Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sasha's Kitchen: Strawberry Chocolate Chip Scones

I made these delicious breakfast and/or dessert scones a few weeks ago since I was able to score some delicious strawberries, even in the dead of winter.  The recipe comes from Alice's Tea Cup's cookbook, which is one of my favorite places in Manhattan to go for scones.  They are always a treat in any flavor!

Alice's Tea Cup's Strawberry-Chocolate Chop Scones
Makes about 12-14 scones
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/4 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
1 1/4 cups of buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 425.  In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  With clean hands work in the butter until thoroughly incorporated and has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.  Add the strawberries and chocolate and combine well.

Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk and vanilla.  Combine the mixture but do not knead.  Pat the dough to make a rectangle about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Cut the scones into 3/12 to 4 inch wedges.  Lay on a non-stick baking sheet and brush liberally with the cream, sprinkling some sugar on top.  Bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From Amasea's Kitchen in Sun Valley: Mini Chicken Pot Pies for deep winter

My poor husband.
He's camping outdoors with students at his school for the next two nights, and we just had our first snow in weeks. And it wasn't even a light snow -- four-plus inches, with temps dropping tonight to 15, more snow expected tonight and tomorrow, and a low tomorrow night of 9. Yep, that's single digits.
All this chilly, we're-not-out-of-winter-yet weather calls for comfort food, and what's more comforting than chicken pot pie? But because it'll be just me for the next few days, I didn't want to make a whole pie. Instead, last night I found a new use for my ramekins.

I started by thawing two Marie Callendar's frozen pie crusts. I know how to make crust, but time was tight and I just wanted to get cracking on the filling. I'd also thawed two chicken breasts (from Costco -- they come in six separately packaged pairs, so you can easily thaw a few at a time), then cut them into about 1-inch cubes. In hindsight, I think I'd probably cut the chicken smaller, but that might be less of an issue if you're making a big pie instead of little ones.

I cut three medium-sized red carrots into smaller pieces, about 3/4-inch square, and put the carrots and chicken in boiling water until they were cooked through, about 15 minutes. These were drained and set aside, then I rinsed out the pot to reuse it for the next step. I lowered the heat to a little less than medium, melted a cube of butter, and added a diced onion, fresh-ground black pepper to taste, about a tablespoon of red pepper flakes (which was noticeable but not overwhelming in the finished product, so adjust to your taste) and about half a tablespoon of celery seed (mine is a little old, so if yours is fresh, use less). I cooked until the onion got soft and transparent. The butter ended up getting a little too bubbly and brown, so I probably should have turned the heat down a little more.

Into the same pot, I added about half a cup of flour, 2 cups of chicken broth, 1/3 cup half-and-half and 2/3 cup milk, a cup or so of frozen peas and a cup or so of canned corn. This mixture will thicken pretty quickly, so stir frequently and keep an eye on. I kept it warm until the peas were almost thawed. Then I tasted, and added a little salt, but you might not need to add any if your broth is saltier than mine.

The crust split as it thawed, so I mushed it back together at the splits, tore off pieces, and lined the ramekins -- it was quite the cut-and-paste job -- leaving whole pieces aside to be the tops of the pies. At the end, I didn't have enough unbroken pieces to top all the pies, so I balled together the bits left over and rolled them out with a rolling pin. Worked beautifully, though be careful not to overwork the dough, because it will lose its awesome flakiness.

A few tablespoons of the filling went into each mini pie, then I pressed the cover crust onto and over the edges, poking a few knife holes into each to vent. I baked these at 425 for about 45 minutes, or until the crust was golden, then let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

I got a pretty good critique, too: My husband gave me two thumbs up, because he didn't want to stop eating long enough to actually comment! I hope the comfort stays with him through the next two cold, snow days...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sasha's Kitchen: Twice Baked Cheese Souffle

I love a good souffle, whether its a savory one or a sweet dessert souffle.  I've made a cheese souffle in the past, and was eager to try this recipe for a twice-baked cheese souffle from acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse.  The end result was a delicious cheese souffle dish that made for an excellent main course.  This brings back a little taste of Paris for me.

Twice-Baked Cheese Souffle with Parmesan Cream (adapted from this recipe)
6 T unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic
1 cup milk
1/2 cup comte cheese, grated (similar to Gruyere)
salt and pepper
four large eggs, separated

parmesan cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup grated comte cheese
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 before you start.  It needs to be hot and ready when the souffle first goes in.  Butter an eight inch rectangular baking pan and dust with parmesan.  In a saucepan, melt the six tablespoons of butter and add the flour and garlic and cook for about two minutes to make a roux.  Addd the milk and whisk until thickened, about two minutes.  Discard the garlic clove.  Add the comte cheese and half a cup of parmesan and season with the salt and pepper.  Whisk or puree until smooth.  I didn't have a need to puree it at all.  Add the yolks and combine until smooth.

Place the whites in a stand mixer with a whisk attachments.  Beat at high speed until soft peaks form.  Thoroughly fold in the egg whites into the cheese mixture. Bake for thirty minutes until risen and golden.    Let souffle cool for ten minutes and then invert on baking sheet and broil for about thirty seconds to a minute until golden.

While the souffle is first cooking, prepare the parmesan cream.  Bring the cream and milk to a boil in a saucepan.  Add the cheeses and let stand for five minutes, then process until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper and put on top of the souffle.
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