Friday, December 31, 2010

Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwiches

I am a sucker for biscuits baked with butter and full fat buttermilk.  And being a baker, I love working the dough; the smell of the butter and flour, the feel of the dough coming together as you knead it, and then watching the beauties rise in the oven.  Ahhhhh, not much comes close to this.  Except maybe eating them.

This recipe is from the January issue of Food and Wine, courtesy of Peels restaurant in NYC. It's a cinch to bake the biscuits and even easier to put the sandwiches together. Fry up some eggs, add a slice of smoky country ham, and sliced or crumbled sharp cheddar and voila, there's your sandwich.  The recipe gives you the option of adding raspberry jam to the biscuits before compiling the sandwich, and I must admit this sounded a little strange, but the sweetness of the jam with the savory flavor of the ham, egg, and cheese was delicious.  

These biscuits were as good as any I've enjoyed in self-proclaimed biscuit-famous restaurants and making them at home was very satisfying. I foresee these biscuits being used as platforms for little strawberry shortcakes or a delightful chicken salad lunch.  Or hot out of the oven slathered with Bellini Jam (a delicious concoction of peaches and Prosecco) from Stonewall Kitchens.

I am making Chocolate Pumpkin Tiramisu for tonight's festivities. If it turns out as luscious as it sounds, I'll be back tomorrow with the recipe for you.

By the way, if you need a fabulous drink for your New Year's Eve celebrations, try this Pomegranate Martini. The recipe comes from and they are absolutely delightful!

Happy New Year, dear readers.  May 2011 bring you good health, happiness, and of course, good food!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Two Hour Chicken (or the perfect excuse to skip a holiday party)

With all the holiday hub-bub going on, you might just want a quiet dinner at home one night. I've got the perfect meal for you right here. A cinchy baked chicken, cozy mashed potatoes, a side dish so easy and tasty you are going to want to make it part of your regular repertoire, and two great cookie recipes that you can wow your friends with.

The chicken dish was created by the late writer, Laurie Colwin, however, I picked it up via The New York Cookbook by Molly O'Neill. It is simply called "baked chicken," but we lovingly refer to it as "two-hour chicken." The recipe calls for two broiling chickens (quartered), however, I always make it with bone-in breasts. A fragrant mixture of Dijon mustard, garlic, fresh thyme, and cinnamon is brushed on the breasts, topped with fresh seasoned breadcrumbs. Fresh breadcrumbs are definitely worth the little bit of extra effort for this recipe - it really makes a difference. Arrange the chicken in a baking dish, top with a few pats of butter, sprinkle with paprika and in it goes for 2-1/2 hours. What emerges on the other side of the clock is the most delicious, moist, flavorful breast of chicken I've come across in a long time. Crunchy outside, tender and juicy inside.

Perfect side dishes: the aforementioned mashed potatoes, which I'm sure you've got your own terrific recipe for, and one which you may not be as familiar with -- a mixture of cabbage and onions sauteed with butter and olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper. This is a hearty winter vegetable that fits well with the chicken but is also a great companion to any number of braised dishes, such as brisket, or a nice pot roast. A nice alternative to the these sides would be buttered orzo and sauteed spinach.

For dessert, two cookies from last week's excellent NY Times holiday cookie articleCardamom Crescents and Shortbread Jammers. The crescents are so light they are almost ethereal, and the cardamom essence is heady.  The jammers (love that name) are made with a delightful little shortbread cookie dough and topped with a preserve of your choice (I used raspberry). 

So there you have it! An easy meal for this hectic time of year when you need a night off from the holiday party circuit. 

Stay warm and eat well!

Print Chicken Recipe Here
Print Cabbage and Onions Recipe Here
Print Cardamom Crescents Recipe Here
Print Shortbread Jammers Recipe Here

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dinner for a Cold Winter's Night

When I was a child, my aunt Millie made the most delicious Pasta Fagiole. Pasta Fagiole is really nothing but a pasta and bean peasant soup but without just the right seasoning, the end result could be blandly flavored water. Not so with aunt Millie's version. Hers was full of flavor, thick with tiny Ditalini pasta and rich white cannellini beans. A care package of this soup was the perfect antidote to the bone chilling weather outside.

I never got the recipe for her soup and until today never tried to make it. But in the December issue of La Cucina Italiana, in a story titled "In From the Cold," they featured this dish, among other warming selections.  It was blustery today in New Jersey. Just the perfect day for Pasta Fagiole. The La Cucina Italiana recipe is very different in that it contains pancetta and crumbled sausage (not typical).  I wasn't sure how this would affect the soup (and my fond memories), but I really liked these new variations. It made the soup much heartier and I used hot chicken sausage so the addition of a little spice really bolstered the overall flavor. It's a delicious, simple, one pot meal that comes together in about an hour if you use canned beans (which I did). Although the recipe calls for dried beans, none of my local stores carried them; I don't think it diminished the dish at all using canned beans.

I served it with grated Parmigiana Reggiano, a drizzle of olive oil, fresh parsley, and homemade fennel tarralles (old-fashioned Italian savory cookies). This is not my aunt Millie's Pasta Fagiole, but on a cold night it warms me up just like hers used to.

Our dessert tonight also came from La Cucina Italiana, by way of the wonderful pastry chef, Karen DeMasco. I'm sure many of you are fans of Nutella, the chocolate hazelnut spread from Italy. Strangely enough, I had never sampled it but when I read DeMasco's recipe for Nutella Sandwich Cookies, I was more than intrigued. She combines an oatmeal cookie batter with Nutella for a crisp, buttery, nutty cookie that would be fabulous on its own.  But then she sandwiches a tablespoon of Nutella inbetween to make an incredible cookie (move over Oreos!). A sprinkling of Demerara sugar on top before baking adds just a hint of sweet and crunch.

The cookies are a cinch to make, but the batter is very dry so it doesn't roll easily. I also think I would make them much thinner next time as this is alot of cookie in one sitting!  But oh so delicious!