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Popovers

One of the choices this month for the Barefoot Bloggers was Ina Garten’s Popovers from her fabulous cookbook Parties.I have always wanted to try Popovers or Yorkshire Pudding, but always seemed to talk myself out of it. I was making a roast, so it seemed this would be the ideal time to try this recipe.

I have to tell you that my son spent half the meal imitating of the character of Billy Sparrow from My Blue Heaven – he repeated “It’s a popover” over and over again. Sigh.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus softened butter for greasing pans
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Generously butter or oil aluminum popover pans or Pyrex custard cups.This recipe makes 12 popovers so you’ll need enough pans for 12.

NOTE: This was the first time I was making any sort of Popover or Yorkshire Pudding type thing, so I was hesitant to buy anything special. I used a cupcake tin.

Place the pans in the oven for exactly 2 minutes to preheat.

NOTE: I am not sure why EXACTLY two minutes, but hey, I go with the flow the first time through a recipe. Do the Popover Police show up ig you leave the pans in there for 2 minutes and 30 seconds? Do they flop of it 1 minute and 45 seconds?

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt, eggs, milk, and melted butter until smooth. The batter is thin. Fill the popover pans less than half full and bake for exactly 30 minutes. Do not peek.

NOTE: It is very tempting to peek. But unless you can peek through the window in your oven DON’T OPEN THE DOOR! 30 minutes was a minute or 2 too long. I should  have buttered the cupcake cups more, but for the most part the Popovers popped right out. Now, they are completely hollow, so they do seem to be a little silly – especially when you come form a family of bread eaters – but good nonetheless, especially with a lot of butter!

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Oven Fried Chicken

First I must apologize to the folks over at Barefoot Bloggers for this entry being so unbelievably late. Those of you who personally know me understand that my household has been a complete lunatic asylum for the last 5 months and no light at the end of the tunnel just yet.

One of the last recipes for the Barefoot Bloggers to try was Ina Garten’s Oven Fried Chicken from Family Style – which happens to be my favorite Ina Garten cookbook. If you couple this with fried chicken being one of my absolute favorite comfort foods you practically have a match made in heaven.

I was in the mood for fried chicken, cole slaw, my fav potato salad (Italian salad from a pal on Contessa’s Kitchen) and my grandmother’s biscuits.

I have to say at the outset that while the end result was really good, crispy, flavorful (with my tweeks), this by no means, in no way shape or form OVEN fried chicken! This is what happens when you have a family affliction of not reading recipes all the way through! I read everything I needed to do to prep – ingredients – check, chicken in butermilk marinating – check. But I totally missed the fry the chicken before oven frying part. This little factoid totally screwed up my timing. It takes a long time to fry dinosaur sized chicken thighs (I only used thighs) for 3 minutes on each side and not crowd them!

This aside, this was so very good and with proper time management would definitely be something to do again!

  • 2 chickens (3 pounds each), cut in 8 serving pieces
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil or vegetable shortening

NOTE: Chicken thighs were on sale so I used equivalent weight of all thighs – they were HUMONGOUS.

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the buttermilk over them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

NOTE: I didn’t do this overnight, but from early morning to the time I began cooking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and coat each piece thoroughly with the flour mixture. Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottomed stockpot to a depth of 1-inch and heat to 360 degrees F on a thermometer.

NOTE: Also, I had read in the blogosphere that others making this recipe had complained about the blandness of the coating. I added a favorite BBQ spice mix to the flour and it was really terrific.

Working in batches, carefully place several pieces of chicken in the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until the coating is a light golden brown (it will continue to brown in the oven). Don’t crowd the pieces.

NOTE: See where the oven frying goes RIGHT OUT THE WINDOW? This was a huge pain in the tushy but I used a stock pot – next time I’ll use a larger one so more pieces can go in, or brave using a large cast iron skillet.

Remove the chicken from the oil and place each piece on a metal baking rack set on a sheet pan. Allow the oil to return to 360 degrees F before frying the next batch. When all the chicken is fried, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

NOTE: The baking just brings this chicken up to a whole new level. The inside was so tender and moist. The outside seriously crispy. You heard nothing around our dinner table but really loud crunching!

Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

No matter what type of cookie I bake, it always comes back to an oatmeal cookie. The boy is away working for the summer and sends messages – Please, send cookies! For future reference, a little ‘Hi Mom’ gets you a long way, my son!

I had been wanting to try Ina Garten’s Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies from Back to Basics for a while, so here we go!

  •  1 1/2 cups pecans
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins

NOTE: We are not really raisin fans in our house, so I swapped out the raisins for dried cherries.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the pecans on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to cool. Chop very coarsely.

NOTE: I solved this pain by buying already chopped pecans from Trader Joe’s.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together into a medium bowl. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Add the oats, raisins, and pecans and mix just until combined.

Using a small ice-cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop 2-inch mounds of dough onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with a damp hand. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a baking rack and cool completely.

NOTE: I will definitely make this again. I didn’t do the flattening part – just seemed a little silly. These cookies don’t spread much, so maybe I will flatten them a little next time.  These travel really well so they’re great for shipping. My only dislike is there is no chocolate in them …

Scalloped Tomatoes

I don’t know about the rest of you, but my side dishes bore me. I seem to make the same ones over and over and over.  I see wonderful recipes for sides and veggies, cut them out and never quite get there. I had seen Ina make this dish, printed it, and added it to the ever growing pile of sides-I-will-never-try. I was tickled that one of the choices for this month’s Barefoot Bloggers was Ina’s Scalloped Tomatoes.  It took care of so many self-inflicted obligations – one thing out of my pile of things to try, a new summery type side dish, and Barefoot Bloggers.  Getting so many things out of one recipe can’t possibly be bad!

  • 5 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch diced) bread from a French boule, crusts removed
  • 16 plum tomatoes, cut into a 1/2-inch dice (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 t kosher salt
  • 1 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup julienned basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

NOTE: The recipe calls for good olive oil. I can not stand this about Ina’s recipes. You need 5 tablespoons of olive oil all together. Can’t she just SAY THAT! For those of you who were going to use BAD olive oil, please refrain, at least for this recipe!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12 inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned.

NOTE: I don’t think the boule I used was dense enough. You really need a dense loaf.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are done, add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.

NOTE: I combined the tomato mixture first. I didn’t want to take too much attention away from the bread and figured it would take more than 5 minutes to put the tomato mixture together. 

Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.

NOTES: This dish is really terrific.  I think the bread cubes need to be a bit bigger, and definitely need to be toasted more than what I did. They need to be really firm and toasted enough to not turn to MUSH against the tomatoes. I also think that next time I may remove some of the pulp and seeds from the tomatoes.  The amount of liquid made the bread a little too mushy for my liking. And, lastly, I’m not sure that the tomatoes and bread need to cook together in the pan for 5 minutes before going into the oven. Next time, I am going to just mix them quickly and then into the oven.

Individual Meat Loaves

 
There are big meatloaf fans in my house, so when one of this month’s Barefoot Blogger recipes was Ina Garten’s Individual Meat Loaves, I was excited.
 
This recipe is nearly the same as the Turkey Meatloaf from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook – the change here is beef for turkey and breaking it down to smaller loaves instead of one large meatloaf.
 
Truthfully, I very rarely vary from my own meatloaf mixture. It’s a little of this and a little of that. But I really like the sautéed onion mixture and may just have to incorporate that into my own meatloaf mixture. It smells great as it’s cooking.
 
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 3 cups chopped yellow onions (3 onions)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup canned chicken stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground chuck (81 percent lean)
  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 extra-large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup ketchup (recommended: Heinz)

NOTE: Again, that phrase ‘good olive oil’. Does anyone go to the store and buy crappy olive oil? Is this extra virgin olive oil or just olive oil. Now, my grandmother taught me that you cook with olive oil and finish or dress with extra virgin olive oil. That being the case, use olive oil. Just don’t buy the one with the label that says crappy.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the onions, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not brown.

Take the pan off the heat, mix in the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the meat, onion mixture, bread crumbs, and eggs, and mix lightly with a fork. Don’t mash or the meatloaf will be dense.

NOTE: You really cannot mix this with a fork – or a spoon. I can’t imagine anyone using a masher. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands messy. It is really the fastest most efficient way to mix it.

Divide the mixture into 6 (10 to 11-ounce) portions and shape each portion into a small loaf on a foil lined sheet pan. Spread about a tablespoon of ketchup on the top of each portion. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the internal temperature is 155 to 160 degrees F and the meat loaves are cooked through.

NOTE: I lined my sheet pan with Reynold’s Quick Release foil. This stuff is great. Easy clean-up. Easy to get the loaves off the sheet pan. And as a bonus, because they don’t stick, there’s  a nice crust on the bottom of each loaf.  Also, next time I think I may use BBQ sauce instead of the ketchup for a little kick!

Indonesian Ginger Chicken

I always find that Ina Garten’s early recipes work and her newer ones don’t always work so well. For this reason, I was happy to see that one of the choices for Barefoot Bloggers this month was for Indonesian Ginger Chicken from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

Looked relatively simple. Four ingredients for the marinade and chicken. Sadly, I have a habit of not reading a recipe all the way through before I jump in. This time I missed MARINATE OVER NIGHT (insert heavy sigh). By the time I had everything together, the chicken was in the marinade for  5 1/2 hours – and, honestly, it made no difference. The chicken was tender and flavorful, incredible aroma through the house – a total success.

  • 1 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic (8 to 12 cloves)
  • 1/2 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger root
  • 2 (3 1/2 pound) chickens, quartered, with backs removed

NOTE: 1/2 cup of grated ginger! That’s a lot of ginger. I used a little less than that. Not so much from not wanting a lot of ginger but from an inability to judge how much ginger would be 1/2 a cup.

Cook the honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in a shallow baking pan, skin side down, and pour on the sauce. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

NOTE: In my case, 5 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan, turn the chicken skin side up, and raise the temperature to 375 degrees F. Continue baking for 30 minutes or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh and the sauce is a rich, dark brown.

NOTE: I removed the baking dish from the fridge about 30 minutes before putting into the oven. It should have been out of the fridge a little longer. Because it was cold, I added about 5 minutes to the first cooking time and 7 to the second cooking time.

I served this with Basmati rice that I cooked in chicken stock, and broccoli and cauliflower florets that I roasted. Definitely a recipe to try again!

Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

One of the choices this month from Barefoot Bloggers was Ina’s Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms. This seemed like as good a time as any to get over my stuffed mushroom anxiety.

Don’t get me wrong, I love stuffed mushrooms. I love when other people make stuffed mushrooms. I don’t love when I am making the stuffed mushrooms. It always seems so fiddley to do.  And really, my stuffed mushrooms are boring. Mushroom stems chopped, bread crumbs, cheese, extra virgin olive oil … boring!

This recipe seemed like a lot of steps, but once you get going, it’s really rather simple. I think the key – as with any recipe – prep first. I took out my mini chopper and minced the mushroom stems, the scallions, garlic and parsley. That really made things easy!

  • 16 extra-large white mushrooms
  • 5 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Marsala wine or medium sherry
  • 3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casings
  • 6 scallions, white and green parts, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2/3 cup panko crumbs
  • 5 ounces mascarpone cheese, preferably from Italy
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop them finely. Set aside. Place the mushroom caps in a shallow bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and Marsala. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, crumbling it with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it’s completely browned. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the scallions and garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the panko crumbs, stirring to combine evenly with all the other ingredients. Finally, swirl in the mascarpone and continue cooking until the mascarpone has melted and made the sausage mixture creamy. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, parsley, and season with salt and pepper, to taste, Cool slightly.

Fill each mushroom generously with the sausage mixture. Arrange the mushrooms in a baking dish large enough to hold all the mushrooms in a snug single layer. Bake until the stuffing for 50 minutes, until the stuffing is browned and crusty.

NOTES:

  • I wish someone would explain ‘good olive oil’! Is that good quality olive oil or extra virgin olive oil? Why would you saute in extra virgin olive oil? And what would be considered bad olive oil?
  • My mushrooms fit snuggly in a 9×13 pan.
  • Mascarpone doesn’t ‘swirl’ but does melt once it heats up.
  • I thought the caps could have been a little softer. I need to figure out a way to make that happen next time.