Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sugar Cookies

I hesitate to call these Christmas cookies even though the recipe is from a very old Martha Stewart Christmas book, and they're decorated with red and green icing and red and green sprinkles, and we did make and eat them on Christmas...because they're really just sugar cookies. Don't limit them to winter holidays - egg shaped cookies with pastel colored icing for Easter, shamrocks with green sprinkles for St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day, President's Day, the third Tuesday of every get the point. A good cookie is a good cookie and should be enjoyed all year round.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar (recipe calls for granulated, but I used what I believe was non-granulated cane sugar and it was fine)
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons brandy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream the butter and sugar. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add to the butter mixture and beat well. Add the egg, brandy, and vanilla and beat again until well mixed. Shape dough into two flattened rounds, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. and line baking sheets with parchment. On a well floured board, roll out dough until 1/8 inch thick. Cut into shapes and set 1 to 2 inches apart on sheets. Leftover dough can be rolled out and cut once more. Bake for about 10 minutes; do not allow cookies to brown.

Royal Icing

1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 large egg white
food coloring

Mix the sugar and egg white; divide among small bowls and tint each a different color. Spread onto cooled cookies.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Oh heyyyy! Yes, I'm still alive. It's been a month of Christmas, Paris, family...and unfortunately stomach flu and working two jobs. Ok, I know having two jobs is a good thing, but it doesn't leave me much time to do fun things like cooking and eating and writing about it. At any rate - I'm back, and I've got a lot to tell you about!

So let's start with the most recent, shall we? Christmas. It was a Chicago Christmas this year, which I am very thankful for, because if I have to travel again within the next two months it will be too soon. Remember that snow storm that destroyed travel across Europe a couple weeks ago? Let's just say we were some of the lucky ones.

This was actually my second time hosting Christmas (first time being in New York a few years ago), although my mom really pulled most of the weight in the kitchen. However, I did make Christmas breakfast which was very easy and if I do say so myself, very delicious.

A slice of toast from a big loaf of semolina bread, a couple pieces of San Daniele prosciutto, and a poached egg. Simple and really good.

My family's traditional Christmas dinner has become beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce, roasted potatoes, and a few other sides. This year we did asparagus and haricots verts. The tenderloin was really out of this world. We bought the meat from Fox & Obel, and it was fantastic. The recipe my mom uses is basically an herb marinade that can sit for a few hours up to overnight.

Herb Roasted Beef Tenderloin

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, or to taste
4-4 1/2 lb. trimmed beef tenderloin, patted dry and tied
2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt, to taste

In a small bowl combine the olive oil, vinegar, herbs, garlic, and pepper. Rub the tenderloin with the mixture, wrap in plastic and chill for 2 hours, or overnight.

Arrange the tenderloin on a rack in a roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt to taste and roast in the oven at 500 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 130 to 135 degrees for medium rare. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let it cool, loosely covered, for 15 minutes.

Remove the strings, cut the meat into thin slices. 8-10 servings.

We used a 3 1/2 lb. tenderloin which was plenty for 5 people and a little bit of leftovers.

Horseradish Sauce

2 cups sour cream or 1 cup each low-fat plain yogurt and sour cream
1/2 cup peeled grated fresh horseradish or drained bottled horseradish
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients, transfer to a serving bowl, cover and chill until ready to serve. May be made one day ahead.

(The original recipe says to drain the sour cream in a piece of cheesecloth for 15 minutes, but....ehhh, we didn't do that.)

More Christmas recipes to come, and several reports on Paris to come as well!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Roasted Chicken 2.0

A whole roasted chicken is such a comforting meal, especially when it's as frigid as it has been here in Chicago the last couple days. (Is it REALLY 9 degrees outside right now? I can't go to work today. I just can't do it.) The movie "It's Complicated" has been on HBO lately, we've caught bits and pieces of it over the last week (I did see the entire thing in the theater) and I think the meal that Meryl Streep makes for Alec Baldwin, when he doesn't show up, has been subconsciously working its way into Peter's brain because yesterday he bought a chicken and potatoes for me to make for dinner. But no green beans, or chocolate cake ingredients. By the way, can I please have the kitchen in that movie? Pleeeeease?

I did things a little differently than my usual way, just out of curiosity. I roasted the potatoes (and carrots and onions) along with the chicken, instead of separately. This recipe is adapted from one of Ina Garten's.

1 3-lb. chicken, rinsed and patted dry inside and out
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, any kind you like (but I think the smaller, the better)
3-5 carrots, depending on size
1/2 white onion
1 head of garlic
1/2 lemon
thyme (fresh or dried)
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the potatoes into equal size pieces. I used fingerlings so I didn't have to cut much, but if you have bigger potatoes cut into about 1-inch pieces. Peel and cut the carrots into pieces, not too small. Chop the onion into large pieces.

Slice the head of garlic in half across the middle, not lengthwise. Save one half to go inside the chicken. Pop the rest the garlic cloves out of the other half, peel, and add to the vegetables. Toss with some olive oil, salt, pepper,and thyme and spread along the bottom of the dish.

Season the inside of the chicken with salt, pepper, and thyme. Stuff half of the head of garlic, and the 1/2 lemon inside the chicken. Truss the chicken - take a piece of kitchen twine a couple feet long. Flip the wing tips up so they are closer to the top of the breast. Put the center point of the twine at the top of the breast and holding the wings in place, bring it down across the back and make an X, and bring it back up by the legs and tie the legs together. It will kind of be a "figure 8".

Place the chicken, breast side up, on top of the vegetables. Season the top of the chicken with salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook for about an hour and 15 minutes, and let rest for 10 minutes when done.

The consensus? Delicious. How could a roasted chicken with vegetables not be delicious? However...I think I like the old way better. You end up eating a lot of more of the fatty chicken drippings this way, and I don't feel like they added that much flavor to the vegetables that it was worth it. Definitely not as the original recipe from Ina said to spread some butter over the top of the chicken before cooking. Obviously I skipped that part. I did like adding carrots and big pieces of garlic to the potatoes though, and I did like stuffing the chicken with lemon and garlic. So I'll probably continue to do that part of the recipe in the future. Don't forget to save your chicken carcass in the freezer to make chicken stock!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sufganiyot (jelly donuts)

I was looking around online for a Hanukkah cookie recipe, and I kept running into recipes for sufganiyot. Which are pretty much jelly donuts. And who doesn't like a good jelly donut? Although, my absolute favorite are maple donuts...which my parents used to bribe my sister and I with when we were little to get us to stop pinching each other in church. It worked.

Some methods are to make a sort of dough sandwich with jelly in the middle and fry it, and others are to fry a dough ball and then inject jelly. I went with the first method. This recipe is slightly adapted from the Children's Jewish Holiday Kitchen, by way of

1 scant tablespoon (1 package) dry yeast
4 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for dusting.
3/4 cup lukewarm milk or warm water*
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter or pareve margarine, softened*
Raspberry (or strawberry, or apricot) preserves
Canola oil for deep-frying
*Use butter and milk if serving at a milk meal, and water and pareve margarine for a meat meal

Mix together the yeast, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the milk. Let sit to make sure it bubbles - it should look like it has a thick foam on top.

Mix flour, remaining sugar, salt, cinnamon, and egg yolks. Add to the yeast mixture. Knead the dough until it forms a ball. Add the butter or margarine. Knead some more, until the butter is well absorbed.

Cover with a towel and let rise on the countertop for 2 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator. The dough will double in size.

Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut out the dough into rounds with a juice glass, or any object about 2 inches in diameter. Take 1/2 teaspoon of preserves and place in center of each half of the rounds.

Top with the other rounds. Press down at edges, sealing with egg whites. Crimping with the thumb and second finger is best. Roll out the dough scraps and repeat. Let rise for about 30 minutes.

Heat 2 inches of oil to between 350° and 375°. Drop the donuts into the hot oil, about 3 at a time. Turn to brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Roll in, or dust with sugar.

That's it! This recipe makes about 12 donuts. They cook very quickly in the hot oil, barely a couple minutes. And they're definitely best eaten right away...ok on the second day, but not nearly as good. They're kind of a cross between donuts and beignets. Other good fillings would be different flavors of jelly, or chocolate or vanilla cream, nutella, or dulce de leche. Mmm. Happy Hanukkah!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving - Vegetables

First of all, I must say that I'm using the term "vegetables" very, very loosely. After adding butter and sugar and marshmallows, at a certain point I think these vegetables ceased to be vegetables.

Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows

3 large sweet potatoes or yams (About 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light is fine)
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1 cup mini marshmallows

In a covered saucepan, cook potatoes in enough boiling water to cover for 12 to 15 minutes or until just tender; drain and mash. Add brown sugar, cream, butter, cinnamon, allspice, and the scraped out insides of the vanilla bean - use a sharp, pointy knife to get all the grains out. Stir gently to combine. Transfer to a casserole dish. (this part can be done a day in advance)

Bake, covered in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until heated through, Remove from oven and top with marshmallows. Return to oven and bake 10 more minutes or until the marshmallows are golden.

The original recipe I was working off called for crushed anise seeds, black pepper, and more vanilla. However...I think sweet potatoes taste pretty good on their own so they really don't need a lot of additional flavor.

Here's the brussels sprouts hash recipe again, because it's just so good. I didn't get a picture of it though. You could easily cut down on some of the butter in this recipe...but why would you want to do that?

6 Tbl. (3/4 stick) butter
1/2 pound shallots, thinly sliced
kosher salt
2 Tbl. apple cider vinegar
4 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 lbs. brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 Tbl. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup water

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallots; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Saute until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir until brown and glazed, about 3 minutes.

Halve brussels sprouts lengthwise. Cut lengthwise into thin (1/8 inch) slices. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sprouts; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until brown at edges, about 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and 3 tablespoons butter. Saute until most of the water evaporates and sprouts are tender but still bright green, 3 minutes. Add shallots, season with salt and pepper.

Funny I'm rereading this right now I realized I used brown sugar instead of regular. So you can go either way.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my Thanksgiving feast. Delicious. Now I can move on to Christmasy chocolately pepperminty treats.