Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Carrot Gratin

This one is a nice and easy side dish that is sure to please if you are into this lovely root vegetable. I made it because I was trying to be a little more creative with the contents of my fridge and found myself staring at carrots, a small carton of heavy cream and a block of fresh Parmesan and thought to myself that maybe this would be a tastier version of potatoes gratin. Here is the recipe:

Carrot Gratin

2 Large Carrots (thinly sliced @ about 1/8 inch thick or so)
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Start by pouring a little heavy cream at the bottom of a baking dish (a 9 inch x13inch or 12 inch round dish should do), just enough to coat it.

Start arranging your carrot slices side by side to create the first layer, and pour a little more cream as well as some salt, pepper and parmesan. Repeat this process until you have no more carrots making sure to reserve at least a 1/4 of your cheese to sprinkle on top.

Cover with aluminum foil and place in oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the carrots are tender and the cheese starts to brown.

Serve and enjoy.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Banana Cupcake with Peanut Butter Frosting & Maple Glazed Bacon

Sorry for the prolonged absence. Life was a little hectic for a bit and then came the computer troubles again with my machine not letting me upload images which makes it so hard to show you the stuff I have made lately.

Today I am bringing you my version of the Elvis sandwich in cupcake form, or what my husband has denominated as the Man's cupcake. I was inspired by a couple of things, one of which was the banana cupcake with peanut butter frosting at Butterlane Cupcakes in Park Slope, Brooklyn, because I was a little disappointed with it. The inspiration for the bacon came from one of my favorite shows Bitchin' Kitchen and the host Nadia G, who like every good Canadian makes ample use of maple syrup.

The banana bread recipe is from the Food Network website, in order to do the cupcakes just divide the batter and bake in your cupcake pan for about 30 minutes or until the tops are golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The bacon and frosting were done by me so here is the how to:

Peanut Butter Frosting

8 TBSP Salted Butter (1 Stick)
1 1/2 Cups Peanut Butter
 2 Cups Confectioner's Sugar
3-4 TBSP Heavy Cream

Combine the butter and peanut butter in a bowl with a mixer until smooth.

Add in the confectioner's sugar a few tablespoons at a time allowing it to incorporate well into the butter mix before adding in more.

Add it the heavy cream. The amount depends on how smooth you want your frosting to be.

Set aside until you are ready to decorate your cupcakes.

Maple Glazed Bacon

6 Strips of Bacon
1/2 Cup Maple Syrup

Preheat oven to 380 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lay your strips of bacon on a roasting pan (like the ones your oven comes equipped with, i.e. the two piece pan that has the top part that has draining holes and a bottom pan to catch drips).

Brush the top of your bacon strips with a generous amount of maple syrup and place the pan in the oven, baking the bacon until it starts to shrink (about 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the bacon).

Remove from oven. Turn your bacon strips over, coat with maple syrup and insert back in oven until you can see they are starting to brown and crisp (about 5-8 minutes).

Remove from oven and allow to rest coating with a little more maple syrup.

Once they are cool either cut into thin slices or crush the bacon. Set aside until ready to add over the peanut butter frosting.

I don't recommend you make these every week (for obvious reasons), but every now and again these really hit the spot.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chicken Lasagna

This recipe is very special to me because it was one of the things I always loved that my mom made (even though mine will never come close to how good my mom's is). This is the one that I would always request she make on my birthday. Here is my recipe.

Chicken Lasagna

9 inch by 12 inch Baking Dish
Lasagna pasta sheets (you will need enough for a base layer, 3 layers of filling in between and for the top)
3 large Chicken Breast Halves
3 Cups Chicken Stock/Broth 
2 TBSP Olive Oil
2 Plum Tomatoes (Seeded, pealed and finely diced)
1 Large Shallot (Thinly sliced and diced)
5 Cloves of Garlic (Thinly sliced)
2 Green Onions (Thinly sliced)
1/2 Red Pepper (Finely diced)
1 Large Carrot (Grated)
1 lb Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
2 Cups Ricotta Cheese
1 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Bechamel Sauce (see recipe at end)

Preheat oven at 390 degrees Fahrenheit.

Start by heating your chicken stock  in a medium pot add the chicken breasts and allow to cook through. Once cooked through, remove the breasts from the broth and allow to cool. When they have cooled off shred them as you would pulled pork (you want long stringy pieces).

In a large pan heat your olive oil and add the tomatoes, shallot, garlic, green onions, red pepper and carrot and cook until the onions become translucent. (If your mixture starts to dry out a bit add a bit of the chicken stock used to cook the chicken breasts). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the chicken to the vegetable mixture making sure to incorporate the chicken evenly and allowing the vegetable base to coat it. Once this is done set it aside.

In a bowl combine the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses until the Parmesan is evenly distributed into the ricotta. Set it aside.

Now start getting your pasta sheets ready in a large pot of boiling water with a pinch of salt and olive oil (I find it best to cook the pasta in batches on a per layer basis because it prevents the pasta from over cooking). 

Get your baking dish ready by greasing the bottom of it with a little olive oil. Start by laying down a layer of pasta at the bottom. Add half of the chicken and vegetable mix onto the layer of pasta making sure to distribute it evenly. Add the bechamel sauce on top of the chicken vegetable mixture (this will insure that your chicken will not dry out) and top out with a sprinkling of grated mozzarella. Now add another layer of pasta. The next layer is going to be your ricotta Parmesan cheese mixture distributed thinly and evenly. Add another layer of pasta and add the remaining half of your chicken vegetable mixture. Top this layer off with Bechamel sauce and a sprinkling of shredded Mozzarella. Add the last layer of pasta and add the rest of the shredded Mozzarella.

Place your baking dish at the center of your oven and allow the lasagna to cook until you see the ingredients bubbling and the mozzarella on top starts to brown. About 20-30 minutes.

Once ready remove from oven and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes. Serve and enjoy

Bechamel Sauce (my version at least)

2 Cups Chicken Stock/Broth (you can use the stock/broth used to cook the chicken breasts)
1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup Flour
Pinch of Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to taste (if necessary)

In a medium sauce pot, heat up your chicken stock/broth and heavy cream on medium heat until they they start to lightly simmer. Start sifting in the flour while whisking it into the broth and cream. Whisk until you are satisfied that there are no lumps and the flour has been well incorporated into the wet ingredients. Add the pinch of nutmeg. Allow to cook for about five additional minutes stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside to be used when needed)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Citrus Overload Cupcakes (AKA Tangerine cupcakes with Lemon-Orange Frosting & Tangerine Curd Filling)

This one was inspired by my friend Cybidon at the Bake, Robot! blog and the post for orange vanilla bean cupcakes on said blog. Since I did not have oranges nor vanilla beans, but had plenty soon to perish sweet tangerines I decided to try to make something dessert like since we have been at a shortage for that type of stuff lately. I took the Martha Stewart cupcake recipe and adapted it to incorporate tangerines into the batter. Here is the recipe for the cupcakes:

Tangerine Cupcake Batter

4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 Cup sugar
1 TBSP Tangerine zest
2 Large eggs
3/4 Cup heavy cream
1/4 Cup Tangerine juice
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set this mixture aside 

In a large mixing bowl start mixing your butter, sugar and tangerine zest until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Start incorporating the flour mixture into the butter two heaping tablespoons at a time alternating with the wet ingredients (i.e. add 2 to 4 TBSP of flour and then add 1 egg, repeat the flour and then add 1/4 Cup of heavy cream) making sure to mix in the ingredients until they are well incorporated before adding the next ingredient. repeat the sequence until all the ingredients have been incorporated into the batter.

I know it seems a little convoluted to do it that way but there are two very good reasons why I mix ingredients in that manner. First I grew up watching my mother and my grandmother making cake mixes in this manner so it is kind of ingrained into my subconscious. Second, I find that alternating wet and dry ingredients makes for a smoother batter.  

Divide your batter evenly into your paper cup lined cup cake baking sheets and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean. 

Tangerine Curd

3 Egg Yolks
1 TBSP Heavy Cream
1/3 Cup caster/superfine sugar
3 TBSP unsalted butter
Grated Zest and Juice from 1 Tangerine

You can make the curd using either a double boiler or simply a heatproof bowl over a pot of slowly boiling water over medium low heat. 

Place your butter in the bowl and let it melt down. 

Slowly add in the sugar to ensure that it incorporates evenly into the butter and preventing it from creating lumps.
Beat the egg yolks and heavy cream together and slowly add the mixture into the batter stirring frequently using a whisk (remember, it is all about tempering your eggs into the batter to avoid sweet scrambled eggs).
Add in the Tangerine zest and juice. Continue to stir frequently until the curd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Set it aside to fill in your cupcakes.

For the frosting I wanted to make something with just as much citrus flavor but with a little kick to offset the sweetness of the cup cake base and the tangerine curd filling so I decided that the sweetness of orange and the sourness of lemon offered the opportunity for a great combination. I gave it a try and I am absolutely in love with this frosting so here is the recipe. 

Orange-Lemon Buttercream

1 1/2 Sticks unsalted butter
1 3/4 Cups Confectioners sugar (+/- depending on how sweet you want it)
1/4 Cup Orange Juice
1 - 2 TBSP Lemon Juice (How much depends on how tart you want your frosting to be)
1 TBSP Orange Marmalade
1 1/2 TBSP Lemon Zest

Place your butter in a medium bowl and using your mixer on a medium high setting soften the butter until it becomes creamy. 

Start adding powdered sugar a little bit at a time alternating with the orange and lemon juices until well incorporated.
Add in the marmalade mixing until well incorporated and then add the lemon zest until well incorporated. 

Set this aside to get ready to fill and decorate your cupcakes.

Once your cupcakes have cooled off core them and start filling them with the tangerine curd.

Let the cupcakes sit for 20 minutes to allow the curd to set and then proceed with your frosting. 

I hope you enjoy these and that their citrusy scent carry you away to somewhere tropical and warm if you don't already live somewhere like that. Here are a few pictures of my daughter helping me to put frosting on the cupcakes and one of the cupcakes sliced in half to show you the final result.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Pork Chops with Pear, Shallot and Thyme Medley

This is a nice and easy recipe that will take minimal time to make and the taste is just wonderful because pork pairs so nicely with pears. Here is what you will need.

4 Nicely sized pork chops (Usually something that is about 1 inch thick will do nicely with a nice edge of fat)
Salt and Pepper to taste (season the pork chops with these just before they go into the pan)
2 TBSP Butter
2 Large Shallots (sliced thin)
2 Large Bosch Pears (sliced thin)
1 TBSP Dry Thyme
1 Cup water

In a deep pan or dutch oven on medium heat add the butter, shallots and pear slices. Let the butter melt and make sure to coat the shallots and pears with it.

Cook until the shallots start to caramelize. then push the mixture into the center of the pan and add the pork chops.

Sear the pork chops on both sides.

Add the water and sprinkle the thyme just a little over the pork chops and mix the remainder into the shallot and pear mixture. 

Simmer for five minutes then cover and lower the heat to a medium low. 

Cook for about 20 - 30 minutes then turn off the heat and let it rest.

Serve with rice and your favorite vegetable and definitely give it a generous amount of the juices from the pan for a little extra love.

Enjoy :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Patacon Pisao

These are another great Hipano-American treat that is popular in the Caribbean as well as coastal areas along Central and South America. My mom grew up in Cartagena, Colombia where these were eaten pretty much on a daily basis. Of course I grew up eating these as well so to me they are another of those foods that remind me of childhood and of the wonderful food my mother makes. They are basically green plantains that are twice fried. Here is what you will need to make them:

Patacon Pisao (Smashed Green Plantain)

Green Plantains (the quantity is up to you - they will each yield about 10 to 12 pieces depending on their size)
2 Cups +/- Safflower (or any other oil with a high heating point).
Saran Wrap
Tortilla Press/ Firm cutting board (you will use this to press down on the plantains after the first fry)

Start by pealing and cutting your plantains into slices about 1/2 inch thick.

Place your oil in your favorite frying pan and heat on medium heat or just a little above (remember that the point is to cook the food not burn it - just like with the empanadas). When the oil is well heated start adding your plantain slices. Let them fry until they are just starting to get golden on all sides (about 5 minutes). Once this is done remove the plantains to a plate with paper towels to let the plantains drain any excess oil and let them cool for a little until you can handle them with your hands.

Once the plantains are cool enough to handle, place them at the center of a sheet of saran wrap on a hard flat surface (either a tortilla press if you have one or your counter). Press down on your plantain to flatten as much as possible either in your tortilla press or with a cutting board. I just want to note that if you want to be super efficient and not have to turn your oil off while you do this step you can start off by frying small batches of the plantains to start with. While the second batch is frying you can be pressing the first batch so that you can have them ready to fry once you finish frying the full amount of plantain slices you prepared.

Once you have pressed all you pieces, place them back in the oil in small batches and remove once they look golden throughout.

There are quite a few ways to enjoy these treats once they are done frying. I remember my mom used to sprinkle them with salt and then drizzle lime juice on them. You can also try them with a nice minced garlic oil and vinegar mixture (equal parts of all). I chose to keep it simple this time, so I just drizzled mine with a little salt and served them as part of my dinner. 

You can also eat them with a typical dip we make in Colombia called Hogao. This is dip is salsa's better and more beautiful sister as it is not just tomato and onions but adds in cumin for a more flavorful experience. Here is a recipe I found for it in the Recetas de Comida Colombiana Blog, which I am translating for you:

1 Pound Ripe plum tomatoes (pealed and finely diced or grated)
1/2 Pound Yellow/White onions (finely diced)
4 Green onions (finely diced)
2 Large Cloves of Garlic (minced)
Salt, Cumin and Pepper (to taste)

In a pan heat 3 TBSP of oil. once heated add in the onions and garlic and cook until the onions become translucent.

Add in the tomatoes allowing it to incorporate with the onions and garlic. Stir slowly with a wooden spoon and add in the salt, pepper and cumin to taste.

Continue stirring until a fine paste starts to form. Take off the heat and allow it to rest so you can use it with your Patacon Pisao. Enjoy.