Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fresh Fruit Tart


I first shared this fruit tart recipe over four years ago on Mission: Food. It was one of my favorites then and it still is. It's incredibly easy to prep the dough and pastry cream in advance and then bake off the shell and assemble the tart on game day.

It's also one of the most impressive and beautiful desserts one can make with limited resources. My kitchen and photography skills have improved exponentially over the years and I felt like a recipe of this caliber deserved to be revisited (and rephotographed). In fact it's the only recipe I've re-shared nearly verbatim, but that's how much I love it!

In addition to its relative ease and impressive aesthetics, I also love how this tart can change vastly based on seasonality and personal preference. One can easily stick to only one or two fruits, or select a large and colorful array. I have never made the same fruit tart twice.

Fresh Fruit Tart
Makes 1 (9-to-11-inch) tart

1 fully baked and cooled tart shell (see below)
2 1/2 cups pastry cream (see below)
2 to 4 cups fruit, sliced or whole depending on type
3 tablespoons apricot jam, to glaze

Spoon pastry filling into prepared tart shell about three-fourths full. You may not use all of the pastry cream. Set aside the leftovers. Smooth out the cream, and decoratively top with the fruit.

In a small saucepan, heat the apricot jam over low heat until it liquefies, then strain it to remove any solid bits of fruit. Brush the glaze over the fruit. This tart is best served the day it is made.

Pâte Sucrée
Makes 2 (9-to-11-inch) tart shells (you will only need 1 for this tart, so freeze the rest of the dough or make 2 tarts)

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon (128 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and salt together on medium speed until smooth. Mix in the egg and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the flour and mix on low speed until incorporated.

On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 2 equal balls and shape each into a disk 1/2-inch thick. Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. This dough can also be frozen in a freezer bag for and later defrosted in the fridge the night before use. The dough will keep well frozen for a few weeks.

Place a disk of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out 1/8-inch thick, rolling from center to edge in all directions. Lift and rotate the dough occasionally, to make sure it doesn't stick to the board. Add more flour if necessary. Work quickly to keep the dough as cold as possible throughout this process. Lightly wrap the dough circle over the rolling pin and carefully unroll it over a 9-to-11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (if using an 11-inch tart pan you may have to roll the dough a touch thinner, but it will be enough to fit the pan). When the dough has been lightly pressed into the proper shape, use the rolling pin to roll over all the metal edges, thus cutting the overhanging dough perfectly. Do not stretch the dough into the pan or else it will shrink when baking. If the dough tears at all, patch it with leftover bits of dough, pressing firmly. This is a very forgiving dough, unlike some others.

Place the tart pan into the fridge for about 15 minutes or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Prick the insides of the shell with a fork. Line the shell with a piece of parchment and fill with pie weights or dry beans. Bake for about 10 minutes, then remove the pie weights and continue to bake for an additional 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool completely on a wire rack until ready to use. These baked shells will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for 1 week, or in the freezer for 2 weeks.

Pastry Cream
Makes 2 1/2 cups

2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla paste, or 1/2 a vanilla bean with the seeds scraped out
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (115 grams) sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter

Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy saucepan and heat over medium-high, bringing the milk just to under a boil, stirring occasionally so the milk doesn't burn to the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar and cornstarch.

When the milk is ready, slowly ladle about one-third into the eggs, whisking constantly. Pour the egg mixture back into the hot milk and continue whisking over medium heat until the custard is noticeably thicker, about 2 minutes.

To check the correct thickness of the cream, dip a wooden spoon into the custard, remove it and run your finger across it. It should leave a line where your finger crossed. When the custard is thick enough, remove it from the heat and strain it into a clean bowl.

Let cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cut the butter into 1 tablespoon pieces and whisk the butter into the cream, one piece at a time. To cool the cream, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and press the wrap directly onto the top of the cream. Once the cream is a little cooler, put it into the fridge to finish cooling. Pastry cream will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Macaroni and Three Cheeses


One can't possibly have enough macaroni and cheese recipes in their repertoire. It's the essential crowd-pleaser that bridges the gap between young and old. Elevated from what comes in a blue box, homemade mac and cheese has many benefits other than its superior flavor (and lack of artificial ingredients, food coloring, and preservatives).

When you make your own mac and cheese, you can essentially use any cheeses you like. Here I've selected a trifecta of beautifully complimentary cheeses: cheddar for its sharpness, Gouda for its nutty and creamy characteristics, and Havarti for it's mild and buttery balance. All three are great melting cheeses. All three would be great on their own in a macaroni and cheese, but here they work in conjunction to provide the best that each can offer.

Homemade mac and cheese also benefits from a variety of pasta shapes that can be selected. Traditionally, elbows and shells are common, but I love occasionally using pipette (basically ridged elbows that are pinched on one end) and rotini (corkscrews). For this occasion, my nephew's first birthday party, I really wanted something especially playful. I selected wagon wheels, which are just as much fun for me as they are for kids, trust me! They also have fun little pockets for cheese sauce to nestle inside. They're equally perfect for homemade stove top macaroni and cheese!

This is my basic, go-to baked macaroni and cheese recipe. I sometimes scale it down to make less, and I often change up the variety of cheeses, the type of crust on top, etc. Feel free to make it your own! That's the fun of this versatile dish!

P.S. Because this mac and cheese was prepared for a birthday party, it had some time to rest before we actually sat down to eat, which is why it doesn't appear to be particularly "saucy" in the photographs. If you dig in shortly after it emerges from the oven, it will have less time to set up as it did here. Either way, it stole the show at the party and everyone loved it!

Macaroni and Three Cheeses
Serves 8 to 12

8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
8 ounces Gouda cheese, grated
8 ounces Havarti cheese, grated
1 pound small pasta, such as elbows, shells, pipette, rotini, or wagon wheels
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (any kind will do), heated to a simmer
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup panko
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil or melted butter

Mix the cheddar, Gouda, and Havarti cheeses together in a large bowl, and reserve 1 cup for the topping. Set aside.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add salt and the pasta, and cook half as long as the box suggests for al dente (it will continue cooking in the oven). Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour to make a roux and whisk until it is nice and smooth. Cook for a couple minutes to cook out the raw flour flavor, but do not allow the roux to brown. Add the hot milk a little at a time, whisking in between each addition, until it has all been incorporated. Cook, constantly whisking, about 5 to 8 more minutes on medium-high heat until it begins to simmer and thicken (it should coat the back of a spoon easily). Season with mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and whisk in the shredded cheese mixture a little at a time until completely combined.

Once the cheeses are all combined and melted, add the pasta and stir to coat. Pour the pasta into a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish, or divide into small oven-proof bowls or ramekins. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheese over the top. Drizzle the olive oil over the panko and toss with your fingers to mix. Distribute the panko over the pasta. At this point, the macaroni and cheese can be cooled and then covered and refrigerated until ready to bake.

Bake the pasta for 20 to 25 minutes until nice and bubbly, and golden brown. If the casserole was refrigerated, bake it covered in aluminum foil for about 15 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to bake until bubbly and golden, another 20 to 25 minutes. If desired, finish the casserole under the broiler to get a bit more color and crunch on top. Allow the pasta to cool for a minute before serving, as it will be extremely hot.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

General Tso's Chicken Dumplings & Asparagus with Soy and Sesame


For the record, I have never dined at Nine Dragons at Walt Disney World's Epcot in the World Showcase, but this is the second recipe I am featuring from there, the first being their Honey Sesame Chicken (delicious!). I have read reviews of the restaurant and each one of them swooned over the General Tso's Chicken Dumplings, so I reached out to Disney to see if they would share the recipe. They did!

Their recipe had some gaps, however. For one thing, it didn't include a recipe for the dipping sauce, which is described on the menu as a Chinese red sauce. Reviews have described it as a barbecue style sauce, and so I used my imagination to create the sauce I envisioned. The recipe also originally used store-bought wrappers, and said the filling would be enough for 10 dumplings.

Well let me assure you, this filling was more than enough for 32 dumplings. That's a much safer number :) I personally love making my dumpling wrappers from scratch and so of course this dumpling adventure was no exception. You can easily substitute store-bought wrappers, but I will totally judge you. Seriously. If I can do it, you can do it. Take pride in your cooking!

The only other change I've made in the recipe below (other than adding a lot more information to the method of prep to alleviate things... and using chicken breast instead of thighs) is to cut down on the amount of black pepper. The original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon. Against my better judgement I followed the original recipe and resulted in deliciously juicy dumplings... that contained way too much black pepper. At first bite it wasn't that bad, but a few dumplings in you start to feel the burn in the back of your throat. It just gets more and more overwhelming. Totally different burn than you get with hot sauce, trust me.

My brother-in-law LOVED the dumplings exactly as they were, black pepper and all, but in the future I would definitely scale back the black pepper by half, and this is the measurement I have included in the recipe below.

Also, to make this a complete meal I included a really simple and delicious side dish of asparagus with soy sauce and sesame. It was easy to prep in advance and was served cold, which saved me a lot of last minute trouble. The asparagus was a cool and refreshing break to the spiciness of the dumplings. A perfect match indeed!

General Tso's Chicken Dumplings
Makes 32 dumplings
(Adapted from Nine Dragons at Walt Disney World's Epcot World Showcase; Dough recipe from Asian Dumplings)

8 ounces skinless chicken thigh or breast meat
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce (such as Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot)

10 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
About 3/4 cup just-boiled water (boil water, then let it sit for a minute off the heat before measuring)

Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar

To make the filling: first mince the chicken by pulsing it in a food processor until it's fine with small chunks but not a puree. Transfer the minced chicken to a large mixing bowl.

Add the remaining filling ingredients to the mixing bowl. Stir in one direction for about 2 minutes or until all ingredients are uniform and liquids are completely absorbed by the meat. Refrigerate the filling until needed.

To make the dough: place a large mixing bowl over a damp paper towel on your work surface, to keep in place while mixing. Add the flour and make a well. Use a wooden spoon to mix the flour while you add the water in a steady stream. Mix together until you have a lot of lumpy bits, then knead the hot dough in the bowl until the dough comes together. Add water by the teaspoon if the dough does not come together.

Continue kneading the dough on a lightly floured surface (only flour if necessary, and do so sparingly) for a couple more minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic (my mixing bowl was very large so I finished kneading directly in the bowl and it was just fine). The dough should bounce back when pressed with your finger, but leave a light impression of your finger. Place dough in a zip-top bag, seal tightly, pressing out excess air, and set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes up to 2 hours. The dough will steam up the bag and soften. After resting, the dough can be used right away, or refrigerated overnight and returned to room temperature before using.

To assemble the dumplings, remove the dough from the bag, turning the bag inside out if the dough is sticky. Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut it in half. Put half back in the bag, squeezing out the air and sealing it closed to prevent drying.

Roll the dough into a 1-inch-thick log and cut into 16 pieces (cut in half, then cut each half in half, and so on to create pieces that are even in size. The tapered end pieces should be cut slightly larger). If your pieces are oval, stand them on one of the cut ends and gently squeeze with your fingers to make them round, like a scallop. Take each piece of dough and press each cut end in flour, lightly pressing the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and set aside.

Next, flatten each dough disk into a thin circle, about 1/8 inch thick, either with a tortilla press (lined with plastic wrap), or with a heavy flat-bottomed object like a frying pan (also lined with plastic). Alternatively, use a dowel (which is a good lightweight rolling pin alternative for fast and flexible dumpling making) to lightly roll out each disc into an 1/8 inch thick circle.

To finish the wrappers, place wrappers one at a time on your work surface, and flour only if sticky. Imagine a quarter-size circle in the center of the dough. This is what the Chinese call the "belly" of the wrapper. You want to create a wrapper that is larger than its current size, but still retaining a thick "belly" in the center. This ensures an even distribution of dough when the dumpling is sealed. Use the rolling pin to apply pressure to the outer 1/2-to-3/4-inch border of the wrapper. Roll the rolling pin in short downward strokes with one hand while the other hand turns the wrapper in the opposite direction. Aim for wrappers that are about 3 1/4 inches in diameter. When a batch of wrappers is formed, fill them before making wrappers out of the other portion of dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (if planning to refrigerate dumplings for several hours, also dust with flour to prevent sticking).  Hold a wrapper in a slightly cupped hand and scoop about 1 tablespoon of filling slightly off-center toward the upper half of the wrapper, pressing and shaping it into a flat mound and keeping a 1/2-to-3/4-inch border on all sides.

To make "pleated crescent" shapes (as photographed), make the first pinch between index finger and thumb, then fold over the front edge to form the first pleat and press it against the back edge. Continue pleating the dough in this fashion until making the final pleat and then settle the dumpling on a work surface and press the edges to seal well.

Alternatively, to make "pea pod" shapes, fold the edge of the wrapper closest to you to meet the top edge and pinch together to seal well. Place on your work surface and press gently to steady the dumpling and make it sit flat. Fold the sealed edges of the dumpling to make a series of pleats from one end to the other.

Place finished dumplings on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and dough, spacing out dumplings about 1/2 inch apart. Keep the finished dumplings covered with a dry kitchen towel.

When all the dumplings are assembled, they can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours and can be cooked straight from the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze them on their baking sheet until hard (about 1 hour), transfer to a zip-top freezer bag, pressing out excess air before sealing, and frozen for up to 1 month. To cook after freezing, partially thaw, using your finger to smooth over any cracks that may have formed during freezing, before cooking.

To make the dipping sauce: Mix together all of the ingredients and set aside until needed.

Place the dumplings into a bamboo steamer lined with a perforated parchment circle or cabbage leaves (to keep the dumplings from sticking to the steamer) steam over boiling water for for 10 to 12 minutes until cooked through. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

Asparagus with Soy Sauce and Sesame
Serves 4
(From Viet World Kitchen)

1 pound medium asparagus spears
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 teaspoons light (regular) soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon toasted hulled (white) sesame seeds

Use your fingers to snap off the woody ends of each asparagus spear. If they are short (around 4 inches long) like the ones I bought, keep them that length. Otherwise, cut them on the diagonal into dramatic 2 inch lengths.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. While the water heats up, ready a large bowl of ice water and set it near the stove. Add all the asparagus to the boiling water and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until bright green and crisp tender. Eat one to make sure.

Drain in a colander, then immediately transfer to the ice water bath to cool. Drain again, pat the asparagus dry with paper towel or a dishtowel, then set aside in a bowl or plastic zip-top bag. Refrigerate for up to 2 days.

For the dressing, combine the sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar in a bowl, stirring or whisking to dissolve the sugar. Taste and make sure the flavor is balanced between being rich, salty and sweet. About 2 hours before serving, toss the asparagus in the dressing and set aside for the seasonings to penetrate. Right before serving, transfer to a plate and garnish with a shower of sesame seeds.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes


Long after your green tee-shirts and shamrock-covered hats have been put into hibernation, these cupcakes will still haunt you. Unlike the alcoholic beverage, which can curdle if not drunk fast enough, these cupcakes will not give you a hangover the next day (contrary to popular belief).

You may feel equally as guilty afterwards, be it from the decadent Baileys buttercream or the whiskey-spiked ganache filling, but life is a celebration so I say just go with it.

The cupcakes themselves acquire an Earthiness from the Guinness, but otherwise taste mostly of chocolate. Moist, delicious, and fluffy chocolate. The best kind! It's the whiskey ganache filling (which is reminiscent of those little chocolates filled with liquor... you know, the ones at the duty free shop at the Canadian border... in the mid-90s... and my first taste of alcohol when I was decidedly underage) and the Baileys buttercream that punch you in the face. Bam!

In fact, transporting these cupcakes to my friends' house made my car smell like Baileys. My entire car. I'm pretty sure my car would have failed a Breathalyzer if it were human. I'm so glad I wasn't pulled over. They wouldn't have believed me. The sacrifices we make for baked goods.

Also, I'm happy to report that these photographs were taken with my brand new Canon DSLR camera! I think they could stomp all over the pictures taken with my old camera. I'm still learning how to use it and playing around with various settings and such, but so far so good! The only adjustment I made to these pics was to sharpen them slightly. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship :)

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes
Makes 24
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes:
1 cup Guinness
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Whiskey Ganache Filling:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon Irish whiskey, or to taste

Baileys Buttercream:
3 cups confectioners' sugar
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Baileys Irish cream

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring the Guinness and butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and sour cream. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 to 19 minutes. Cool cupcakes completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using a 1-inch round cookie cutter, paring knife, or melon baller (my personal choice), cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer for several minutes until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time, until fluffy and thick. Drizzle in the Baileys and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn't, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Frost the cupcakes as desired.

Do ahead: You can bake the cupcakes a week or two in advance and store them, well wrapped, in the freezer. You can also fill them before you freeze them. They also keep filled — or filled and frosted — in the fridge for a day. (Longer, they will start to get stale.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thomas Keller's Brined Pork Tenderloin


As the main attraction for my sister's birthday dinner, I made a slightly adapted version of Thomas Keller's brined pork tenderloin from Ad Hoc at Home. One component, slices of cured lemon required 2 weeks advance notice to prepare. That didn't happen. I decided to just omit lemons entirely.

I also omitted fresh rosemary from both the brine and pork because I didn't have any, but I used plenty of thyme and other herbs and spices. This pork was incredibly juicy and flavorful. Although the pork wasn't salty, I think brining the pork shy of 4 hours wouldn't hurt it either.

My pork was pink and juicy when I cut it, but unfortunately it sat for a few minutes before I was able to plate and the residual heat made the pink tone on the exterior of the slices fade, but they were still pink and perfect inside! Take my word for it!

Even without the cured lemons, I think this tenderloin is great. The brine adds a lot of flavor and helps maintain juiciness in this very lean cut of meat. It is the perfect canvas for the sweet carrots and peppery parsnips with which it shares a plate.

Pork Brine
Makes 2 quarts, or enough for up to 4 pounds of pork
(Adapted from Ad Hoc at Home)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
1/2 bunch (1/2 ounce thyme)
1/2 bunch (about 2 ounces) flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup garlic cloves, crushed, skin left on
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 cup Diamond brand Crystal kosher salt (if using another brand of kosher salt, such as Morton, only use 5 ounces)
8 cups water

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely, then chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to three days.

*Note* This is the full recipe for the brine, but when I made it I actually scaled everything by 3/4. I had about 3 pounds of pork (not a full 4 pounds) so I figured I didn't need the full amount of brine. You can easily make the whole recipe (which I've shared), or scale it down as I did.

Brined Pork Tenderloin
Serves 6
(Adapted from Ad Hoc at Home)

Pork Brine, cold
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 1/4 pounds each), silverskin and excess fat removed
Canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, smashed, skin left on
6 thyme sprigs

Pour the brine into a container large enough to hold the pork and add the pork. Refrigerate for 4 hours (no longer, or the pork may become too salty).

Remove the pork (discard the brine) and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels, or let air-dry. Let the tenderloin sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set a roasting rack in a roasting pan.

Pour some canola oil into a large frying pan or small roasting pan large enough to hold the pork and heat over medium-high heat until hot.

Season the tenderloins with kosher salt and pepper, add to the pan and sear, turning them occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, about 6 minutes.

Add the butter, garlic, and thyme and cook, tilting the pan and using the spoon to baste the pork with the juices, for 2 minutes.

Transfer the meat to the roasting rack. Top with the garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Roast until the internal temperature is 135° to 140°F (use the latter if you prefer your pork less pink), about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for 15 minutes for medium-rare to medium.

Slice the pork on the diagonal into 1/2-to-3/4–inch-thick slices. Arrange the slices on a serving platter and garnish with the garlic and thyme.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Two Delicious Sides: Caramelized Spiced Carrots with Honey and Orange, and Silky Parsnip Purée


My sister's birthday was this past weekend. Along with making her favorite chocolate peanut butter cup cupcakes, I dished out some of Thomas Keller's brined pork tenderloin (recipe coming soon) with a couple of seasonal sides (all sourced from local farms). Both sides came from a fabulous cookbook I had the pleasure of reviewing last fall: Roots.

First off, I had a couple pounds of rainbow carrots from my local CSA. I definitely wanted to showcase their beautiful colors and thought that roasting them would further enhance them. Rather than simply roast them with olive oil and seasonings, as I normally would, I decided to try Diane Morgan's version of roasted carrots which combine them with orange juice, orange zest, spices and some honey. The result had a great balance of spice and sweetness, while still boasting the carrots themselves.

Essentially, the carrots are steamed in the orange juice mixture and then later tossed with honey and finished uncovered to allow the orange juice/honey mixture to thicken and cling to the beautiful carrot slices. I thought this was a marvelous preparation and would definitely make this again as a great all-around side dish. I also like that it can be served at room temperature, which would make it work well for a picnic or potluck as well.

I was also graced with a couple pounds of fresh parsnips from my local CSA. Rather than roast these as well (which could have been a possibility), I decided doing a purée would offer a nice change in textures on the plate. This purée is so simple, that it barely requires a recipe. But having a foolproof one doesn't hurt.

The result is a smooth and velvety purée with a sharp parsnip flavor that balances the sweetness on the plate from the carrots. Together they were excellent compliments to my pork tenderloin.

Caramelized Spiced Carrots with Honey and Orange
Serves 4 to 6
(Adapted from Roots)

1 pounds carrots, trimmed, peeled, and cut on a severe diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground Aleppo chile
3 tablespoons honey

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place the carrots in the pan and toss with the orange juice, oil, orange zest, salt, spices, and chile. Cover tightly with another sheet of aluminum foil and roast, stirring once or twice, until the carrots are crisp-tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes.

Add the honey and toss to coat. Increase the oven to 450 degrees F and continue roasting, uncovered, until the carrots are tender and dark brown around the edges, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately, or let cool and serve warm, barely warm, or at room temperature.

Silky Parsnip Purée
Makes 3 cups; serves 4 to 6 as a side dish
(From Roots)

2 pounds parsnips, trimmed, peeled, and diced
1 1/2 cups milk
1 garlic clove, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher or fine sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

In a medium saucepan, combine the parsnips, milk, garlic, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover partially and cook until the parsnips are very tender when pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes. Keep the milk at a slow simmer so it doesn't curdle.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Transfer the contents of the pan to a food process and process until a silky, smooth purée forms. Add the butter and process until incorporated. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve immediately or keep warm until ready to serve. The parsnip purée can be made up to 3 days in advance, cooled, covered, and refrigerated. Reheat in a double boiler or microwave oven.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon, and Fennel


I have a lot of cookbooks. A lot. They don't all get the same quality of love. Some are just pretty to look at, others are great to reference, while others spend more time in my kitchen than I can count. Although I enjoy writing my own recipes, I am often looking for recipes to try from my favorite cookbooks because even though I do know a thing or two about developing recipes, sometimes I look to the masters to offer up something that is already flawless. Thomas Keller fits the bill perfectly.

His Ad Hoc at Home is the holy grail for any home cook. It may not be quite as refined as The French Laundry Cookbook, for example, but it uses the same elements for creating explosive flavors in a more homey atmosphere. It works better for me since I can't possible feed my family 3 Michelin Star quality food on a daily basis. Life just doesn't work that way.

These crispy braised chicken thighs are a perfect weeknight meal. They don't require as much time to prepare as some other braises do, and the flavor is excellent. The typically potent fennel softens in flavor as it cooks down in the enriched broth.

Strips of lemon zest (I used a whole lemon's worth instead of the 4 strips required), fresh thyme, bay leaves, onion, garlic, chili flakes, and briny olives all create layers of flavor in the braising liquid. Beware of oversalting because the olives themselves offer up quite a bit of salt in their own right. I used large pitted olives and would halve them in the future to cut down a bit on the bite they offer.

I used some fennel fronds to garnish instead of the parsley called for in the recipe. Nearly anything green would be fine, though.

Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon, and Fennel
Serves 6
(From Ad Hoc at Home)

3 fennel bulbs
12 chicken thighs
Kosher salt
Canola oil
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1 cup Ascolane or other large green olives, such as Cerignola
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves
4 strips lemon zest, removed with a vegetable peeler
8 thyme sprigs
1 cup chicken stock
About 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

Cut off fennel stalks. Trim bottom of bulbs and peel back the layers until you reach the core; reserve the core for another use. Discard any bruised layers, and cut the fennel into 2-by-1/2-inch batons. You need 3 cups fennel for this recipe; reserve any remaining fennel for another use.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Set a cooling rack on a baking sheet.

Season chicken thighs on both sides with salt. Heat some canola oil in a large ovenproof saute pan or roasting rack that will hold all the thighs in one layer over medium-high heat. Add thighs skin-side down and brown on the skin side, about 4 minutes. Turn thighs over and cook for about 1 minute to sear the meat. Transfer to the cooling rack.

Reduce heat to medium-low, add onion to the pan, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in fennel, turn heat up to medium, and cook, stirring often, until fennel is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.

Pour in wine and simmer for about 2 minutes to burn off alcohol. Stir in olives, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, lemon zest, and thyme, then pour in chicken stock. Increase heat, bring liquid to a simmer, and cook until fennel is tender, about 1 minute.

Taste the stock and season with salt as needed. Return chicken to the pan skin-side-up, in a single layer. When the liquid returns to a simmer, transfer to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Turn on the broiler, and put pan under the broiler for a minute or two to crisp and brown the skin. Remove from oven, and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with parsley leaves.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Maialino: Breakfast in the City


On a recent trip to the Big Apple, I made plans to catch up with a couple of my friends over a mid-week breakfast. Even in the city that never sleeps, some popular weekend brunch spots aren't necessarily open for breakfast during the week. After a bit of Googling, I discovered that Maialino is a open for breakfast during the week, and considering my eternal love for all of Danny Meyer's restaurants, I was really excited to finally add Maialino to the list.

Photo courtesy

Some of Meyer's restaurants I've previously dined at include The Union Square Cafe (which I've discussed twice on Mission: Food), Gramercy Tavern, Shake Shack (a perennial favorite, and I've dined at 4 different locations), and Eleven Madison Park (which no longer belongs to him, but his influence certainly lives on so it will stay under the Danny Meyer umbrella in my eyes). I had wanted to try Maialino, Meyer's Italian restaurant in the Gramercy Park Hotel, for some time, but never really had the opportunity until this occasion.

Iced Latte

The food and service certainly lived up to my expectations from a member of the Union Square Hospitality Group (Danny Meyer's company). I was perhaps most thrilled by the fact that it was open early on weekdays for breakfast, making it super convenient for this meetup. Like I said before, the list for great breakfast in the city on a Wednesday morning is pretty short. Along with my iced latte, I shared a few baked treats with my companions, all of which are made in house.

Clockwise from top left: Ricotta Chocolate Chip Bread ($4), Olive Oil Muffin ($3), and Chocolate Croissant ($4)

Our selection included an olive oil muffin, chocolate croissant, and ricotta chocolate chip bread. The olive oil muffin and ricotta chocolate chip bread were moist and decadent, while the chocolate croissant had a beautiful shatter to the crust with a still-melted chocolate filling. Each of these sweets is excellent in its own right, and the prices are very reasonable for an establishment of this caliber ($3-$4 each). I was tempted to take some baked goods to go as well. Perhaps next time!

Contadino $14

My friends both ordered one of the most popular breakfast dishes on the menu, the Contadino, which is poached eggs served with seasonal vegetables. In this case, it the eggs were served atop roasted carrots, chicory, and sunchokes. Both of my friends were very pleased with their choices and allowed me to steal a bite as well. Delicious. Would happily consider this for my next visit to Maialino. I can see why it's so popular with regular diners.

Fagioli e Cotiche

I was tempted by a new dish on the menu, the Fagioli e Cotiche, a dish of white beans stewed with prosciutto skins and served with a sunnyside egg on top. Much like the rest of the menu, this dish appears to be seasonal, as it has already been removed from the offerings. I can't imagine anyone wanting stewed beans in the middle of summer anyway. For what its worth, I thought this was a delicious and comforting dish for a chilly morning. It was garnished with a bit too much parsley, in my opinion, but otherwise it was a solid meal, especially along with the charred Italian bread.

Our mid-week breakfast was made even more eventful once the table next to ours was seated. Imagine my surprise when I glanced over and saw Danny Meyer himself seated with a guest and enjoying breakfast just as we were. If it's good enough for Danny, its certainly good enough for me :) On our way out, I just paused to say hello to the man responsible for some of my favorite restaurants. I had met him previously at Gramercy Tavern and mentioned that during my hello. In typical fashion, he remembered me and exactly where at Gramercy we had run into each other. I was impressed and flattered. Meeting Danny again was an additional, unexpected highlight to my breakfast! Whether a future visit to Maialino includes a run-in with its owner or not, I would be thrilled to dine here again.

2 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10010


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