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Dessert in a Flash – You’ll Love These Lemon Squares

Very often I find the need to make a dessert item at the last minute. It could be that someone is stopping by for a visit or coffee, we get invited someplace, or we just feel like having something sweet for dessert ourselves at home. Whatever the reason, sometimes I want to go beyond what a box of brownie mix can offer. There’s nothing wrong with boxed brownies; we use them often, and you can jazz them up in a number of ways to make them seem like they are homemade. However, I don’t always want to have chocolate, so having a good fallback dessert that you can make with what you have in your pantry is a good option. That is why these lemon squares are perfect. They only require a few ingredients, and they are all things you always have around in the house so in under an hour you can have a great tasting dessert that seems like you put a lot of work into it. I got this recipe from Dena Kleiman at New York Times Cooking, and it worked out perfectly.

Lemon Squares

2 cups flour, plus 1/4 cup

½ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus 2 teaspoons

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

4 eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

cup lemon juice (from about 1 to 2 lemons)

½ teaspoon baking powder

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together two cups of flour, 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar and the salt. Add the melted butter and stir the ingredients to thoroughly combine them. Spread the crust with clean hands in an even layer into a 9-by-13-inch pan and bake the crust for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, lemon juice, baking powder and the remaining flour. Pour the lemon mixture onto the hot baked shell and bake it for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is just set. Using a small, fine-meshed sieve, sift the remaining confectioners’ sugar on top of the lemon squares once they have cooled. Cut the dessert into equal-sized bars.

It’s quite simple to make, and it tastes great. You get that fantastic lemon flavor you love in desserts like this with just the right amount of chewiness and crunch. These squares are perfect for any occasion, whether you are looking for something to bring to someone’s home, are making a bunch of cookies for a cookie swap or holiday party or just want to have a tasty treat at home to go nicely for a dessert or with a cup of coffee or tea.Depending on how big you cut the squares, you can get about 16 to 20 squares, so there are plenty to go around. I’ll be using this recipe again because it is so easy to make.

That’s all I have for today. Work has kept me pretty busy lately, so I don’t have as much time as I want to blog, but I am going to try to get here a few times this week to try and get caught up with things (though getting caught up seems to be a rarity these days). Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Cookies, Cooking, Dessert, Snacks

 

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Some Indoor Barbecue – Oven Roasted Maple Chicken and Ribs

Those that follow this blog know I have long lamented about the inability I have to use an outdoor grill here. New York State laws don’t allow condos and apartments to own gas or charcoal grills, and the electric grill, while doing its job, didn’t really offer that much in the way of a good grilling experience. This has left me to my own devices when it comes to grilling, meaning I do what I can indoors with the oven and stovetop. While I will never get the great smell of outdoor grill cooking or the fantastic grill marks (though my grill pan does a good job, it just isn’t the same), I still like to make barbecue flavors when I can inside. For some reason not that long ago I had a craving for some barbecued chicken and ribs. Now, making barbecued chicken and ribs is nothing out of the ordinary – all you need are your chicken pieces, ribs and some barbecue sauce mainly – I wanted something that was going to give us some different flavor and a bit of that barbecue feel. I came across this recipe at New York Times Cooking from Nigella Lawson for oven roasted maple chicken and ribs that offered the unique flavor I was going for with that roasted, not-quite-barbecued method.

Oven Roasted Maple Chicken and Ribs

1 cup apple cider or juice

¼ cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

6 unpeeled garlic cloves

½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)

8 pork spareribs, separated

6 chicken thighs with skin and bone (or other chicken pieces)

In a small mixing bowl whisk together the apple cider, maple syrup, vegetable oil and soy sauce. Add the star anise, cinnamon stick, garlic cloves and the hot pepper flakes (if using) and stir the ingredients to combine them well.

In a large freezer bag or bowl, combine the pork ribs and chicken pieces. Pour in the apple cider mixture, and seal the bag or cover the bowl. Refrigerate the meat overnight or up to 2 days.

Remove the marinated mixture from the refrigerator, and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour the contents of the bag or bowl (including the marinating liquid) into a large enough roasting pan to avoid crowding the meat. Turn the chicken pieces, so they are skin side up.

Roast the meat until the chicken is opaque throughout and the ribs are tender, about 1 1/4 hours; 35 to 40 minutes into roasting turn the ribs over, but leave the chicken skin side up and turn the heat to 425 degrees to increase browning, if desired.

When the chicken and ribs are finished roasting, there will be quite a lot of fat in the sauce. Strain the sauce and use a fat separator to remove the excess. Place the meat in a large dish along with the strained sauce and serve hot.

While there is not much to the original recipe, I did make a couple of slight variations of my own. To the marinade, I did add 1/2 a teaspoon of liquid smoke so I could get a smokier flavor from the meat. It worked out quite nicely for both the chicken and the ribs. I did not add all the marinating liquid into the roasting pan when I put the meat in. Instead, I changed the cooking method a bit. I put half the marinade in the pan and covered the roasting pan for the first 60 minutes with aluminum foil to give the meat a chance to cook and keep some of the juices in, then removed the foil for the next thirty minutes and cooked the chicken and ribs this way. For the last twenty to thirty minutes, I basted the chicken and ribs with the remaining sauce so that the meat got a nice coating of the sauce and had more of a “barbecued” look to it. I then placed the meat under the broil for a minute or two for some final coloring. While I think working with the original recipe will turn things just fine, I believe that this method turned out moister meat and more tender ribs and chicken that were not dried out. I really liked the maple flavor of the ribs and the chicken, and you could easily make this for a crowd if you have a big enough roasting pan where the meat does not get crowded, so it steams. I served this with some grilling sides like green beans, cole slaw, and corn to round out the grilling experience (cornbread would go nicely here too).

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

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Posted by on April 12, 2017 in Cooking, Dinner, Grilling, Pork, Poultry, Uncategorized

 

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Christmas Morning – Recipes from NYT Cooking

When you work through the frenzy that can often go along with Christmas morning, there is nothing better than sitting down as a family and having a nice, fun breakfast to start out the day. New York Times Cooking has put together some great Christmas breakfast ideas so you can have as little or as much as you want after you finish opening up those presents. Check it out!

Source: Christmas Morning – Recipes from NYT Cooking

 

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Quick, Easy and Delicious – You Can Make This Simple Crusty Bread

If you follow the blog regularly then you know that I write a lot about baking bread. For me, bread baking is a relaxing endeavor and I love the taste and smell of homemade bread more than anything you can buy from the supermarket. Of course, not everyone has time to put into making fresh loaves of bread all of the time. It can be a process and take several hours and a lot of people just feel like it is not worth the effort.But what if you could make fresh loaves of bread that were as easy as possible? Wouldn’t it be great if you could have fresh bread for the sandwich for work tomorrow or to go with your dinner tonight? It can happen if you make use of this recipe from Nick Fox from New York Times Cooking. The idea of the recipe comes from Jeff Hertzberg, a doctor from Minneapolis, who worked to streamline the bread-making process. Now you can have no fuss bread with just a little bit of effort on your part.

Simple Crusty Bread

1 ½ tablespoons yeast

1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt

6 ½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough

Cornmeal

In a large bowl or plastic container, mix the yeast and the salt into 3 cups of lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in the flour, mixing the flour into the water mixture until there are no dry patches. The dough will be quite loose. Cover the bowl or container, but not with an airtight lid. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).

Bake the bread at this point or refrigerate the dough, covered, for as long as two weeks. When you are ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on the dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn the dough in your hands to lightly stretch the surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put the dough on a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; allow the dough to rest for about 40 minutes. Repeat the process with the remaining dough or refrigerate it.

Place broiler pan on the bottom of the oven. Place a baking stone on the middle rack and turn the oven to 450 degrees; heat the stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

Dust the dough with flour, slash the top of the dough with a serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide the dough onto the stone. Pour one cup of hot water into the broiler pan and shut the oven quickly to trap the steam. Bake the bread until it is well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Okay, so you can’t make a fresh, homemade loaf bread in 30 minutes but once you have let the dough rise at room temperature and refrigerated it, the hard part is over. It then just becomes taking a portion, letting it rest for 40 minutes and cooking it. This recipe makes enough for 4 loaves of bread so you can get plenty of use out of it. The dough itself is rather sticky when you make it but it is still pretty easy to work with. You don’t have to go through all of the kneading and everything else to prepare it. Once you put it in the oven you can brown it to your liking and it is great for any meal, to use for toast, sandwiches or just to have fresh bread around when you want it. You can even bake all 4 loaves at once and freeze the excess until you want to use it so you always have fresh bread around. I have used this recipe several times to make quicker bread when I know we are having people over for dinner and I want some fresh bread for the meal. It is flavorful, crusty and has a great chew. The picture I took is of loaves that aren’t quite as browned as I normally like but they are still quite good.

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

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Posted by on October 26, 2016 in Breads, Dinner, Lunch, Side Dishes

 

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A Lazy Day of Leftovers – Chicken Tarragon Pot Pie

If you are like me, there are probably many nights during the week where you make a meal and then end up with a bunch of different leftovers that you may or may not know how to use. It is not unusual to get tired of having the same meal two or three times a week just because you do not want to throw away perfectly good food but are not sure what you can do with those leftover chicken pieces or leftover vegetables. It is times like this where potpie can come to the rescue. Potpie is a great meal to put together just about any time of the year and you can do it with any type of protein (or no protein at all if you are vegetarian) and vegetables. The only real effort that goes into it is making the pie dough and even then, if you have no problem using store-bought pie dough you can get the meal together even quicker. Very often I will use store-bought pie dough simply because it is easy, I do not really have the room to make pie dough and for potpie purposes it tastes just fine. I decided to use this recipe from New York Times Cooking for a chicken-tarragon potpie and make a simple dinner.

Chicken-Tarragon Pot Pie

For the crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) cold unnsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 tablespoon cold vegetable shortening

Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

Scant 1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 egg

For the Filling:

5 tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped carrot

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup thinly sliced leeks

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon

1 cup frozen baby green peas

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 ½ cups chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3 cups leftover roast chicken, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

To make the crust, combine the flour, butter, shortening, salt and sugar in a food processor. Pulse the ingredients together just until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is broken into small pieces. Pour 1/3 cup of ice water into the machine, and pulse 3 or 4 times. Squeeze a little dough in your hand to see whether it clumps together and is evenly moist. If not, add another tablespoon of water, and pulse 1 or 2 times more. Don’t overmix so that the dough forms a ball.

Turn out the dough on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Lift the ends of the plastic to gather the dough together inside. Press the dough into a large disk, and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough until you are ready to use it, up to 2 days.

To make the filling, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the carrot, celery, leeks and tarragon, and cook, stirring, just until slightly softened but not browned (reduce the heat if necessary to prevent browning), about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a bowl, wipe out the skillet, and place it back on the stove.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter, and melt it over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and cook, whisking, until the mixture bubbles and smells cooked. Do not let it brown. Whisk in 2 cups of chicken broth, and cook, whisking, for about 1 minute. Whisk in the cream, and cook 2 or 3 minutes, just until the mixture is thickened. Add the salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, whisk in the remaining broth.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the cooked vegetables and peas, the chicken and the sauce to an 8-inch deep pie dish or other baking dish, mix the ingredients gently, and taste for seasoning.

If you are using store-bought dough, take the dough out of the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes. If you are using your own homemade dough, flour a work surface. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Roll out the dough, turning and flouring often, and cut a shape approximately the size of your baking dish plus 1 1/2 inches overlap all around.

Roll the dough up onto the rolling pin, and unroll it over the baking dish, so it rests evenly on top of the filling. Fold the edges under and crimp the edges. Poke the tip of a knife through the crust to create 3 vent holes near the center. Whisk the egg with a teaspoon of cold water. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the entire crust with egg wash. Place the pie pan or baking dish on a cookie sheet, and place it in the oven.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Bake the pie for 25 to 30 minutes more, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling through the vents. Let the pie rest for 10 minutes before serving.

One of the great things about this recipe is that you can make use of any type of vegetables you want in a pot pie. I used the vegetables recommended but I also had some leftover broccoli that I put in as well. Pot pie works well with chicken, turkey, beef and pork that you may have leftover so you can make just about anything with it. I find pot pie tastes even better the next day and often have any leftovers for lunch, after the sauce and the flavors have had even more time to come together. It can be a great dinner to put together in under an hour.

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

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Basic Knife Skills – NYT Cooking

I am certainly no expert when it comes to using a knife. I always wish that it was something I was a little better with so that doing all of the prep work before cooking would be a little bit easier and quicker. New York Times Cooking has put together some basic information and a video to talk about basic Knife skills, choosing the right knives, taking care of them and learning to make cuts like an expert. The information is pretty helpful and perhaps it can assist you in improving on your own knife skills. Check it out!

Source: Basic Knife Skills – NYT Cooking

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in Cooking, Cooking Tips, Cooking Websites, Equipment

 

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A Fitting Feast Anytime – Make Ahead Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is one of those things people love to eat but hate to make. Granted it is not the healthiest way to eat chicken but to me it has to be one of the tastiest. I may not make it very often because of all the oil it uses the big cleanup that typical follows making fried chicken, but if you can make the time to make a big batch of it (provided the weather is cool enough in your kitchen in the summer to do it), it can be great to have for outdoor parties, picnics or as your favorite meal. Fried chicken is one of those things that tastes great anytime you want it, whether it is for dinner that night, cold for lunch the next day, re-heated or even as a late night snack. I have tried a bunch of fried chicken recipes in the past but recently i have found myself returning to this one from Melissa Clark at New York Times Cooking for make ahead fried chicken. It seems to strike the perfect balance of spices, good coating and great taste.

Make Ahead Fried Chicken

FOR THE MARINADE:

1 quart buttermilk

2 torn bay leaves

2 thinly sliced shallots

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons hot sauce

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon honey

12 drumsticks or a mix of chicken pieces, about 2½ to 3 pounds of chicken

FOR THE COATING:

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cayenne

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon good chile power such as chipotle powder

Corn, grapeseed or vegetable oil, for frying

Make the marinade: Whisk together all the marinade ingredients, except the chicken, and place the marinade in a large bowl or plastic bag. Submerge the chicken in the marinade, cover the bowl or seal the bag, and let the chicken rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or, better, overnight.

Make the coating: In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cayenne pepper, salt and chile powder. Place a paper bag inside another paper bag (this is to prevent seepage, use large bags or several small ones) and transfer the flour mixture into it. This is so you can shake the chicken pieces. (You can also just mix the flour in a large bowl and dredge the chicken parts in it, or use a heavy-duty plastic zipper bag for shaking.)

Take a piece of chicken out of the marinade and place it in the bag with the flour mixture. Close the bag and shake it so the chicken is fully coated. (Or, if you are using a bowl, dredge the chicken in the flour mixture.) Remove the chicken piece and place it on a plate or sheet pan. Repeat the process with the remaining chicken pieces, one by one. Let the chicken rest for 30 minutes so it can come to room temperature. Reserve the coating mixture.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy cast iron skillet with a lid, heat the oil until it reaches 350 degrees on an instant-read thermometer or candy thermometer. Just before frying, shake the chicken pieces in the coating mixture once again, one by one.

Fry the chicken for about 6 to 8 minutes in a covered pan, then uncover the pot and flip the chicken with tongs. Continue frying the chicken for about another 6 to 8 minutes, or until the coating is dark golden brown and the juices run clear when the meat is pricked with a fork.

Place chicken on a wire rack set over a paper-towel-lined baking sheet to drain and cool. Serve the chicken within  8 hours, but it’s best to serve within 4 hours.

The recipe indicates that you could leave the chicken at room temperature for 4 hours, and while you probably could I personally don’t feel right about and refrigerate it. I like cold fried chicken anyway so it’s fine with me and you don’t have to worry about any potential bacteria from leaving the food out too long. I made a mix of chicken pieces – wings, legs, thighs and breasts I had cut in half – and found that the timing worked out well, though I did make the chicken in batches and kept the finished pieces on the rack in a sheet pan in a warm 250 degree oven so that they kept warm. I also checked the temperature of the chicken along the way with my instant-read thermometer to make sure the pieces were at 165 degrees just to be safe. Keep a close eye on your oil and the temperature as you go along if you cook in batches to make sure it stays at the right temp so you can get an even crust on the chicken. The chicken was very flavorful and juicy thanks to the marinade and the double coating you put on the chicken really helps to give it a nice crunch. For the marinade I actually do not always use the Old Bay as Michelle finds it a bit overpowering, so I do occasionally leave it out and the chicken still tastes great. I still use other fried chicken recipes, but this is one that always seem to fall back on as a good go to recipe everyone likes. It tastes just as good the next day for lunch as it does the day you cook it.

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

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Posted by on August 18, 2016 in Dinner, Leftovers, Lunch, Picnic Fare, Poultry

 

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