Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Pepperoni Pizza Potato Skins

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The upcoming weekend is a big one for the NFL. It will determine which two teams are heading to the Super Bowl. My fingers are crossed for my home team, the New England Patriots! Whether you love football like I do, or just love football food, this is a great time of year to try out some fun snacks for family and friends to enjoy while watching any of the big games.


Potato skins are a classic game day delight. Melted cheddar, crispy bacon, and cool sour cream are the usual suspects, but I decided to fill my potato skins with pizza-inspired replacements. Tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and sliced pepperoni are the highlights in these baked-not-fried boat-shaped vessels.


My nephews partook in my recent potato skin explorations, and since neither of them can eat gluten this was a really easy way to give them the excitement of pizza without the traditional crust. I actually described it to them as "giant french fries topped like a pizza." That's a pretty apt portrayal of what was on their plate.


These are super easy to make and barely require a recipe, but I'm sharing one anyway. You can tweak the toppings to suit your preferences if pepperoni isn't your thing.

Pepperoni Pizza Potato Skins
Makes 8

4 medium to large Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean, washed, and dried
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup pasta or pizza sauce (store-bought is fine)
About 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, or as desired
16 slices pepperoni

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork. Rub gently with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and set on an aluminum foil-covered sheet pan. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or longer, until tender (it should be easily pricked with a fork. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

Cut each potato in half and carefully scoop out the flesh leaving about 1/4 inch of flesh within the skin. Brush the inside of the potato halves with olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake for another 10 minutes, then turn on the broiler for another few minutes as needed to continue to crisp up the top. Don't overdo it because it will be baking more with the filling.

Fill each potato skin with about 2 tablespoons of sauce, a few tablespoons or so of mozzarella cheese (use your judgement here), and a couple slices of pepperoni. You could also sprinkle some dried oregano on top if you'd like. Sliced olives would also be a nice touch! Bake the filled potato skins for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Fettuccine with Venetian Chicken Sauce

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I'd like to wish all of my fabulous readers a happy new year! I'd also like to apologize for being MIA for the past month or so. As you can all imagine, even food bloggers can get very busy throughout the holiday season. The majority of my cooking and baking in recent weeks has consisted of tried-and-true recipes I had previously shared on Mission: Food. I'm excited for a new year and lots of new recipes, starting with this one...


Fettuccine with Venetian Chicken Sauce is easy to make and surprisingly flavorful for a dish comprised of minimal ingredients. Minced garlic and diced carrot are cooked slowly in a combination of chicken broth and tomato juice before they are pureed into a silky orange-hued sauce. Finely diced cooked chicken breast is then added before this decadent sauce is tossed with butter-cloaked fettuccine.


Unexpectedly the result tastes neither of tomato or carrot, but rather highlights the chicken. I was very impressed, and would definitely make it again for family or even guests. There's something so unique about this recipe that I think is worth sharing. If you're looking for new and creative spins on pasta night for your family, this luscious fettuccine is the way to go.


Fettuccine with Venetian Chicken Sauce
Serves 4 to 6

2 cups chicken stock or broth
8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup tomato juice, preferably organic
1 pound dry fettuccine
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a saucepan, bring chicken stock to a boil.

Meanwhile, cut the chicken breasts into lengthwise strips about the width of a finger; drop the strips into the boiling stock. Cover and bring to a boil; decrease heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove the cover and set aside, allowing the chicken to cool in the liquid. When cool, transfer chicken to a cutting board and reheat the stock.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in another large saucepan. Stir in the garlic and cook over low heat until the garlic becomes golden. Add 1 cup water to prevent the garlic from browning; stir to combine. Add in carrots and salt; cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is nearly dry with just a bit of water left. Be vigilant and stir constantly toward the end of this step to be sure the carrots do not brown at all. Add the hot stock and tomato juice; cover and bring to a boil; decrease heat, set the cover ajar, and simmer gently for 35 minutes or until the carrots are very soft. Puree with an immersion blender or regular blender until you have a smooth puree; set aside.

Cut the chicken strips lengthwise into 1/8-inch thick slices, then cut across to make 1/8 inch dice; add the chicken to the sauce and reheat gently.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; generously salt the water and add in the fettuccine. Cook, stirring often, until al dente; drain the pasta and transfer to a heated platter or shallow gratin dish. Toss with the remaining butter and fold enough sauce to coat the noodles generously. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano; serve immediately; pass more cheese at the table.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Gingerbread Muffins

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One of my favorite flavors this time of year is gingerbread, whether it's in a latte or a loaf. I love the flavors so much I think they are perfectly acceptable any time of year, however society might disagree. In any case, we're lucky it's the right time of year to enjoy these gingerbread muffins!


Although they are quite easy to make, I would heed the warning within the recipe to not overfill the cups. I was sure that I hadn't overfilled the batter, and even baked 2 additional muffins in another muffin pan, and mine still ended up being too full. They expanded a bit over the edges and sank in the middle as the recipe warns. The muffins were still excellent, however!


Although most people think of gingerbread cookies this time of year, as opposed to the more cake-like variation, I personally love gingerbread in loaves or muffins in this case. They are packed with flavor, heavily spiced, and so comforting with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning.



Gingerbread Muffins
Makes 12 regular or 6 jumbo muffins
(From Muffins & Biscuits)

6 Tbsp [85 g] salted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1/3 cup [80 ml] buttermilk
1/2 cup [120 ml] molasses
1/2 cup [100 g] firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups [180 g] all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
1 tsp confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325°F [165°C]. Line a 12-well standard or 6-well jumbo muffin pan with paper liners or coat thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and the eggs. Add the buttermilk, molasses, brown sugar, and vanilla and whisk until well combined. In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and black pepper. Stir in the chopped crystallized ginger.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and use a rubber spatula to carefully fold together until just combined. Be careful not to overmix, or your muffins will be tough; the batter should still have a couple of streaks of flour.

Divide the batter equally among the prepared muffin wells. Because these muffins have a lot of moisture, they are prone to collapsing a bit in the center. To prevent this, do not fill the muffin wells more than two-thirds full (if you have a little extra batter, make it into pancakes) and do not open the oven to rotate the pans during baking.

Bake until the tops are puffed and a muffin bounces back when you poke it gently in the center with a finger, 18 to 22 minutes for standard muffins or 25 to 28 minutes for jumbo. Because these muffins are dark in color, it’s a little more difficult to tell when they’re done. If you’re not sure, then slip a small sharp knife or a metal skewer into the center of a muffin; if it comes out clean, then the muffins are done.

Remove the muffins from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully lift the muffins from the pan and transfer them to a wire rack to cool a little more. (Use a butter knife to lift the muffins out if you didn’t use paper liners.)

Dust the tops with confectioners’ sugar just before serving, if desired. Serve warm.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie

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This is THE BEST pumpkin pie you will ever have. Although I love pumpkin pie I rarely make it because it seems almost boring to me when there are so many other interesting pies I could be making, but this particular pumpkin pie is anything but boring.


It begins with a brown butter butterscotch which gets pureed into a mixture of pumpkin and spices. A dash of molasses and lemon juice add further flavor complexity, and a surprise addition of carrot juice really takes things over the top. The result is a decadent, creamy one-of-a-kind pumpkin pie with a hint of tanginess that almost reminds me of cheesecake but way scaled back.


I shared this recipe with a friend of mine prior to Thanksgiving and told her I was thinking of making it for the occasion. She added it to her Thanksgiving menu as did I, and at both Thanksgivings it was met with rave reviews.


I froze some of my leftover carrot juice in ice cube trays with plans to make another pie this Christmas, which is only 3 weeks away! That's how much my family enjoyed this pumpkin pie that after years of avoiding making pumpkin pie because it's just too typical and not exciting enough for the menu, I'm making it twice in one season.


This is the pumpkin pie of our dreams, and I highly recommend making it for Christmas, for the weekend, for the office, for fun, for whatever purpose you choose because it's really better than the pumpkin pies of your past.

Brown Butter Pumpkin Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie
(From Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 2/3 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch ground cloves
1 teaspoon molasses
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup carrot juice
One par-baked All-Butter Crust for a 9-inch single-crust pie
 
Preheat the oven to 350° and position a rack in the center of the oven. In a heavy-bottomed skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Continue to cook; the butter will foam and then begin to turn golden, then nut brown; whisk occasionally. When the butter is nut brown, immediately add the brown sugar, whisk, and then carefully add the water to loosen. Bring the mixture to a boil and continue simmering until a candy thermometer reads 225°F. (If you don’t have a candy thermometer, cook until the mixture smells caramelized and starts to darken.) Slowly add the heavy cream (the mixture will bubble rapidly) and whisk until smooth. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract.
 
Place the prebaked pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and yolks together with the salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, blend the pumpkin puree with the allspice, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, molasses, and lemon juice until smooth. With the machine running on low, stream the brown-butter butterscotch through the food processor’s feed tube and process until combined. Stream in the egg mixture, followed by the milk and carrot juice; blend until smooth, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides with a rubber scraper.
 
Strain the filling through a fine-mesh sieve into a separate bowl, pressing through with a rubber scraper. Pour into the prebaked shell. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, rotating 180 degrees when the edges start to set, 30 to 35 minutes through baking. The pie is finished when the edges are set and puffed slightly and the center is no longer liquid but still quite wobbly. Be careful not to overbake or the custard can separate; the filling will continue to cook and set after the pie is removed from the oven. Let to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature, or cool.

The pie will keep refrigerated for 2 days or at room temperature.

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