated the corn cooking at low pressure instead of high pressure, which removed nearly all of that bitterness. But 3 minutes was  not nearly enough. Six minutes at low pressure seems better. Quick Release either way.

Best results

  • 5 minutes in boiling, salted water
  • 4 minutes at 50% power in an 1100 watt microwave
  • 6 minutes at low pressure in an Instant Pot

Some recipes suggest adding sugar and butter to the water in the Instant Pot. This probably doesn’t do much, because the water doesn’t touch the corn, and sugar is not volatile.

We found that spreading solid butter on the hot corn gives the bets flavor. Butter is an emulsion and melted butter usually leaves out the aqueous part.

stalks

 

A Roman club sandwich

A Roman club sandwich

We ordered a club sandwich at our hotel in Rome and were really surprised with their interpretation. Instead of 3 kinds of lunch meat (usually turkey, beef and ham) this delicious sandwich was a BLT with large chunks of tender chicken and topped with a fried egg. Served with French fries, it was a fantastic lunch!

We set out to duplicate it using a fresh garden tomato and freshly picked lettuce.

  • 3 slices toasted bread
  • Chicken breasts
  • Bacon
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Mayonnaise

We cooked the chicken breasts in our Instant Pot for 10 minutes, and let them slowly cool for 10 minutes before opening the pot. You could also cook them in a vegetable steamer or under a broiler. We added a bit of dried onion to the cup of water in the Instant Pot, but it probably wasn’t necessary.

chicken

When the breasts were cool, we cut them into cubes.

We fried 4 strips of bacon slowly in a fry pan and set them aside.

For each sandwich,

  • butter the toast.
  • Put lettuce and tomato on the bottom layer, with a dab of mayonnaise
  • Put chicken on the second layer of toast, and dab with more mayonnaise
  • Add the bacon on top of the chicken

Fry 2 eggs slowly in the bacon fat, turning them over once so the tops are cooked and the yolks are only slightly runny.

  • Top each sandwich with an egg and the top piece of toast.
  • Secure with toothpicks.
  • You can cut off the crusts before or after assembly or just leave them on.
  • Cut each sandwich in half.

We served ours with some French fries.

sang2

palatine

 

Simple chocolate cake (black and white)

Simple chocolate cake (black and white)

This basic chocolate cake recipe has been around for years. Our simplifications are in using a scale and chilling the icing skim coat. As we have said before, you really don’t need to sift and measure the cake flour: just weigh it.  And before you start mixing up the batter, weigh the mixing bowl. This will make it easier to divide the batter into two pans.

The cake

  • 2 8-inch round cake pans
  • buttered parchment paper
  • 3 1-oz squares baking chocolate (unsweetened)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 beaten egg
  • ½ cup shortening (or unsalted butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour (224 g)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup milk

cake pans

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F
  2. Butter the cake pans and line them with parchment as we show here. Butter the tops of the parchment, too.

melt chocolate

  1. Put the chocolate, 2/3 cup sugar, ½ cup milk and beaten egg in a saucepan. Cook slowly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and the chocolate melts. Set aside to cool.
  2. Put the shortening in a mixing bowl and stir to soften. Beat in the 1 cup sugar. Add the 2 eggs one at a time and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla.
  1. Weigh out the flour and add the soda and salt and stir briefly.
  2. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, alternating with the 2/3 cup milk.
  3. Blend in the chocolate mixture.
  4. Weigh the mixing bowl and the batter, subtract the weight of the empty mixing bowl, and divide by two.
  1. Put one cake pan on the scale, set the tare to zero and add half the weight of the batter. IN our case the total batter weight 1146 g, so we put slightly under 573g in each cake pan. (Some batter will stick to the sides and the spoon, so allow for that. We went for about 560 g each.)
  2. Bake in the 350˚ F oven for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
  3. Let the pans cool on the stove or on a rack, and then release the cakes from the pans and let them cool.

layers

Simple buttercream icing

  • 2 lb confectioners sugar
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) butter
  • 2-3 Tb milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 squares unsweetened chocolate
  1. Place the powdered sugar in a food processor
  2. Add the butter cut into 1 Tb pieces
  3. Pulse until smooth
  4. Add enough milk to mix until smooth and spreadable
  5. Add the vanilla
  6. Take out about a quarter of the icing to a separate bowl
  7. Melt the unsweetened chocolate at 50% power in a microwave for 1-2 minutes
  8. Mix the chocolate into the quarter of the icing.
  9. Place one cake layer on the cake pan or on a cake spinner platform.
  10. Ice the top of that layer with the chocolate icing.
  11. If the top layer is flared out, trim it with a knife do the sides are straight, and set it on top of the chocolate icing.
  12. Mix about 2 Tb of icing with about ¼ cup milk until uniform. This is the icing wash for the skim coat.

skim coat

  1. Spread the skim coat on the top and sides of the cake and chill it in the refrigerator for half an hour. This will make a smooth surface to ice that won’t crumble when you spread the white icing.
  2. After the cake is chilled, spread the white icing on the top and sides of the cake, using a spatula to make the sides smooth.
  3. Return the cake to the refrigerator while you make the ganache.

 

Chocolate ganache

  • 2 oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate (or use a little less baking chocolate and some semisweet)
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ Tb honey
  • ¼ tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Put all the chocolate in a heatproof bowl
  2. Combine the cream, honey and salt in a saucepan.
  3. Bring the cream to a boil, and pour over the chocolate.
  4. Place the ganache in the refrigerator until it begins to firm up. If it gets too firm, you can remelt it in the microwave and start the chill again.
  5. When the ganache is still just pourable, dribble or pour it over the chilled cake to make any pattern you like.
  6. Serve with raspberries or strawberries.

ganache

 

Buttermilk biscuits in 4 minutes

Buttermilk biscuits in 4 minutes

I made this article and movie to show that if you can make buttermilk biscuits from scratch in 4 minutes, there is no reason to resort to mixes or refrigerated (oy!) dough. The recipe is just

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tb baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups plus 2 Tb buttermilk

Here’s the whole movie:

And after baking 10 minutes at 450 F, you have hot, tender, layered biscuits.

It’s that simple.

Chicken Noodle Soup in an Instant Pot

Chicken Noodle Soup in an Instant Pot

There is nothing more comforting than a bowl of chicken soup with noodles, and you can make in an Instant Pot with very little effort and just over an hour elapsed.  Our recipe here is for a 6 quart Instant Pot, but it will work in an 8 qt just as well, and you could make more there for larger groups if you wanted.

  • 1 4 lb chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 leek, cut into 3-inch pieces, use the white part and a little green part.
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 cups water
  • 6 oz noodles (half a bag)
  • Parsley

 

  1. Put the cut up chicken pieces in the Instant Pot, and add 2 cups of water and the salt.
  2. Close the pot and cook for 20 minutes using the Poultry setting or the manual setting.
  3. Do a quick release and remove the meaty pieces and cut the meat off, and set aside.
  4. Add all the bones back into the pot, add 4 more cups of water and the bay leaf and thyme
  5. Add the leek, one stalk of celery and one large carrot, cut into pieces.
  6. Cook for 45 minutes on manual high pressure.
  7. Cut up the chicken meat to add to the soup later.
  8. Meanwhile, cut up the other carrot and celery and sauté in butter over low heat until softened.
  1. Quick release and remove the bones and cooked vegetables.
  2. Strain the broth to remove debris and pour it back into the pot.
  3. Bring the broth to a boil using the Sauté setting and add about 6 oz of dried noodles. Cook, loosely covered for 7 minutes.
  4. Add the cut-up chicken and the sautéed vegetables and stir together.
  5. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle a little parsley over each bowl.
  6. Serve at once, with a little bread and butter on the side.

And there you have it. A delicious comfort food in little more than an hour.  You may have some chicken left, but toss it into any leftover soup and freeze it for another day. You can always add more stock when you serve it a second time.  We figure this makes at least 4 hearty servings. And since my mom always served bread and butter with soup, I do too!

German chocolate cake you’ll love

German chocolate cake you’ll love

This fairly easy recipe is a simplification of the one on the Bakers German Chocolate bar. We show you a few shortcuts. Some people make this light cake and just decorate it with the coconut-pecan topping. We do that but ice the sides with chocolate buttercream icing to hold it all together.

  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 oz German Sweet Chocolate
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz) softened unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 280 g cake flour (2 ½ cups sifted)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 lined 8” cake pans
  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F
  2. Beat the egg whites in your mixer until stiff. Remove to another bowl until needed.

3. Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer

4. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition.

5. Put the chocolate in a bowl with the water and heat in a microwave for about 90 seconds until melted. Stir until uniform.

6. Add the vanilla to the sugar-butter mixture and beat in the chocolate.

7. You don’t really need to sift and measure the flour, as we described in this article. One cup of sifted cake flour weights 112g, so just weigh 280 grams (which is 2 1/2  cups sifted) into a bowl and add the soda and salt. Stir briefly to mix.

8. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.

9. Fold in the egg whites by mixing in ¼ of them and then folding the rest in using a rubber spatula, dipping a turning the blade to mix in the whites without deflating them.

10. Line the 3 cake pans with parchment using the technique we described here. Butter the pans and the parchment.

11. You now need to separate the batter into 3 equal parts. We do this by weight. The stand mixer bowl and contents weighed 3606g, and we know the empty bowl weights 1014g, so the contents weighed 1578g. Thus, we need to put 526g of batter in each of the 3 cake pans. We put each cake pan on the scale, press the tare button to zero it, and add 526g of batter. The third pan is always a little short because some batter sticks to the sides and to the spatula. So we steal a little from each of the other two pans to make them about even. It is still easier than eyeballing it!

12. Bake the cake in the pans for 30-35 minutes, until the cake starts to pull away from the edge, and a toothpick comes out clean.

3 baked

13. Let the cakes cool on a cooling rack, and then take the cakes out of the pans and let them cool completely.

Cake Filling

  • 8 oz evaporated milk (This is 1 1/3 6 oz cans)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 beaten egg yolks
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick) cut up
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Combine the evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Stir constantly to avoid burning.
  2. Allow the liquid to come to a slow boil but keep stirring to avoid sticking.
  3. Remove from heat and add the coconut and pecans.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator until cool enough to spread.

Buttercream frosting

  • 2 lb confectioners sugar
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) butter, cut up
  • ¼ cup milk (approximately)
  • 3 oz baking chocolate
  1. Combine the sugar and butter in a food processor and pulse until mixed.
  2. Add the milk until spreadable
  3. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for about 1.5 minutes at 50% power. Stir until uniform and then add to the buttercream mixture and pulse until uniform. This will make more frosting than you need, but you will use about ¾ of it.

Assembling the cake

It is easiest to ice the cake on a little rotating cake platform, but if you do, be sure to start with a cake cardboard under cake, as the layers are delicate and won’t pick up easily to move to a cake cover later.

  1. Place one solid layer on the bottom and carefully ice it with the filling. If the filling is too cold to spread, warm it for 15 sec on the microwave.
  2. Place a second layer on top and ice it either with the chocolate buttercream frosting or with the filling. You will have plenty of both. Place the third layer on top and ice the top with the filling.
  3. If any of the sides protrude, trim them off so the sides are relatively uniform. Ice the sides with the chocolate buttercream, using a spatula dipped in milk to smooth the outside of the cake. Let it dry for half an hour before serving.

sliced

 

 

A quick way to line cake pans

A quick way to line cake pans

Most cake recipes suggest you line the bottom of your cake pans with waxed paper (old school) or baking parchment (new school). Well tracing and cutting out those circles for 2 or 3 cake pans is a lot of trouble. Here’s an easier way.

pan and parchment

Cut a square of baking parchment, a bit bigger than you cake pan. For 8” cakes, cut a 9” or 10”  square. It doesn’t have to be very accurate or even square: a rectangle will do just fine. We’ll cut off the excess as we go along.

Fold the square diagonally so that the left edge meets the top edge.  This establishes that square. Any left on the bottom will be cut off.

Fold that triangle in half down the middle.

Then, keep folding down the middle until you have a little pointed triangle.

Lay that triangle on the bottom of the cake pan with the point at the center, and cut off the triangle at the edge of the pan.

Then, unfold it. It should be a circle that will just fit in your cake pan. If it is a little big, just refold it and cut off a little more.

lined pan

Then, butter the pan, lay the liner inside, and butter it, too.  That’s really easy. I did all 3 cake pans in about a minute! See the top picture for all three!