Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chicken and cheddar soufflé




Ok, I know, I know.  I haven't been here for a while.  My husband and I are going through the special kind of hell known as buying a house.  It's our first (and hopefully last) home we are trying to buy.  Everyone we talk to says that they have never heard of anyone having such a hard time trying to buy a house, but you know how that goes.

I would also like to announce that last week our new nephew came into this world.  He is beautiful, sweet, and everything you would ever want in a baby.  So between the hoop jumping for the house, the new nephew, and life in general, I've been a little busy.

In all honesty I haven't cooked much in the last few months.  I have been running all over the place getting estimates, checking on repairs (someone broke into the house and stole all the copper because they suck), and working overtime.  So by the time me or Matt get home, neither one of us want to even walk into the kitchen.

We have been trying new things, and recently found out that we love sushi.  Matt is a total daredevil when it comes to trying new sushi.  He's eating eel and octopus, and I'm all like "hey this tuna is awesome".  This is the one thing that Matt is really getting into more than me.  

Anyway... I made this soufflé last night and it was phenomenal! I was shocked at how well it turned out, mostly because we all know how fussy soufflés can be.  I wanted to make something that was filling and light, and this hit the spot.  I served it with a light salad of arugula, carrots, and shallots   I made a vinaigrette out of red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme.  It was peppery and delicious, and I loved the contrast between the crispness of the salad, and the buttery softness of the soufflé.

Here is what you will need to make this delectable soufflé:

6 eggs (whites and yolks separated)
1 & 1/2 cup milk at room temperature (I used skim and it turned out fine.  You can use whatever you have on hand)
1/4 cup butter (that's half a stick)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups chicken cubed or shredded (I used rotisserie chicken because I had a coupon but you can use any kind of chicken you want)
1 & 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese*
3/4 cup breadcrumbs*
Nutmeg**
Salt and pepper to taste

Turn your oven to 400F degrees.  Butter a soufflé dish and set aside.  It is really important that you use a soufflé dish because they are made for baking soufflés in.  If you must use another dish your soufflé will not cook properly.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Wait until the butter stops bubbling, this lets you know that the water has cooked out and when you add the flour it won't clump.  Add the flour and whisk.  Keep whisking until the mixture turns a light golden brown and smells nutty.  Add the milk slowly while still whisking.  The mixture will thicken, and once it can coat the back of a spoon it's done.  Grate in about 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. (Look at you!  You just made a béchamel sauce! Do you know how awesome that makes you?  Now you can do so many things with this sauce, make cheese sauces, sausage gravy, and a million other things. Hello versatility!)  Mix well and set aside.  Beat egg yolks till light yellow and sit aside. Add chicken, cheese, and breadcrumbs to sauce (butter and flour mixture) and stir well. 

Now the mixture is cool enough to add the egg yolks.  If you didn't wait to add the yolks you would have scrambled the eggs, which is not good.  You can either wait until it cools, or you can temper the mixture.  To temper you would add a small amount the sauce to the yolks and whisk.  You would keep doing this until the temperature of the yolks had increased enough to add the entire bowl to the sauce.  Slowly raising the temperature of the egg yolks helps to ensure that they won't scramble when you add them to the sauce.

It is now time for the whites!  Don't be afraid it is super easy, and once you learn how to whip egg whites, you can make meringues too!  Place the room temperature egg whites in a glass or metal bowl (don't use plastic bowls or utensils when you're going to be whipping egg whites) and add a pinch of salt.  You can hand whisk the egg whites, but that will take 10 years so I suggest using a hand mixer.  Start slowly until the eggs become frothy, and then increase the speed.  You want to be able to pull the beaters out of the egg whites and have stiff peaks at the end of each beater. A stiff peak means when the whites stand on their own and don't slide off the beaters.  It will look like the top of a dairy queen cone.

Please, please do not over whip your egg whites or they will be nasty.  After they start to gain volume start to check them about every 30 seconds by turning the mixer off, and lifting the beaters out to check.

Next we are going to take 1/4 of the egg whites and mix it into the sauce.  Now you can use that big plastic spatula that I told you to put down earlier. Stir the egg whites into the sauce.  We are sacrificing some of the whites to make the sauce lighter so that it can take the rest of the whites.  This will be the last time that you stir! Understand?

Add 1/3 of the remaining whites into the sauce.  You are going to FOLD the whites into the sauce by sweeping the spatula down and then up, while slightly turning the bowl.  When you have turned the bowl twice, it is time to add another 1/2 of the whites.  If you stir instead of fold, all the beautiful bubbles that you whipped into your eggs will be smashed, your soufflé won't rise, and your life will be ruined.  So be very gentle.  Add the rest of the whites, and fold them in carefully.  It is ok if there are still streaks or specks of white left in the bowl.  Leave them alone.  They will bake out.  It will be ok!

Carefully pour the mixture into the butter soufflé dish. Do not shake, bang, or jiggle the dish.  You don't want to pop anymore glorious bubbles.  Place the dish in the middle of the oven and check after 30 minutes.  Insert a butter knife into the center.  The bottom may still be a little gooey, that's fine.  The residual heat will finish cooking.  If the top or middle is still gooey, put it back in the oven for 5 minutes and not a minute more.

Now you may enjoy a hearty yet light lunch, dinner, or brunch.  You have basically mastered French cuisine now, and you can cook anything.  Check back for new recipes and pictures.

* I have been majorly into couponing lately.  The breadcrumbs and cheese I got for free with coupons. I used the new Kraft combinations (these can be found next to the cream cheese) which was rosemary and Italian herb flavored.  It was awesome because I just ripped the package open and dumped it in.  I didn't have to measure at all, and it turned out fantastic.  I do always have parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs in my pantry, but free is free right?

**Do not use that crappy ground nutmeg.  First of all it tastes like, well crap and second it doesn't have any of its true nutmeggy essence when it's pre-ground.  Buy a small bottle of the whole nutmegs and you will be rewarded.  It smells heavenly when you grate it yourself, and it is a great confidence booster when you feel like you really have a handle on things in the kitchen.  It lasts sooo much longer when it's whole, and it's a powerful hallucinogen (if you eat 3 whole nutmegs), so if your family gets out of line... Never mind.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

New world lasagna


This lasagna is slap-your-momma good! I like to serve it this way for a couple of reasons.  The first being that I think it's gorgeous, and the second that, it's just me and the hubs so we don't need that much.  As much as I love my cooking, I don't want to eat lasagna for 2 weeks.

This particular lasagna is meat-free.  It's nestled in a creamy garlic bechamel sauce, and the filling is ricotta cheese and sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and arugula.  The marina sauce is home made (it cooked for 14 hours so it's delicious .  The only thing that may make this better (if it's even possible) is some shaved pecorino cheese or a balsamic reduction.

To make this decadent dish you will need:

lasagna noodles
flour
butter
milk
crushed tomatoes
mushrooms
basil
oregano
balsamic vinegar
sugar
grated carrot
onion
celery
ricotta cheese
spinach
arugula
garlic

Bring salted water to a boil and add noodles.  Cook till al dente  drain and rinse.  Saute mushrooms, spinach, and arugula in oil (I prefer bacon fat for more flavor, but olive oil works just as well). I like to make my marinara sauce in a crockpot.  Combine crushed tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, carrots, celery, onion, basil, oregano  and sugar.  Cook for a minimum of 4 hours.  Mix vegetables with ricotta.  In a sauce pan add butter and flour.  Cook till golden brown, then slowly add milk.  Stir until smooth, and add chopped garlic.  Place this sauce on the bottom of serving dish.  Add a piece of lasagna noodle, then ricotta mixture, then sauce.  Repeat and enjoy!

Ashley

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The best mashed potatoes you will ever taste


When I'm sick there is nothing that I want more than ginger ale, mashed potatoes, and the remote.  I'd say that I want my husband to take care of me, but let's face it, men don't take care of women.  And if they're sick, they turn into whiny, snot filled babies.  Anyway... These mashed potatoes are just what I want when I'm sick.  And I'm talking about those boxed freeze dried potato flakes either.

When I find a good deal on something I buy them out.  Meijer had a great sale on potatoes ($2.00 for 10 pounds), so I bought a bunch.  I decided that I was going to prep all these potatoes so that I could freeze them and use them when I wanted.  If you freeze stuff right it will last a LONG time in that frigid air box above your chill chest.

I diced most of the potatoes and par-boiled them.  You have to partially cook them or they will turn black when you freeze them.  Plus it makes this faster when you pull them out.  By the time they get thawed out their practically cooked!  I also shredded some of them so I could pull them out and put them on the waffle iron (more on that later).

To make these velvety mashed potatoes you will need:

potatoes
half and half
evaporated milk
butter
sour cream or cream cheese
garlic
salt
pepper

Dice potatoes and put in a pot with cold water and salt.  Potatoes cook the most even when they start in cold water.  Cook till fork tender and then drain.  In a separate pan mix half and half, evaporated milk, and butter.  Bring up to a simmer.  Use a masher to break up the potatoes and slowly add some of the dairy mixture. Use the masher to mix everything together, and add sour cream, salt, pepper, and garlic.  Add dairy mixture as needed until desired consistency is reached.

The whole point of this post, besides giving you the recipe was to explain that I freeze these mashed potatoes, so I can pull them out whenever I want them.  I cooked shredded potatoes (hash browns) with a waffle iron because it cooks them at a high temperature and makes them super crispy.

Give 'em a try.  Let me know what you think.

Ashley

Monday, January 28, 2013

Chicken parm sandwiches


There are few things I love more than a good chicken parm.  I guess my husband is one of those things, but chicken parm is a close second.  I have this obsession with tomato sauces.  I love pizza sauce, marinara sauce, and spaghetti sauce.  It's all divine and delicious and I want it all!  A good sauce can make or break a dish.  Would you eat spaghetti topped with a mediocre sauce? I think not.

These sandwiches were just the thing to heat us up on a cold Ohio night.  Here's how to make em':

Sub or hoagie rolls
diced chicken
marinara sauce (homemade is best!)
parmesan cheese
mozzarella cheese

I found a really good deal on chicken breasts this week, so I bought them up.  I had just regular chicken breasts, skin on, with ribs attached.  I know what you're thinking.  Oh my gosh, skin on, are you trying to have a heart attack?  No, I'm trying to have a flavor explosion  I roasted my breasts with some italian dressing, salt, and pepper.  Then I removed the skin, and stripped the meat from the bone.  The chicken was so tender and juicy from leaving it on the bone with skin on! My husband was like, "what did you do to this chicken? It's awesome!"

I keep the bones to make stock with, and portioned the chicken into containers to freeze or use for the rest of the week. Then I skimmed the fat off of the liquids and saved that too! So much good stuff from just a good ol' chicken breast.

I toasted the rolls in the oven, then added the chicken, sauce, and cheese, and baked for 20 minutes.  The rolls were super crunchy and the inside was melty and satisfying.  Give it a try. Let me know what you think!

Oh and by the way, being a chicken parm aficionado;I hate when you get a chicken parm anything, and there's no parm! What the hell? It's part of the name! Don't try to just cover it with mozzarella cheese and serve it to me.  There better be plenty of salty, nutty parm on that chicken (other cheese is ok as well, as long as it is used in conjunction with the parm).

Ashley

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cheesy Quinoa


I don't know about you, but I get tired of boxed mac and cheese.  I wanted something new and exciting.  And since we didn't have any meat in the house this is the perfect solution.  Quinoa is a really interesting grain (well really it's a seed) because it has a ton of fiber and protein.  Here's how to make this creamy goodness:

evaporated milk
ground mustard
cheddar cheese
chicken stock
nutmeg
butter
flour
eggs
quinoa

Bring chicken stock to a boil (you can use good ol' water, but this give it more flavor). Add quinoa and cook until all the water is gone.  As far as I know, it's really hard to over cook quinoa.  In a separate pan, melt the butter.  Once melted add flour and stir.  Let this cook on medium heat until it is a light gold color (this is usually a good way to know that the flour taste has cooked out of your roux).

Slowly add evaporated milk.  Keep stirring as you add the milk.  Once you have added all the milk and the mixture is smooth, beat 1 egg in a cup.  Add a little of the mixture and stir, do this 3 times.  Slowly pour the egg mixture into the milk mixture and stir.  Add the mustard and nutmeg.

Now it's time to add the cheese.  Add a handful at a time and don't add more until the previous handful has melted.  Mix the cooked quinoa and cheese sauce together. Now enjoy!

Ashley

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Creamy tomato capalini with a lemon arugula salad


This pasta dish was so easy, scrumptious, and light.  It took about 20 minutes to throw together, and I made it with  items I already had on hand.  Let me show you the way.

capalini pasta
basil
crushed tomatoes
parmesean cheese
half and half
white wine
butter
onion
mushrooms
garlic
arugula
lemon
olive oil

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Season with salt.  The water should taste like the sea, that's how you know it's seasoned correctly.  Cook the pasta al dente.  Drain.  Melt butter in pan, add mushrooms and onions. Season with salt, mushrooms are like sponges so add plenty of salt.  Add crushed tomatoes and wine.  Lower to a simmer and reduce by half.  Add a splash of half and half, lemon juice, basil, and garlic.  Add capalini pasta, and combine.  Mix arugula with a drizzle of olive oil, add lemon zest, basil, and parmesean cheese. Serve with small salad on top of pasta.

This dish is gorgeous.  I love the play of color, and the brightness of the flavors.  Let me know what you think.

Ashley

Asian pork lettuce wraps


These little beauties are sooo easy, it's ridiculous   First off, if you're looking for some PF Chang's style lettuce wraps, you're in the right place.  I love going to restaurants  finding dishes I really like, and recreating them at home for so much less money.  This is what you'll need:

butter lettuce
ground pork
chopped garlic
water chestnuts (diced)
rice wine vinegar
secret ingredient

Brown the ground pork in a skillet.  Once it is cooked through, add garlic and water chestnuts.  When those are heated through add a splash of rice wine vinegar and the secret ingredient.  Put in a leaf butter lettuce and enjoy.  It is truly delicious.  If you would like to know the secret ingredient sign up for a following via email, and drop me a comment.  You won't regret it!

Ashley