Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My New Electric Skillet

My mother-in-law gave me an electric skillet for Christmas, and I am thrilled. So far I've made meatballs and fried chicken, but I'm sure it's only the beginning of what will be a long and happy relationship. We use our griddle every weekend (pound of bacon and buttermilk pancakes) -- and I can see me doing the same here.

The secret ingredient in the meatballs is lemon zest, and my girl Giada and her marinara -- well I cannot say enough about her.

The fried chicken is a work in progress, I did the whole soak in buttermilk thing, but ever since I served bloody chicken to party guests at Kate's 3rd birthday party, I'm honestly a bit gun shy about the dish.

Meatballs (from the Perfect Party Food Cookbook)
2 lbs. of ground meat (I used leftover pork, meatloaf mix, beef)
1 c. finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 c. soft bread crumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
olive oil for frying

Marinara Sauce (from Everyday Italian)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 32oz. cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot, heat oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and galric and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2t. each of salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (from www.elise.com)
With a few notes:
1. I didn't use any veggies in the overnight buttermilk soak
2. It took WAY longer to cook the chicken (see note about serving bloody chicken above) -- I'd say it took at least 20 minutes longer
3. I didn't use all the cayenne pepper she calls for, I was worried it would be too spicy for the kids.

Pretty much a make again, although I served cold leftover fried chicken to the kids last night (which in my book is almost as good as a BLT), and got some negativity about the temperature of the meal. These kids need to expand their horizons!

Banana Cream Pie Redux

Fear not! I have conquered the banana cream pie... and all it took was a graham cracker crust, a little bit of gelatin and about 3 different saucepans. No worries, it was delicious. Kate wasn't thrilled, and Zachary refused to try it, but that just left more for me. Next is coconut cream....

Old-Fashioned Banana Cream Pie
From The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook (mine is from 1986)
1 1/4 c. milk
1/8 t. salt
3 eggs separated, at room temperature
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/4 t. ground nutmeg

1. Pre-bake a store bought graham cracker pie crust according to package directions.

2. In a heavy 1-qt. saucepan, beat milk, salt, egg yolks, and 1/4 c. sugar until well mixed. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over mixture; let stand 1 minute to soften gelatin slightly. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and coats a spoon (do not boil or mixture will curdle). Remove saucepan from heat; stir in vanilla. Refrigerate gelatin mixture, stirring occasionally, until mixture mounds slightly when dropped from a spoon, about 40 minutes.

3. In large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually sprinkle in 1/3 cup sugar, beating until sugar completely dissolves and whites stand in stiff peaks.

4. In small bowl, using same beaters, with mixer at medium speed, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form. With rubber spatula or wire shisk, gently fold whipped cream and gelatin mixture into egg whites. Spoon mixuture into pie shell; sprinkle filling with ground nutmeg. Refrigerate pie about 3 hours or until filling is set.

5. Line cooled pie shell with sliced bananas just before spooning in filling.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Dinner Party

So instead of having all our friends over at one time, we've decided to try and have grown-up, sit down, dinner parties. Our first attempt was last weekend, four couples (counting us) -- and, for the most part, I'd say it was a success.

Among our guests were two reknown neighborhood pastry chefs, and for some strange reason I thought I'd try to make a dessert I'd never made before -- some would say gutsy, some would say insane... so I made my own dough and everything, and created a raspberry chocolate tart (YUMMY).

I've also been sort of obsessed with the idea of banana cream pie, and found a recipe for sour cream bananna cream pie in the New York Times cookbook. I had the extra dough, all the ingredients, I figured, what the heck -- I'll throw that together too. Well I'm not sure what went wrong, perhaps it was the fat free sour cream, but to make a long story short, the pie never set and I served runny banana pudding on dough. My guests were very gracious, and said it was delicious, but it was quite unsightly.

BTW -- I made another banana cream pie today -- from good old Good Housekeeping Cookbook -- it's looking WAY better. I'll post more about that later...

Our menu:
Appetizers were Olive Tapenade and Parmesan Salsa
Grilled Tenderloin Steaks topped with blue cheese and scallions
Green Beans with shallots, garlic and lemon
Roasted potatoes
Dessert was raspberry chocolate tart and a failed banana cream pie experiment

The recipes:
Parmesan Salsa
1/3 lb. parmesan cheese
1/3 lb. asiago cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. dried oregano
1 t. freshly ground pepper
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

1. Chop the cheeses into small chunks and place in a food processor. Pulse until they are the size of peas.
2. Transfer the cheeses to a medium-sized bowl and add the garlic, oregano, black and red peppers and oil, stirring to blend.

Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 4 hours or refrigerate for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Olive Tapenade
1 c. green olives (pimento-stuffed)
1 c. pitted kalamata olives
1/2 c. capers, drained
1 T. anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, peeled
grated zest of lemon
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 t. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. packed chopped fresh Italian parsley

Put the olives, capers, anchovy paste and garlic in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Tranfer to a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve at room temperature.

Chocolate-Raspberry Tart (from Perfect Party Food by Diane Phillips)
1/2 c. seedless raspberry jam
1/4 c. Grand Marnier
One 9-in. pie shell, prebaked and cooled
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
One 12 oz. bag semisweet chocolate chips
Whipped cream and fresh raspberries for garnish

1. In a small bowl, blend together the jam and 2 T. of the liqueur. Spread over the bottom of the pie shell.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the cream and chocolate chips, stirring, over medium-low heat until the chocolate is melted. Reduce the heat to low and stir until the mixture thickens a bit. Remove from the heat and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
3. Add the remaining 2 T. of liqueur to the chocolate mixture. With an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy. Spread over the jam in the pie shell and smooth the top.
** At this point cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
4. Garnish each slice of the tart with a dollop of whipped cream and arrange a few berries on the plate.