Tag Archives: Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Swift and Simple Glazed Salmon

Salmon is one of those meals I don’t make very often but I really should make more of it. It is very good for you, but Michelle really only likes the Wild salmon, which does have a different taste and look than that of farm-raised salmon and tends to cost quite a bit more. For this reason, I really only get some when I notice it on sale and looking particularly good. This was the case recently when I saw some at Adam’s Farm and picked up a pound for us to have for dinner. The great thing about fish meals is that they take almost no time at all to prepare, and this simple dish from Cook’s Illustrated is no exception and gives the salmon a great Asian flavor.

Glazed Salmon

1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

1 (1 1/2 – 2-pound)skin-on salmon fillet


1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 recipe Asian Barbecue Glaze (to follow)

Asian Barbecue Glaze:

2 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2 teaspoons Asian chili-garlic sauce

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

For the Asian barbecue glaze, whisk all the ingredients together in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat; simmer until it is thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover the saucepan to keep the glaze warm until use.

For the salmon, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Combine the brown sugar, kosher salt and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Use a sharp knife to remove any whitish fat from the belly of the salmon and then cut the fillet into 4 equal portions. Pat the fillets dry with paper towels and season with pepper. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture evenly over the top of the flesh side of the salmon fillets, rubbing it to distribute it evenly.

Heat oil in a large, oven-safe nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until it is just smoking.  Place the salmon, flesh side down, in the skillet and cook until it is well browned, about 1 minute. Using tongs, carefully flip the salmon and cook it on the skin side for about 1 minute.

Remove the skillet from the heat and spoon the Asian barbecue glaze evenly over all the salmon fillets. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until the fillets register 125 degrees (for medium-rare) and are still translucent when cut into with a paring knife, about 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer the fillets to a serving platter or individual plates and serve.

The brown sugar on the salmon helps it develop a nice crust when you first sear it while the cornstarch helps the glaze to adhere nicely to the fish. You end up with a beautiful pink salmon with just a nice crust and a great glaze to top it off. The whole meal can be cooked in about 20 minutes. I served this with white rice and spinach, though I also had a bit of the leftover Fall vegetable risotto with mine instead of the white rice. It was very good and simple enough to make anytime you have salmon and just want a quick and easy meal.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for some more recipes. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!


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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Cooking, Dinner, Sauce, Seafood


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Great Fall Soups #2 – Classic Corn Chowder

We had made a couple of different soups this week that were great for dinner and lunches. Yesterday. I posted the recipe for the bean and barley soup we made. Today, it is the classic corn chowder we made for dinner one night. This recipe comes from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, but I did modify it slightly to fit a little better with ingredients we had on hand and make things a little easier. While you can still get fresh corn on the cob this time of year, it is not as good as the nice local corn we see in the summertime months here in New York. We  used a combination of fresh and frozen instead, even though the recipe calls for all fresh. We also used bacon instead of salt pork mainly because that is what we had on hand. I think the taste worked out just as well anyway.

Classic Corn Chowder

10 ears corn, husks and silks removed ( or three 1-pound bags frozen corn kernels)

3 ounces salt pork, rind removed, cut into two 1-inch cubes (or 3 slices bacon, diced)

1 tablespoon butter

1 large onion, chopped fine

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups chicken broth

12 ounces red potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Salt and pepper

Using a paring knife, cut the kernels from 4 ears of corn. You should have about 3 cups of kernels. Grate the kernels from the remaining 6 ears of corn on the large holes of a box grater into a bowl, then firmly scrape the pulp remaining on the cobs with the back of a butter knife or vegetable peeler. You should have about 2 cups of grated kernels and corn pulp.

Saute the salt pork in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, turning with tongs and pressing down on the pieces to render the fat, until the cubes are crisp and golden brown, about 10 minutes. If you are using bacon, saute the bacon until it is crisp and then remove it from the pot and reserve. Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the butter and onion, cover, and cook until the onion is softened, about 12 minutes. Remove the salt pork and reserve. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Whisking constantly, gradually add the chicken broth. Add the grated corn and the corn pulp, potatoes, milk, thyme, bay leaf and reserved salt pork or bacon and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the reserved corn kernels and heavy cream and return it to a simmer. Simmer until the corn kernels are tender and yet still slightly crunchy, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and salt pork. Stir in the parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Since we used mostly frozen corn, here is what we did with the first step. We 2 cups of the frozen corn and about 1/4 cup of water and ran it through the food processor for about 30 seconds to create the corn pulp and juice that is used in the recipe. We then used the rest of the frozen corn kernels in place of the corn taken off the cobs. We also used the immersion blender towards the end of the cooking to blend up some of the soup itself to make it a bit smoother while still retaining much of the corn itself. I think it turned out very well and we got a bit of a thicker chowder, which I really liked. It was even better the next day for lunches.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for more recipes. I have some beer braised chicken, a London broil with horseradish sauce and some homemade Parker House rolls still to come, among many other recipes. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!



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Posted by on October 13, 2013 in Cooking, Dinner, One Pot Meals, Soups & Stews


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An Abundance of Apples Means Homemade Apple Pie

It is one of the classic recipes that most people love to try at home in the Fall whether it is for a holiday, a Sunday dessert or just because they love it. Of course, I am talking about apple pie. I love apple pie myself and could eat a lot more of it if I had the chance. Since this is apple season and we live in the Hudson Valley in New York, apples are everywhere right now. There are many great local orchards here where you can get fantastic apples to use for all kinds of cooking, baking and just plain eating. We had picked up some apples recently and Michelle knew right away that she wanted to make apple pie, which made Sean and me quite happy. I love the smell of the pie just cooking in the oven and the taste is always fantastic. There are many different pie dough recipes out there, so use the one you like best or use store-bought pie dough if that’s what you have time for. Michelle tried this recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook.

Classic Apple Pie

1 recipe for double-crust pie dough or 2 store-bought pie doughs

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

2 pounds Empire or Cortland apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Roll 1 disk of pie dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured counter. Loosely roll the dough around the rolling pin and gently unroll it into a 9-inch pie plate.,letting the excess hang over the edge. Ease the dough into the pie plate by gently lifting the edge of the dough with 1 hand while pressing the dough into the plate bottom with the other hand. Leave any dough that overhangs the plate in place. Wrap the dough-lined pie plate loosely in plastic wrap and refrigerate until the dough is firm, about 30 minutes. Roll the other disk of dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured counter, then transfer it to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack and heat the oven to 500 degrees.

Mix 3/4 cup of sugar, the flour, lemon zest, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice together in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and apples and toss until combined. Spread the apples with their juices into the dough-lined pie plate, mounding them slightly in the middle. Loosely roll the remaining dough round around the rolling pin and gently unroll it onto the filling. Trim the overhang to 1/2 inch beyond the lip of the pie plate. Pinch the edges of the top and bottom crusts firmly together. Tuck the overhang under itself; the folded edge should be flush with the edge of the plate. Crimp the dough evenly around the edge of the pie using your fingers. Cut four 2-inch slits in the top of the dough. Brush the surface with the beaten egg white and sprinkle the surface evenly with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Place the  pie on the heated baking sheet, reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees, and bake until the crust is light golden brown, about 25 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees, rotate the baking sheet, and continue to bake until the juices are bubbling and the crust is a deep golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes longer. Let the pie cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 4 hours, before serving.

Now I know everyone has their own pie recipe that their family has used for generations and may have their own particular way of making apple pie. If you like what you have, stick to it and use that. If you are looking for something new to try or have never made one before, this is a good recipe to try out. The pie came out perfectly with the crust a great color and cooked well on the top and bottom. Heating the baking sheet before putting the pie in helps to make sure the bottom crust is cooked. You also want to try to use a mix of apples to get a good blend of sweet and tart for great flavor. Again, use the apples you like best, but the pie experts we know seem to recommend Empires and Cortlands as the best to go with.

That’s all I have for today. Check back again for some more recipes. There’s always lots more to come, including two recipes I just made for some different soups we tried here at home, a beer braised chicken thighs recipe, sausages, and more. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!



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Posted by on October 10, 2013 in Cooking, Dessert, Pie


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Party or Picnic Panzanella Salad

Quite often in the summertime I find myself invited to a barbecue or a party and looking for something to make to bring over. A lot of the time it may be a last-minute get-together and I will not have a lot of time to put something together or not have all the ingredients needed to make something like a pie or fruit salad. If you want to make something that will hold up well in any type of weather then a good alternative for you is to try this recipe for an Italian bread salad, or Panzanella Salad. You can find all kinds of recipes for this, but I used this very simple one from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook and it worked out great.

Panzanella Salad (Italian Bread Salad)

1 (1-pound) loaf Italian or French bread, cut or torn into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced thin

1 shallot, sliced thin

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the bread pieces with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt; arrange the bread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast the bread pieces until they are just starting to turn a light golden color, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring the bread halfway through the baking process. Set the bread aside and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Gently toss the tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. Transfer the tomatoes to a colander set over a bowl; set it aside to drain for 15 minutes, tossing the tomatoes occasionally.

Whisk the remaining 6 tablespoons of olive oil, the red wine vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper into the reserved tomato juices. Add the bread pieces, toss to  coat and let stand for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Add the tomatoes, cucumber, shallot and basil to the bowl with the bread pieces and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

There are a couple of things that can really make this easy recipe great. Since this is the time of year you will start to see some really good, fresh local tomatoes, use the best that you have or can find for a recipe like this. The flavor of the tomatoes makes all the difference. Even if you don’t have whole tomatoes on hand, if you have some great, fresh cherry tomatoes, simply halve those and use them and it will turn out fine. Using a really good olive oil here can make a big difference too. I keep a good extra-virgin olive oil on hand for flavoring things like this and the fruity flavor it adds really helps this dish. Also, use only fresh basil here, not the jarred spices. There’s nothing like some fresh basil with tomatoes. Just the smell alone is usually good enough for me, but it adds great flavor too. If you have a really dense loaf of bread, you may find that you do not need to use all of it for this recipe. Adjust the amount of bread you use based on that.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for some other recipes I have done or am working on.  I have a great bay scallop recipe I just tried the another night to put up here and I have lots of good things to choose from in the freezer right now to make some great meals, so keep checking back. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!


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Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Cookbooks, Picnic Fare, Salad, Side Dishes


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Taking the High (Roasted Chicken) Road

While this may not be the recipe you want to try while going through a heat wave as we seem to be here in New York the last couple of days, there are times where high roasting a chicken can be an ideal strategy. When you may not have a great amount of time to spend roasting a chicken and would like  that wonderfully crispy skin that you can get from roasting you can give it a try. The danger with high roasting of course is that you can really dry out the meat and create a lot of smoke if you aren’t careful. This recipe, from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, combats both problems. They butterfly the chicken so it stays moist and roast it on a broiler pan over potatoes so that potatoes absorb the dripping fat, thus no smoke and a very nice side dish is created all in one.

Crisp-Skin High-Roast Butterflied Chicken and Potatoes

1 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) whole chicken, giblets removed

Salt and pepper

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced to 1/4 inch thick

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter, softened

With a pair of kitchen or poultry shears, cut along both sides of the backbone of the chicken to remove it. Flatten the breastbone and tuck the wings behind the back. Dissolve 1/2 cup of salt and the sugar in 2 quarts of cold water in a large container. Submerge the chicken in the brine, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour (if you are using a kosher chicken you can skip this step).

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Line a broiler pan bottom with aluminum foil. Toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 3/4 teaspoon of pepper in a bowl. Spread the potatoes evenly in the prepared broiler pan bottom and cover them with the broiler pan top.

Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse it thoroughly and pat it dry with paper towels. Using your fingers, gently loosen the center portion of skin covering the breast and thighs. Place the softened butter under the skin directly on the meat in the center of each side of the breast and on the thighs. Gently press on the skin to distribute the butter over the meat.Rub the skin with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season well with pepper. Place the chicken on the broiler pan top and push each leg up to rest between the thigh and the breast.

Roast the chicken until the skin has crisped and turned a deep brown, the breast registers 160 degrees and the thighs register 175 degrees, about 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the roasting. Transfer the chicken to a carving board and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

While the chicken rests, remove the broiler pan top and, using paper towels, soak up any excess grease from the potatoes. Transfer the potatoes to a serving platter. Carve the chicken, transfer it to a platter with the potatoes and serve.

There’s nothing like really crispy chicken and this recipe sure gives it to you. The potatoes were also a great treat as well since they absorb some of the flavor of the chicken as well. I actually put them under the broiler for a few minutes while the chicken rested to crisp them up a bit before they were done. I had also put one sliced onion in with the potatoes for some extra flavor. I think you could try this if you have a lot of chicken pieces you are looking to cook, but you need to keep a close eye on them as they will cook faster than the whole chicken and you don’t want to dry them out. It’s a great way to get a juicy, whole bird with great skin in under an hour. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of this one when I cooked it so I don’t have one to display, but trust me, it was great.

That’s all for today. Check back next time for some more recipes, including a chicken stir fry, pork tenderloin, a panzanella salad and more. I am planning to cook out on the grill some this week since it is warm here right now, so we’ll see what we can do. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day, and enjoy your meal!


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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Cooking, Dinner, One Pot Meals, Poultry


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Quick and Easy One Pot Chicken and Rice

As the weather starts to warm up and we move closer and closer to summertime, not only will more people be grilling and cooking out, but you also want to make meals that are quick and easy to cook and can all be done in one pot or pan. I’ve made chicken and rice before in different ways but I came across this recipe in the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook and saw how easy it was and thought it would make a great weeknight meal. Dinner for anyone during the week can get a little hectic, so if you have a recipe like this in your arsenal that you can pull out any time you have some chicken, it can make things a lot easier. While this particular recipe uses a whole chicken, I actually substituted since I only had chicken thighs on hand and used them exclusively.

Chicken and Rice With Tomatoes, White Wine, and Parsley

1 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces (4 breast pieces, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
2 cups water
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained with 1/2 cup of juice reserved
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Place the chicken skin side down in the pot and cook until it is well browned, about 6 to 8 minutes, reducing the heat if the pan begins to scorch. Flip the chicken skin side up and continue to cook until lightly browned on the second side, about 3 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot, add the onion, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until it is well coated and glistening, about 1 minute. Stir in the water, tomatoes with the reserved juice, white wine, and 1 teaspoon of salt, scraping up any browned bits. Nestle the chicken thighs and legs into the pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Nestle the chicken breast pieces into the pot and stir the ingredients gently until the rice is thoroughly mixed; cover and simmer until both the rice and the chicken are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes longer. Stir in the parsley, cover, and allow the dish to sit for 5 minutes.

One of the things you want to be sure of is that you stir the rice as the dish goes along. When you cook a meal of this nature, some of the rice tends to get undercooked if you just leave it alone without mixing it up as you go along.The recipe actually puts the breasts in after the other chicken has started cooking so they do not dry out and get overcooked while the dark meat pieces cook.There are many different variations you can try on this – if you want to change it around every time you make it. You could certainly add different spices such as paprika, cilantro, saffron, cumin or even things such as bell peppers, peas, chili peppers, olives, anchovies or some lemon or lime juice. The combinations seem nearly endless depending on what exactly you want to go for. As I said before, you can use whatever pieces of chicken you happen to have on hand if you do not have a whole chicken. The meal only took about a half an hour to cook and clean up was a breeze since everything was done all in one pot.

That’s all I have for today. Check back again later on in the week as I’ll have some of the recipes of things I have cooked recently or things I am planning for later on in the week. I already made some chicken sandwiches, Alton Brown’s potato salad recipe and some braised pork chops with cherries, among other things. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!


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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Cookbooks, Cooking, Dinner, One Pot Meals, Poultry, Rice


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A Chilly Day Calls for Spaghetti and Meatballs for a Crowd

I know it’s not the ideal start to a long weekend when two days ago it was 85° out and I was looking to turn the air conditioner on and then we wake up this morning and it’s 42° outside and windy and rainy. Since the weekend doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better until Monday, today is a good day to do a recipe for a classic spaghetti and meatballs. This recipe, from Cook’s Illustrated, is designed if you’re cooking for a large crowd so you want to keep that in mind if you are going to use this recipe. When I do it for just the three of us I generally have to adjust it down a little bit and we still end up with enough sauce and meatballs left over where we can freeze some for another several meals.

Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs for a Crowd


2 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons water
2 pounds 85% lean ground beef
1 pound ground pork
3 large eggs
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
6 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, grated
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
6 cups tomato juice
6 tablespoons dry white wine
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

3 pound spaghetti
2 tablespoons salt
Grated Parmesan cheese

For the meatballs: adjust oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions and heat the oven to 450°. Set wire racks into aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheets and spray the racks with vegetable oil spray.

Combine the bread crumbs and the buttermilk in a large bowl and let sit, mashing occasionally with a fork, until a smooth paste forms, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and allow it to soften for 5 minutes.

Mix the ground beef, ground pork, eggs, Parmesan, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and gelatin mixture into the bread crumb mixture using your hands. Pinch off and roll the mixture into 2-inch meatballs (about 40 meatballs total) and arrange on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the meatballs are well browned, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking process.

For the sauce: while the meatballs bake, heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, wine, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.

Remove the meatballs from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 300°. Gently nestled the meatballs into the sauce. Cover, transfer to the oven, and cook until the meatballs are firm and the sauce has thickened, about one hour. The sauce in the meatballs can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 2 days. To re-heat, drizzle 1/2 cup of water over the sauce, without stirring, and re-heat on the lower-middle rack of a 325° oven for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, bring 10 quarts of water to a boil in a large 12-quart pot. Add the pasta and salt and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Gently stir the basil and parsley into the sauce and season with sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Add 2 cups of sauce (without meatballs) to the pasta and toss to combine. Add the reserved cooking water as needed to adjust the consistency. Serve, topping the individual portions with more tomato sauce and several meatballs and passing the Parmesan cheese

As I said, this recipe makes a lot of food. They outline it as having enough to serve 12 people, but if you make the full recipe I think it could even serve more than that. I have always gotten more than 40 meatballs out of the recipe so we always have plenty left over for uses down the road. Their recipe also calls for some prosciutto to be used in the meatball mixture, which I leave out. I do like the way that the meatballs come out when they are baked in the oven and then the entire concoction with the sauce is placed in the oven again. The thickness of the sauce and the taste of the meatballs seems to be a lot better to me. You could easily served this with any type of pasta that you wish and I love to make some garlic bread to go along with it.

That’s the recipe for today. We did some shopping this morning so I did get a few things and to make over the next few days or so. Tonight I’ll be making a pork tenderloin dinner so you can check back for the recipe on that one. I also picked up some baby back ribs and the makings for some meatloaf so will be having those this week as well. I do plan to head up to Adams and see if they have anything else interesting that we might use for dinner this week. Check back and see what we come up with. Until then, enjoy the rest of your rainy day and enjoy your meal!


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Posted by on May 25, 2013 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Pasta, Sauce


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A Down Home Meal: Fried Chicken and Cornbread

As soon as I saw this recipe in a recent version of the Dining section of The New York Times a few weeks ago I knew I was going to have to give it a try. It’s a very basic recipe for fried chicken without all the bells and whistles of breadcrumbs, crushed cereal, saltine crackers, and various spices. This is just good, simple ingredients that you don’t need much to do. All you need is a good cast-iron skillet, a cut-up chicken, some flour and some oil and you are good to go. The recipe almost sounded too easy and I wondered how good it was actually going to come out. I was not disappointed in the results. While the recipe was posted in the newspaper a few weeks ago, it actually comes from Southern Living.

Southern Living’s Best Fried Chicken

1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon salt
1 chicken with skin, about 2 1/2 pounds, cut up into 8 pieces
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable oil
1/4 cup bacon drippings (or use more oil)

Combined 1 tablespoon of the salt with 3 quarts of water in a large bowl or container. Add the chicken, cover, and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse with cold water, and pat dry.

Stir together the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper. Sprinkle half the mixture evenly over the chicken. In a large sealable plastic bag, combine the remaining pepper mixture and the flour. Add two pieces of chicken to the bag and shake well to coat. Remove the chicken pieces, shaking off any extra flour, and set them aside. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken.

Take a large cast-iron skillet or chicken fryer, for which you have a lid, and fit with a candy or deep-frying thermometer. Add the oil and bacon drippings and heat to 360° over medium heat; the oil will ripple and possibly give off a few wisps of smoke.

Using a pair of tongs, immediately add chicken pieces, skin side down (work in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan). The oil temperature will drop to about 325°, where it should stay; adjust the heat so that the oil is bubbling gently around the chicken pieces. Cover the pan and cook for 6 minutes; uncover the pan and cook for 9 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces; re-cover the pan and cook for another 6 minutes. Uncover the pan and cook for another 5 to 9 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. If necessary for even browning, turn the pieces over a few times towards the end. Remove the pieces and drain on paper towels or in a paper bag. Repeat the process with any remaining chicken pieces. Allow the chicken to cool at least 20 minutes before serving.

There are a couple of notes that go along with this recipe that they pointed out in the article that I think to make a difference to the way the chicken comes out. First, if the chicken is larger than 2 1/2 pounds, you should cut each breast in half so that you have a total of 10 pieces. This will help for more even cooking and keep the pieces to a smaller portion size. Also, I would not use olive oil for this recipe as a substitute for vegetable oil. Olive oil tends to leave a particular taste on the food that you are cooking in it, and this is not the type of meal where you want that to happen. The article itself actually recommends using grapeseed oil, but I do not have any grapeseed oil and I find it to be very expensive to purchase. I simply used the vegetable oil, but you could also use peanut oil or canola oil instead. I did not add the bacon drippings and used more oil instead since we don’t make bacon very often around the house anymore and I didn’t see the need.

Brining the chicken for this recipe does seem to make a good difference in the flavor and the moistness of chicken after it is fried. Not everyone always has the time to do it, but if you are planning ahead and you know you’ll have the time and the space in your refrigerator, I would recommend doing it. Finally, the article highly recommends using a cast-iron skillet for this recipe. I keep mine on the stove pretty much all the time to use for a wide variety of recipes and it was perfect for the chicken. It is plenty deep enough for the amount of oil that you use (and I actually use less oil than the recipe called for and I think it turned out fine), but you do want to make sure that you have some type of cover to put over the chicken.Overall, I loved the crunch of the chicken and there was not too much crust as often happens with fried chicken that has a thick batter. The chicken itself was very moist and cooked perfectly.

To go along with the recipe, I did make some mashed potatoes and coleslaw. I also had some extra cornmeal laying around so I decided that it would be a good opportunity to try and make some cornbread. I’ve made cornbread before and posted the recipe on this blog, but in the past I have made Southern-style cornbread that is made right in the cast-iron skillet. Since I was already using my cast-iron skillet for the chicken, I needed to find a little bit of a different recipe to use. The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook has a good, general all-purpose cornbread recipe that you could easily use for this or use as part of a stuffing if you are going to want leftovers for that purpose.

All-Purpose Cornbread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400°. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with the vegetable oil spray. Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl until well combined; set aside.

In a food processor or blender, process the brown sugar, corn kernels, and buttermilk until combined, about 5 seconds. Add the eggs and process until well combined (some corn lumps will remain), about 5 seconds longer.

Using a rubber spatula, make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; pour the wet ingredients into the well. Begin folding the dry ingredients into the wet, giving the mixture only a few turns to barely combine. Add the melted butter and continue folding until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and smooth the surface with the rubber spatula.

Bake until the cornbread is a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutes. Allow the cornbread to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert the pan onto the wire rack, and turn right side up and allow the cornbread to cool until just warm, about 10 minutes longer, and serve. Leftover cornbread can be wrapped in aluminum foil and re-heated in a 350° oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Adding the extra corn in with the cornmeal gave it up pretty nice flavor, and the combination with the light brown sugar really did give some extra sweetness to the bread. I also like the golden crust that came out on this bread. The recipe recommends using Quaker yellow cornmeal and I guess that is what the recipe was designed for. I only had a stone-ground cornmeal on hand, and the bread did come out a little bit drier, just as the recipe had indicated it might.

Those of the recipes for today. Next time out, I’ll be posting the recipe that I used just last night for some scallops with a carrot cream. Check back for that one and see if you like it. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Breads, Cooking, Dinner, Poultry


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Easy French Toast with Blueberry Sauce

Every once in a while we decided to bake something a little fancier for breakfast. Yesterday, Michelle woke up and decided she would like to have some French toast. French toast is not something I make at all really, mainly because it’s not one of my particular favorites. In my opinion, a lot of French toast that you get is pretty soggy and has too much egg for my particular taste. Anyway, I was more than happy to make some for Michelle and Sean and chose to use this recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook.

French Toast

8 large slices hearty white sandwich bread or challah bread
1 1/2 cups milk, warmed
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter +2 tablespoons melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300°. Place the bread on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet. Bake the bread until it is almost dry throughout (the center should remain slightly moist), about 16 minutes, flipping the slices half way through the baking. Remove the bread from the rack and allow it to cool for five minutes. Return the baking sheet with the wire rack to the oven and reduce the temperature to 200°.

Whisk the milk, egg yolks, sugar, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl until well blended. Soak the bread in the milk mixture until it is saturated but not falling apart, about 20 seconds per side. Using a slotted spatula, pick up one bread slice and allow the excess milk mixture to drip off; repeat the process with the remaining slices. Place the soaked bread on another baking sheet or platter.

Melt half a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Using a slotted spatula, transfer two slices of the soaked bread to the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the bread and continue to cook on the second side until it is golden brown about 3 to 4 minutes longer. If the toast is cooking too quickly, reduce the temperature slightly. Transfer the toast to a baking sheet in the oven. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels. Repeat the cooking process with the remaining bread, two pieces at a time, adding a half tablespoon of butter for each batch that you cook. Serve warm.

I think it came out pretty well myself considering I’m no French toast expert and Michelle and Sean both seem to really enjoy it. It was a little more work toasting the bread before you actually make the French toast, but I think it came out better because the bread isn’t nearly as soggy as I’ve seen in the past. I think between using only the yolks of the egg and adding some melted butter to liquid it gives the toast a chance to be not nearly as soggy and a little more rich.

I also decided that I wanted to make a little bit of blueberry sauce to go along with the French toast. I had just bought some blueberries at the store the other day and they looked pretty good. This recipe makes quite a bit of sauce, a lot more than what was needed for the French toast, but we have it on hand now and I think it’ll be great to use with things like ice cream, cake or even in your oatmeal in the morning.

Blueberry Sauce

2 cups fresh blueberries

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wash and crush the blueberries in a medium bowl. Add the sugar, lemon juice and salt and mix well. Place the mixture in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Boil for 1 minute and then add the vanilla. Remove from the heat and chill until serving.

It’s a pretty useful sauce that I think you find you’ll be able to work it into a lot of other areas if you want to use it. It’ll go just as well on pancakes as it would for French toast that’s for sure.

That’s all there is for today. I’ll have some more recipes for you tomorrow. I will likely be posting the fried chicken recipe I used that I got from the New York Times recently. I also have several other recipes to try out for this week, so check back in see what I use. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on May 20, 2013 in Breakfast, Cooking, Sauce


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Mother’s Day Dinner Part 4 – Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Okay, this is the finale of the recipes that I used for Mother’s Day dinner last week. It includes our vegetable course, which was a wilted spinach salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette and a simple tomato and mozzarella appetizer to start off the meal. Let’s start with the tomato appetizer, which is quick and simple and great for any time when you have a couple of fresh tomatoes around and are looking for something to do with them.

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced

3 ripe tomatoes, sliced

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.Gradually add the olive oil while whisking until well blended.Spread the tomato slices on a large plate or platter and lightly salt the tomatoes. Cover the tomatoes with the mozzarella slices. Drizzle the dressing over the tomatoes and mozzarella. Sprinkle the chopped basil on top and serve.

It is super quick and easy to make anytime. You could even add some salad greens into the mix and make it as a salad course if you choose to go that way.

Now for the spinach salad. This really only works well with fresh spinach, but everyone loved the combination here, so I think this one is a keeper. I got the recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, so you can find it in there if you want to take a look.

Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

6 ounces baby spinach

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Pinch salt

8 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 red onion, chopped medium

1 small garlic clove, minced

3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered (optional)

Place the spinach on a large bowl. Stir the vinegar, sugar, pepper and salt together in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour the fat into a heatproof bowl and the return 3 tablespoons of the fat to the skillet. Add the onion to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes; stir in the garlic until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the vinegar mixture, then remove the skillet from the heat; working quickly, scrape the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to loosen and remove any browned bits. Pour the hot dressing over the spinach, add the bacon and toss gently with tongs until the spinach is slightly wilted. Arrange the egg quarters, if using, over the top of the salad and serve.

Again, you could easily use this as a salad course or as a side dish. I chose not to use the eggs and used this as our vegetable side for the meal. One thing to keep in mind when you add the vinegar to your skillet – move your face away from it as you pour the vinegar into a hot pan. It releases a very potent vapor that can be unpleasant to get right in your face. It will surely clear out your sinuses if that is what you are looking for, otherwise, take some caution and move away. Bacon and spinach go really well together and with the spinach barely wilted you still get the nice texture of the spinach with the crisp bacon.

So that finally wraps up Mother’s Day. I have a number of other recipes to come here in the next few days and this week, including a very garlicky shrimp scampi, making spaghetti and meatballs for a crowd, some fried chicken and cornbread, the Ethiopian beef stir fry, a great new scallops recipe and more. Keep checking back to see what comes next  I promise to be better about taking the pictures from now on :). Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!



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