Monday, February 27, 2012

Coq au Vin

 I was recently watching Ina Garten making her version of this dish, and I immediately wanted to try it. I know, I know, I say that all the time. But it's true! And just as I was assessing how many of the ingredients I would need to buy, I received a text from my friend, Jaclyn, that said 'Have you ever made Coq au Vin?' She was doing the same thing! Great minds think alike, huh????? Love it.
 This classic French dish is chicken braised in wine, and I like to think of it as sort of like the chicken version of Boeuf Bourguignon. You start by browning some meat in a little bacon fat, add some aromatics, rich stock, fresh herbs, and lots of wine, then you cook it for a long time in a heavy Dutch oven.  How could this possibly be anything but good? I believe "magical" is the word my friend, Marie, used to describe it. I must say, I have to agree! The chicken becomes SO tender and the wine makes the sauce SO rich and flavorful. It's warm and hearty but it's also sophisticated and elegant. And I know it may seem a little daunting, but it's really very simple!!!
You seriously need to try it!!!!

1/2 lb bacon, cut crosswise into small pieces
6-8 chicken thighs, bone in, skin removed
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup good brandy. (I used Courvoisier cognac)
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1 (750 ml) bottle good burgundy wine, (I used Pinot Noir)
1 lb baby carrots
10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 lb mushrooms, halved or quartered
frozen pearl onions

handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup softened butter

Heat oven to 350F.
In a large heavy pot, or Dutch oven, brown the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove from pot and set aside. Using a paper towel, dry each piece of chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Brown the chicken, a couple pieces at a time, being careful not to crowd the pot. Remove the chicken and set aside. (the chicken will not be cooked all the way through. It will finish cooking in the oven!) Add chopped onions to the bacon fat. Saute until they begin to soften. Add garlic and saute for a minute or two longer. Add brandy and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Place chicken back into the pot. Add broth, wine, carrots, and thyme. Cover. Place in oven for about an hour and a half. In the meantime, saute the mushrooms and pearl onions in a little butter with a splash of chicken broth, salt and pepper. Let them saute until all of the liquid evaporates. Remove the pot from the oven. Remove the sprigs of thyme from the pot. Add the chopped parsley. In a small bowl, make a paste by stirring together the butter and flour, then stir it into the stew to thicken. Serve over smashed potatoes, with mushrooms and onions on top, and sauteed frozen peas on the side.

-If you don't want to buy a whole bottle of brandy, just for 1/3 cup, you can either buy one of those little tiny bottles, or simply leave it out!
-I used just chicken thighs because they're always moist and tender, but you can use a whole chicken cut up into pieces, if you like. I think the next time I make this, I might try it with boneless thighs instead of bone in. They are GREAT in Chicken and Dumplings. I'll let you know how it turns out!
-I like to use frozen pearl onions, (just because I didn't feel like blanching and peeling fresh ones), but the store was all out of the bags of frozen ones. The solution? Since I was planning to serve peas on the side anyway, I bought a bag of frozen peas with pearl onions and just separated them. Easy!
-To make it easier to retrieve the thyme sprigs from the pot after the cooking is over, tie them together with a piece of thin cotton twine.
-The recipe says to add one pound of carrots, but I LOVE carrots so I added TWO pounds! Like my Mom always used to say, "If you like a lot, add a lot!"

Monday, February 20, 2012

Slow Cooker Bacon Jam

After seeing that they put bacon marmalade on top of ice cream at the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop in NYC, I decided to see if I could make it at home. It didn't take very long to find Martha Stewart's recipe for this savory bacon spread that looked too simple and easy not to try. I texted my brother Chris about it, and he immediately responded with "Let's do this!!", then announced that it was time to go to The Utility Muffin Research Kitchen. And since I already had just about all of the ingredients on hand, this was clearly the perfect Sunday afternoon cooking experiment. To be honest, I wasn't really sure what to expect. When you think of jam or marmalade, you usually think of something incredibly sweet and sticky and gooey, right? Well, it turned out to be a little syrupy, but not sticky and gooey and just slightly sweet. But most importantly, it's DELICIOUS! It's seriously the perfect combination of salty, savory, sweet and just the slightest bit tangy. SO good! I should have made a double batch!
Serve it for brunch on grilled or toasted slices of crusty bread, make a pizza with it along with a few sliced cherry tomatoes, and yes, DEFINITELY serve it with vanilla ice cream!

 1 1/2 pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
 2 medium yellow onions, diced small
 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
 1/2 cup cider vinegar
 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
 3/4 cup brewed coffee

 In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet (reserve for another use); add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and coffee and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes. Add bacon and stir to combine.
 Transfer mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on high, uncovered, until liquid is syrupy, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Let cool, then refrigerate in airtight containers, up to 4 weeks.

It definitely tastes better when it's just slightly heated, but not HOT. Simply pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to take the chill off and to make it all nice and glossy.
This recipe can easily be doubled. Keep in mind, though, that it'll probably take much longer to become thick and syrupy.
Although I've never tried it, I'm guessing this can also be made in a heavy dutch oven over an extremely low simmer on the stove top.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Big Gay Ice Cream!

I first heard of The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck in New York City on a Cooking Channel show called Eat Street. During the TV segment, I noticed someone wearing a Big Gay Ice Cream T Shirt and immediately wanted one. So I googled them, found that they sell merchandise, and bought one. (This is how I discovered that I could sell my own merchandise, hence the Cooking with Joey online gift shop!) Ever since then, I've been wanting to go to New York to have some Big Gay Ice Cream. They do all sorts of non-traditional toppings over traditional soft serve ice cream, such as sea salt, wasabi dust, Trix cereal, curry, and olive oil. I know, I know...crazy, right? And it's all done with a sense of playful fun. (They have a signature flavor called the Bea Arthur. How could you not love that?) Part of me was intrigued to try the "thinking outside the box" toppings, but another part of me just loved the fact that two gay guys decided to buy an ice cream truck, call it Big Gay Ice cream, and make ice cream the way THEY like it. So fun!
 So, if you're ever in New York City, you should stop by 125 E 7th street and have some Big Gay Ice Cream. I did, and I'll definitely be going back!! Good Times!
Bacon marmalade, anyone? Anyone? :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Too Much Chocolate Cake

When I first saw this recipe, I thought "wait...too much chocolate? Is there really such a thing??" Clearly, the person who came up with that name has never heard me say "MORE IS MORE!" So, of course, I HAD to try it,  just to challenge the notion that there could possibly be too much chocolate, and I'm happy to say that More is still MORE! I mean, seriously!! Whoever heard of there being TOO MUCH chocolate? That's just silly, and well, completely false. The original recipe suggested simply dusting the cake with powdered sugar, but I decided to go with a chocolate glaze, just to push it over the top! YUM! Actually, I think the word that Chris used was "Slammin'". It's SO true!
So, if you're planning an intimate evening with your someone special, this just might be the perfect decadent chocolate something to serve after a lovely candle lit dinner.

1 (18.25 oz) box Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix 
1 (5.9 ounce) box instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup warm strong coffee
2 cups semisweet mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease and flour (or spray with baking spray) a 12 cup Bundt pan. Set Aside.
In a mixing large bowl, mix together all ingredients except for the chips.
Stir the chips into the batter by hand. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch and an inserted wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool cake thoroughly in pan at least an hour and a half before inverting onto a plate. Drizzle with Hershey's Chocolate Glaze or dust the cake with powdered sugar.

This is a slightly tweaked version of the original recipe:
It called for warm water instead of coffee. I always like to add coffee because it really enhances the chocolate flavor. It gives it a much deeper quality.
I used mini chips instead of the regular ones because they are less likely to sink to the bottom of the cake while it bakes.
The original called for devil's food cake mix. I used dark chocolate fudge cake mix because I just like it better.
No, that is not a typo. You must let it cool in the pan for quite a while before turning it out onto a plate. I just let it cool completely and it came right out of the pan.
This recipe clearly lends itself to experimenting with different cake/pudding/chips combinations. Mix and match flavors however you'd like!
Oh, and this is important...all cake mixes are not created equal. Some are 15 oz, some are 16. Be sure to buy one that is 18.25 oz.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Cheeseburger Dip

So, I recently received an email from my sister, Cathy:
"Got this from my friend Jane (of Reuben Stromboli fame). Haven't tried it yet, but what could possibly be bad about this???"
She's absolutely right! I mean, seriously, what could possibly be bad about a hot cheesy baked dip with all of the flavors of a bacon double cheese burger that makes for some great game day snacking? Not a thing, as far as I'm concerned! Not only that, it was really easy to make. As soon as you take your first bite, you'll absolutely understand. It's seriously THAT good! Be sure to make this for your next get together! Everyone will love you for it! Thanx Cath! and Thanx Jane!!

1/2 pound ground beef
6 strips bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoon ketchup

Cook the ground beef in a pan over medium heat, set it aside and drain the grease from the pan.
Cook the bacon in the pan until crispy, about 6-10 minutes, set aside and drain all but a tablespoon of the grease.
Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
Mix the ground beef, bacon, onions and garlic, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, mozzarella, cheddar, Worcestershire sauce and ketchup and pour it into a baking dish.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the top starts turning a light golden brown and the sides are bubbling, about 20-30 minutes.
To drive home the whole cheeseburger thing... just before serving,  sprinkle some shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and diced pickles over the top. 

I sprinkled a little extra cheese over the top, just for the last 10 minutes, so that it gets all nice and melty and bubbly. Wait, is 'melty' a word?
As far as I'm concerned, the key to this dish is the ketchup and the Worcestershire sauce. They REALLY make it taste just like a cheeseburger!
I served it with toasted sesame seed crackers, just as one would serve a cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun, but clearly it would work with any favorite cracker.
If you're making this for a large group, you might consider doubling the recipe, just as I did. I'm just sayin!
Oh, and one other thing...
I had originally planned to take the picture with the lettuce, tomato, and pickles on top.. but I was so excited after I took it out of the oven that I forgot the extras and just took the picture! My Bad!