Monday, March 21, 2011

Breakfast: It's What's For Dinner

Every month we get a shipment of artisan bacon from The Pig Next Door. It's been the wedding gift that keeps on giving and I'd be lying if I said I didn't look forward to it arriving at my door. The weird thing is that Drew and I don't eat a ton of bacon. It's just not something we keep in our fridge because if we did I think we would wouldn't eat anything else. Bacon would go on everything and then, before you know it, we both weigh a trillion pounds and I am writing a diet blog instead.

Tonight, I am using our special monthly splurge to make breakfast for dinner. I've said it once and I'll say it again, breakfast for dinner is bomb. My mom used to do this for us when we were kids and OMG we loved it. I'm going to keep it simple and old school...just some fried eggs, baked beans and sizzling strips of bacon. Adults deserve to feel like kids everyone once and awhile.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pimento Mac and Cheese

This month's Bon Appetit is all about baked pasta dishes so it's no wonder that the cover article and photo (above) caught my eye. I mean, look at that bowl of gooey cheese goodness. I've added several recipes on this blog over the years with pimento peppers because I grew up in a house that had a minimum of 6 jars on-hand at all times. My mothers is the pimiento QUEEN.

Pimento peppers are not hot rather they're sweet and more aromatic than a red bell pepper. They are tough to find fresh and easy to find canned or jarred at your local grocery. Cost is usually a buck per small can so grab a couple to keep in your pantry. You can never have too many.

Pimento Mac and Cheese
  • 1 7- to 8-ounce red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, halved, divided
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup drained mild Peppadew peppers in brine, 1 tablespoon brine reserved
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ancho chiles
  • 1 1/4 cups (packed) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (packed) coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella
  • 8 ounces medium shell pasta or gemelli


  • Bring 1/2 cup water, bell pepper, and 11/2 garlic cloves to boil in small saucepan. Cover; reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until pepper is soft, about 15 minutes.
  • Toast panko in skillet over medium-high heat until golden, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to bowl; cool to lukewarm. Rub 1 tablespoon butter into crumbs to coat. Mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan.
  • Transfer bell pepper mixture to processor. Add Peppadews and 1 tablespoon brine, 2 tablespoons butter, ground chiles, and 1/2 garlic clove; then add cheddar and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Blend until sauce is smooth; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 8-cup baking dish (or 6 individual dishes). Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain; return to pot. Stir sauce and mozzarella into pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon pasta into dish. Sprinkle with crumb topping.
  • Bake pasta until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes (15 for individual). Let stand 10 minutes.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ad Hoc's Chicken Soup with Dumplings

Drew is home sick today from work and that means that it's time to whip up some chicken soup. I am a huge fan of Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home cookbook and his recipe for Chicken and Soup with Dumplings is the perfect medicine for my husband. This cookbook focuses on classic family-style recipes that aim to gather folks around the dinner table and warm the soul. I've cooked a ton of recipes from this book and never been disappointed.

Chicken Soup with Dumplings
Makes: 6-10 servings (about 8 cups)
WSJ & Thomas Keller

1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup coarsely chopped celery
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup coarsely chopped leek
Kosher salt

1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2/3 cup all-purpose fl our
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced chives
4 quarts Chicken Stock (page 339)
5 stalks celery
3 large carrots
1 teaspoon honey
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
1 large garlic clove, crushed, skin left on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) Roux (page 334)
2 cups cooked shredded chicken (dark or white meat)
1/4 cup minced chives
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
Flat-leaf parsley leaves

Melt the butter in an 8- to 10-quart stockpot over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onions, and leeks, season with salt, and cover with a parchment lid. Reduce the heat to low and cook very slowly, stirring occasionally, 30 to 35 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove and discard the parchment lid.

Make the dumplings: Fill a wide deep pot with salted water and bring to a simmer. Set up a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Combine the water, butter, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, add the fl our all at once, and stir rapidly with a stiff heatproof or wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean. The dough should be glossy and smooth but still moist; enough moisture must evaporate from the dough to allow it to absorb more fat when the eggs are added. Continue to stir for 4 to 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent the dough from coloring; a thin coating of dough will form on the bottom and sides of the pan. When enough moisture has evaporated, steam will rise from the dough and the nutty aroma of cooked flour will be noticeable.

Immediately transfer the dough to the mixer bowl. Add the mustard and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix for a few seconds to incorporate the ingredients and release some of the heat. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating until the first egg is completely incorporated before adding the second and incorporating it. Then add the chives and incorporate. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape the dumplings using two soup spoons to make a quenelle shape (see note), dropping them into the simmering water. Cook the dumplings in batches of about 6 to avoid crowding the pot and allow them to cook evenly. Once the dumplings rise to the surface, it will take about 5 minutes for them to cook; remove one and break it open to make sure it is cooked. With a slotted spoon, transfer the dumplings to the baking sheet, and cook the remaining dumplings. (You will have about 18 dumplings.)

Once the dumplings have cooled, trim any uneven edges with scissors.

Finish the soup: Add the chicken stock to the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, then strain the soup base into another pot and discard the vegetables.

Peel the celery stalks with a peeler. Cut each stalk crosswise on the diagonal into thin slices about 11/2 inches long. As you get to the wider lower part of the stalk, adjust the angle of your knife to keep the pieces relatively the same size. You need about 1 1/2 cups celery for this recipe (reserve any extra for another use). Cook the celery in a large pot of boiling salted water (see page 147) until just tender. Drain, cool in an ice bath, and drain again.

Cut the carrots lengthwise into quarters and then crosswise into bite-sized pieces. As each carrot widens, adjust the size of the cut to keep the pieces bite sized. You need about 1 1/2 cups carrots for this recipe (reserve any extra for another use).

Put the carrots in a saucepan, add the honey, bay leaf, thyme, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the carrots are tender but slightly resistant to the tooth. Drain and transfer to paper towels.

Bring the soup base to a simmer and whisk in the roux a little at a time until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon; you may not use all the roux. Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming often—this is necessary to remove all impurities from the roux. (The soup will continue to thicken as it simmers.)

Add the dumplings, chicken, carrots, celery, and chives to the soup and heat through. Season with the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a large serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley leaves.

Note: To form a three-sided quenelle using two soupspoons, start by using one spoon to scoop up a portion of dough that is slightly smaller than the bowl of the spoon. Hold the second spoon in your other hand, place the side of the spoon against the far side of the dough, and scoop it onto the second spoon, forming one smooth long side. Continue transferring the dough between the spoons until you have the desired oval football shape. (With practice, this should take no more than three transfers, but it may require more when you are first getting started.) Before you begin, set up a container of hot water in which to regularly dip the spoons—this will make it easier to form the quenelles.