Sunday, January 27, 2019

Ruth Reichl's Risotto Milanese

THREE bottles of saffron and FIVE bottles of sesame seeds. That's what I found when I cleaned out my spice cabinets. Oh, I had other spices hoarded in there, but the saffron and sesame seeds just happened to be the worst. Three bottles of saffron? Five bottles of sesame seeds? Good grief.

How in the world did I accumulate so much of each and what on earth was I going to do with it all?

My new kitchen mission, PROJECT SAFFRON AND SESAME SEED. I've been researching recipes and making lists to help use up my collection. My reward is going to be a total rehaul of my spice cabinet.

So, first up is Ruth Reichl's Risotto Milanese, a simple Italian recipe straight out of Milan. A creamy and comforting rice dish with a beautiful yellow hue thanks to one exotic ingredient: saffron. I thought the risotto was extremely pleasing to the eye with a mild flavor, very cheesy and buttery. People have described the taste of saffron as floral, earthy, grassy, sweet, or honey-like. I've never really felt like it had much of a taste. Maybe only slightly. If you ask me, I think saffron is mostly used for the beautiful golden hue it creates.

Either way, this is a very family-friendly dish that adults and kids would enjoy. I think it would pair well with almost any meat, fish, or veggie. I highly recommend this if you have some saffron hanging around that needs using up and/or if you're looking for a pretty dish with some "wow" factor. I would definitely make this again!

Risotto Milanese
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 6

4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
scant 1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine stock and water in a 2-to 3-quart saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Transfer 1 cup stock to a measuring cup and stir in saffron until dissolved (I didn't stir until dissolved because I wanted to see the saffron threads). Leave all the stock on the stovetop so that it stays warm.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup stock mixture (without saffron) and cook at a strong simmer, stirring frequently, until stock is absorbed. Continue adding stock in 1/2 cup increments, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, for 10 minutes.

Then begin adding the saffron broth and simmer, stirring, until absorbed. Continue to add stock mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, 18 to 25 minutes total. You may or may not have stock left over. This is ok.

When the rice is al dente, add 1 tablespoon of butter and the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir these into the rice. Take the rice off the heat before all the liquid is absorbed. Risotto should not be dry and should have some liquid remaining when served. Serve immediately. Diners should be ready and waiting to eat. Best served piping hot! 


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Ruth Reichl's Food Cart Curry Chicken

"The entire city smells like curry. Passing the fourth halal chicken cart, I can't resist. Spicy, tangy, irresistible. The taste of now."_Ruth Reichl

I love New York City. It's full of inspiration. The sights, the sounds, the smells. It's a place where anything is possible. You can feel the excitement in the air. I'd even say you can feel the excitement pulsing through you.

I love everything about the city, but naturally, I am drawn to all the food possibilities. It seems as though NYC is the food mecca of the world and every type of cuisine is at your fingertips.

A quick walk through the city will reveal food cart upon food cart selling fragrant and aromatic curry chicken. Tempting you at every turn, it is likely you will have to pass several before you arrive at your destination. I can't tell you how many carts I passed without ever getting a taste, but I can tell you it was pretty much torture.

For some reason, we were just too busy or too full or in a hurry and we never got a chance to give it a try. So, I was very pleased when I saw a recipe for the Food Cart Curry Chicken in Ruth's My Kitchen Year because now I would finally be able to try it!

Clearly, I have been missing out because Food Cart Curry Chicken is delicious. Marinated in a fragrant spice paste with onions, curry chicken is oh so tender and flavorful. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was mildly spiced and just plain delightful over rice. I can totally see the appeal and after taking one bite I can see why it's sold at every corner.

Bottom line is....Food Cart Curry Chicken is something I think just about anyone would love, very family friendly, and this recipe is perfection. I highly recommend giving it a try!

Food Cart Curry Chicken
Adapted from My Kitchen Year
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 4

1 pound chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)*
1 tablespoon curry powder
fresh oregano
1/2 onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
vegetable oil

Note: I used boneless skinless chicken breast because it was what I had on hand it worked perfectly.

Cut the chicken into bite-sized chunks, and slice the onion into thin rings/slices.  

Make a paste by combining the olive oil with 1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, the coriander seeds, the garlic, the curry powder, a sprig of oregano, the paprika, the cumin, and a teaspoon of salt in a spice grinder or a blender. Give it a whirl, then grind in copious amounts of black pepper.

Put the onions and chicken into a plastic bag, pour in the marinade, and squish it all round so the onions and chicken are thoroughly coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. (Note: I marinated mine for 4 hours exactly and it was extremely tender).

Sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Slick a heavy pan or wok with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and cook the onions and chicken for about 5 minutes, tossing every minute or so. It will splutter a bit, and it will smell so delicious you'll be snatching pieces from the pan.

Serve over white rice. I always asked for my chicken without the white sauce they have at the carts, but if you must have it, combine equal parts of mayonnaise and Greek yogurt, then add a dollop of sugar, salt and pepper, and a splash of vinegar. Personally, I think a righteous red hot sauce is far more delicious.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Spicy One-Skillet Lasagna

 I had a chance to get caught up on some of my cooking shows over the holidays and created yet another list of recipes to try. High on that list was this Spicy One-Skillet Lasagna that I watched on an episode of Giada Entertains. It seemed quick and easy and as soon as she said "one-skillet" I was sold. 

Giada's Spicy One-Skillet Lasagna uses jarred sauce, spicy Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, red pepper flakes for heat, a pound of fresh mozzarella, heaps of Parmesan, and a touch of Gruyere. There is no ricotta, and with all the other cheeses, you definitely won't miss it! 

This lasagna is delicious with a slight kick of heat that is tempered by a lot of oozing cheese. It's definitely a winning recipe for cheese-lovers and we really did enjoy it. I especially liked the addition of the broccoli rabe and found it was a nice way to sneak some veggies in. I would definitely make this again!

Spicy One-Skillet Lasagna
Adapted from Food Network
by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 pounds spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
3 shallots, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on desired spice level
1 bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper, to taste
One 25-ounce jar marinara sauce
8 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles
1-1/2 cups grated Parmesan
1 pound fresh mozzarella, dried well and torn into large chunks
1/2 cup grated Gruyere

Preheat oven to 375F. In a 12-inch high-sided skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into bite-size pieces with a wooden spoon, until cooked through and browned, about 7 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until translucent and slightly fragrant, another 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 2 minutes to toast. Stir in the broccoli rabe and salt; cook until the rabe is wilted, 2 minutes. Remove the mixture to a medium bowl and return the pan to the stove over low heat.

Spoon a small amount of the marinara sauce in the bottom of the skillet. Mix the remaining marinara with the sausage mixture in the bowl. Layer half of the lasagna noodles on top of the marinara, breaking them up as needed to fit the pan. Cover with half of the sausage mixture. Add 3/4 cup of the Parmesan and half the mozzarella. Layer with the remaining noodles. Cover with the remaining sausage mixture and top with the rest of the Parmesan and mozzarella and the Gruyere.

Bake until bubbly and golden on top, about 40 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before serving. 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Stirring the Pot Turns Ten Years Old {and My Top Ten Recipes Ever}!!

My passion for cooking started when I was barely big enough to stand on a stool and help my mom in the kitchen. Thankfully she never lost patience with me. I learned a lot. I fell in love.

Fast forward about 30 years. This picture was my first blog post back on January 6, 2009. We had just moved into our dream house. My daughter was 7 and my son was only 2 years old. I was a young stay at home mom with a passion for cooking and I was ready to go on an adventure. A food blogging adventure. This is the Stirring The Pot kitchen 10 years ago, brand new. It's 10 years later and that kitchen is definitely showing some wear.

The inspiration for Stirring the Pot came from reading food blogs and watching the movie Julie & Julia. Julie & Julia had just hit the movie theatre and it was all the inspiration I needed to choose a cookbook of my own to cook through. At the time I was really into Tyler Florence and had just received his newest cookbook, Stirring the Pot. This was the one. I only had one dilemma. Tyler's cookbook had lots of dishes I knew my family wouldn't eat. My husband and daughter were picky eaters and my son was allergic to all sorts of things. I needed someone who enjoyed food like I did and I knew just the person.

I called my mom and explained what I wanted to do. She agreed to eat whatever I cooked and Stirring The Pot was born. My first blog dish was Tyler's Roasted Tomato Soup with Fresh Basil. I knew nothing about taking pictures (see below), but we enjoyed the soup and I did manage to make over 60 recipes from the book before I got distracted by other chefs and recipes and started branching out. Mom and I were having a wonderful time cooking and eating together. She held to her promise.  She ate everything and always had the best feedback.

Along the way, I met so many people who were just as passionate about food. This has been, without a doubt, the best part of this journey. I love and appreciate all of my foodie friends. I really enjoy talking about food and life with you!

I was lucky enough to join in with a bunch of sweet ladies and form a cooking group called I Heart Cooking Clubs where we would choose one chef and focus on cooking their recipes for a six month period. Now it's 10 years later and my great friend Deb and I are still going strong. Together with a group of wonderful friends we've managed to cook the food of 19 chefs!

I've also had the chance to meet a few celebrity chefs. I was able to catch Tyler Florence at a book signing and have him sign my copy of Stirring The Pot. I was also able to meet Giada De Laurentiis at a book signing. However, the best celebrity experience was meeting Bobby Flay.

He came to town and did a live cooking show. He was working on making an apple dessert and took questions from the audience as he did so. I managed to get in line and be the last one to speak. I confessed my crush, told him he was gorgeous, and then he gave me a hug and handed me the dessert. My own dessert made by Bobby Flay himself. I still remember how ecstatic I was.

I never imagined starting a food blog would be one of the best things I could do for myself. This is my 892nd post! I've cooked over 900 recipes! I was able to share them with my mom and my family and I have it all recorded! I've made the most wonderful like-minded friends, I've met celebrities, I've participated in many cook along groups and food challenges, done guest posts, wrote cookbook reviews, received cookbooks, cookware, and ingredients for free, I've had big kitchen failures, and I've learned so much. Most of all I was able to realize my goals and then some, and that is such a great feeling! I would encourage anyone with a passion to start small. The sky really is the limit and you have no idea where your journey will take you.

Now let's get to the good part...THE RECIPES!

These are the best of the best. The consistent crowd pleasers. The tried and true. The ones I turn to again and again. My approach was to remove any emotion or bias towards the food and focus solely on which recipes were written perfectly and produced the best results each and every time. I'm so happy with this list. I didn't plan it, but there is a mix of everything: breakfast, soup, pasta, main courses, and even a dessert! There may be a lot of chicken in this roundup, but it's not because it's our favorite. It's simply because the recipes are outstanding and have proven to be tried and true. These are gems. Consistently delicious recipes that turn out perfectly each and every time and that, my friends, is what it's all about. The search for go-to recipes that stand the test of time!

Madhur Jaffrey's Delicious Chicken Bits
 These Delicious Chicken Bits are hands down the #1 recipe that is requested in my house. My family refers to this dish as Indian Chicken and I have made it at least 50 times since making it the first time in 2012. The chicken marinates in a mixture of black pepper, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cumin, thyme, garlic powder, paprika, salt and oil and then it gets a quick sear and finishes cooking in the oven for 8 minutes. It is easy, quick, and the chicken bits are little flavor bombs. Jaffrey says to serve the chicken bits on their own as an appetizer, but we enjoy them over rice with a green veggie on the side. If I had to pick only one top favorite recipe on Stirring The Pot for all 10 years, it would hands down be this one. If you are a meat eater, you simply MUST MAKE this recipe!
Jamie Oliver's Farfalle with a Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce
 I first made Jamie Oliver's Farfalle with a Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce back in 2011 for my pasta-loving daughter. It was an instant hit and has been a dish that has been requested over and over. I have taken the liberty to adapt the recipe a touch over the years. I like to make it a little more luscious by adding a touch more cream, Parmesan, and about 4 ounces of  Mascarpone. This makes the final dish very creamy and flavorful. This is definitely a family-friendly dish and I love how quick and easy it is. My daughter has literally grown up eating this one. So hard to believe she will turn 18 soon and graduate from high school.
Tyler Florence's Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies
 This one is from way back in the archives, 2009, to be exact. I made these cookies just a few months into blogging and I have made them ever since. If I were to pick one baking recipe to share with the world, it would be these cookies. Oh my goodness, they are so good! If you've never made these then run to the store and grab the ingredients right now. Buy the best chocolate you can get your hands on. Tyler's recipe uses dark chocolate. Use whichever chocolate is your favorite. I use semi-sweet chocolate and I prefer making these cookies with Ghiradelli sold in the block and cut into big chunks. This recipe makes 8 giant cookies. They will be the best cookies you ever had. You will be SO proud of them. They will disappear before you know it. They will be your go-to recipe for everything: potlucks, birthdays, bake sales, gatherings, etc. Just make them!
 Yes, I'm sharing chicken legs on my Top Ten Recipes Ever list, BUT these are SO GOOD. This is a recipe to put in your back pocket when you're looking for something easy and delicious that will please your family. This recipe is a home cook's best-kept secret. Put it in your back pocket. I try to buy quality chicken legs, organic, if possible. You'll need 2-3 for each person you're serving. Drizzle them with oil and dust them with a hefty dose of Lawry's seasoning and salt and pepper and roast at 400F for about an hour or so (depends on size and quantity). Prepare for your house to smell absolutely amazing! The chicken is crispy on the outside, extremely flavorful, and the interior is fall-off-the-bone tender. These Easy Peasy Chicken Legs pair well with just about anything, are very budget-friendly, and people will go on and on about them.
 I love shrimp and if you've been following me for any time at all then you know I've shared a lot of shrimp recipes. They have all been delicious, but this one is THE BEST. What makes Bayless' Quick-Fried Shrimp with Sweet Toasty Garlic so much better than the rest? Well, the answer is simple. It's his Mojo de Ajo, a garlic oil that is made by chopping two entire heads of garlic and slow cooking it in oil for around 30 minutes before adding chiles for heat and a touch of lime zest for brightness. These shrimp are completely irresistible! The first time I made them I accidentally ate all of them straight from the pan. This is the best recipe I've found if you love the classic pairing of shrimp and garlic. Just be sure to cook the garlic low and slow!
Yotam Ottolenghi's Hummus Kawarma with Lemon Sauce
 If you love hummus then this is YOUR RECIPE. I knew Ottolenghi's hummus would be delicious, but I had no idea how perfect this recipe was going to be. The creamiest hummus cooked from scratch topped with crispy bits of ground lamb, garbanzo beans, buttered and toasted pine nuts, and the most refreshing and tangy lemon sauce. Wow...this is the stuff of dreams. The hummus to end all hummus. I could eat it every day for the rest of my life.
Jacques Pepin's Egg and Onion Gratin
 Cooking with Jacques Pepin was so inspiring and I learned so many new ways to prepare food. Prior to making this Egg and Onion Gratin, I had never thought of making a gratin out of hard-boiled eggs, but this dish blew my mind. Hard-boiled eggs and sauteed onions topped with a Gruyere cheese bechamel sauce. It's a departure from the regular old breakfast and it's so delightful served on toast. I knew it was one of my top favorite recipes ever as soon as I took the first bite!
Jacques Pepin's Onion Soup Lyonnaise-Style
 This recipe is perfection. Completely perfection. Pepin's Onion Soup Lyonnaise-Style. First of all, Pepin is a genius and if anyone knows French Onion Soup it's him. Second of all, it has not just one layer of bread and cheese, but two. Third of all, this is a restaurant-quality dish and people will literally sing your praises.
Nigel Slater's Roast Chicken Wings
 We love chicken wings and this recipe was game-changing for us! Prior to trying this recipe, I had no idea that roasting wings resulted in superior results. I'm convinced the roasting enhances the flavor of the chicken itself while also lending a perfectly crispy exterior. When I first made Slater's recipe I made his Lemon and Cracked Pepper version, but now we follow his recipe and change up the flavors all the time. My husband and kids think roast chicken wings at home are far better than the fried wings you eat at any restaurant. I have made these and taken them to potlucks and parties and I can never seem to make enough. They fly off the plate in minutes.
Ina Garten's Engagement Roast Chicken
  Odds are you've heard of Ina Garten's Engagement Roast Chicken over the years and I'm here to tell you that it's for good reason.  I've made a number of roast chickens over the years and this one is by far the VERY BEST. If you're going to make a roast chicken, this should be the one. A perfectly crispy golden brown chicken that is juicy and tender and topped with flavorful onion gravy. I recommend this to all of my friends when they ask me for recipe ideas. Ina knows chicken and this recipe cannot be beaten. This recipe should be in every home cook's arsenal!
 Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my journey! I'm looking forward to the next 10 years!

*This post is dedicated to my mom, the best taste-tester there ever was. Thank you, mom!