Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pasta Pasta

    Where have I been?! Sometimes it feels like it's been a few days since my last post, and then I look at the last date and realize it's been an entire month! Here's what happened. I'm a baker. It was Thanksgiving. There you have it! Next time you guys go to a bakery for your wonderful holiday treats, take a second to give a shout out to the bakers/ front workers/ owners, of that establishment. They (we) give your treats 100% of their (our) time and effort, and enjoy every second of it! However, it does make time fly and seemingly get away from doing things like updating our incredibly important blogs that tons and tons of people read. Right?
    After a holiday of feasting and gathering, most people go for the salad and water for their upcoming meals. Me? I go for the pasta and leftovers. Here's the recipe I promised you in my last post, the rosemary pasta which would be AWESOME in any holiday meal. Think about it for December... Everyone will say, "you made your own pasta?! Ooo!". Just like that.

Here we go!

Homemade Rosemary Taglietelle
6 servings for normal people. 4 for my family. 

1 cup cake flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp very finely chopped rosemary
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water

Making your own pasta is super simple, but it does take a bit of know how. Pasta is generally made with 00 flour, which can be difficult to find. I subbed in cake flour for it's lighter gluten content and softer texture. Put the flours and salt together in a mound on a clean kitchen surface, and with your fingers make a well in the center. Crack the yolks, water, rosemary, and oil in the center of the well. With a fork, vigorously mix until flour starts to fall in from the sides and thicken. Then knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic in consistency, about 10 minutes. Wrap the finished dough in plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature for an hour until you're ready to roll it.

Rolling is my favorite part, because I feel like I'm 5 years old again rolling out my play-dough pasta sheets. It's different though I guess...because you can actually eat it. Form the rested dough into a rectangle and set your pasta roller to the thickest setting. Pass your dough through the rollers 2 times before folding the sheets and setting it through 1 more time. Now you can start to set the rollers thinner and thinner, passing the dough sheets through about 2 times on each setting. I like to take mine to the thinnest setting, but that's up to you. Once you have very long sheets of pasta, fold the dough from the longest sides into a cinnamon roll shape, and gently slice the pasta into long thin noodles, each about 1/4 inch wide. 

These cook super fast, about 4 minutes or so. This dish is delicious with my chicken marsala, but give it a try with something like brown butter sauce, or with your family's secret bolognese recipe.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Roasted Chicken Marsala.

      Chicken marsala, fresh rosemary tagliatelle pasta, and artichokes are proof that my Italian is showing tonight. All of these things are such a labor of love, and this week, it's incredibly welcomed.
Last week, my older sister Amanda was married! Hooray! Weddings are wonderful, aren't they? Wonderfully happy, wonderfully emotional, and wonderfully draining. I haven't been able to cook a meal throughout the whole experience! I wouldn't trade one thing that happened this wedding weekend, but I am eternally grateful that I can now spend hours in the kitchen again without fear of fitting into my Maid of Honor dress...
     The days prior to the wedding were filled with family and laughter, slaving over the kitchen table carving pumpkins for center pieces and drinking bottle after bottle of wine. Amanda watched in anticipation, my mother went over lists of tasks to complete the morning of, and I along with my fellow bridesmaids got our hands dirty with paint, caramel (for the caramel apple favors), and pumpkin guts. You know, the normal wedding itinerary. 
Now that it's over however, we have pictures to look forward to. I'm sure that my family will sit around our kitchen table again, and look through them together. Always at the kitchen table.

Tonight, we're making chicken marsala. Let's change it up though, we'll roast a whole chicken with ground dried porcini mushrooms, and make a marsala pan sauce with the natural juice that the chicken creates through it's cooking. That sauce on top of that homemade rosemary tagliatelle...OOF. 
Stay focused, Megan. Chicken. I feel that this process of roasting makes for a much more flavorful dish. Hey, did I mention it's 39 degrees outside? If that temperature doesn't mean it's time to roast, I don't know what does. 
Let's get cookin'.

Roasted Chicken Marsala
Serves 4 hungry people

1- 5 1/2 pound chicken
3 shallots, 1 halved and 2 sliced
2 heads garlic
1 cinnamon stick
1 apple, cut in quarters
1 large sprig rosemary
.5 oz dried porcini mushrooms, finely ground
1 stick salted butter
Kosher Salt and Pepper
2 c. chicken stock
10 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms
3/4 c. dry marsala wine
2/3 c. heavy cream
3 tbs all purpose flour 
1/4 tsp dried sage 
1 lemon

Alright, so some of these ingredients may sound odd for a marsala dish. I get it. These things though, like apple and cinnamon, take the pan sauce to a new level of delicious. They don't taste abundantly like themselves, but rather lend a depth. Phew, okay now that I've explained that, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Rinse your chicken inside and out, place on a roasting rack and pat dry. Let this sit at room temperature while you prepare the compound butter and stuffing. Compound butter?! That's right. So next time you see this on a restaurant menu, you'll know how easy it is to make yourself in any flavor your heart desires. Take the soft butter and dried mushroom powder, and mix them together. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, and slather this under the skin and on top of the bird. As for the stuffing, I learned this trick from Alton Brown's Thanksgiving turkey recipe and I will never skip it again when roasting a whole bird. I just change the ingredients to fit the recipe, and I suggest you do the same! If you try this recipe, you'll totally agree. Gather together the halved shallot, the 2 heads of garlic cut in half, cinnamon stick, and apple pieces. Place them in a microwaveable bowl with 1/4 c of water and cook on high for 1 and 1/2 minutes. This releases so much aroma and gives the ingredients a head start on flavoring the inside of the meat. Let this cool before stuffing inside the cavity with the 1 sprig of rosemary. Any extra water from the stuffing can be placed on the bottom of the roasting pan, along with 1/2 c of the chicken stock. Sprinkle the bird with a little extra salt and pepper and roast for an hour and a half, or until the meat has a temperature of 165 degrees! Keep an eye on the bottom of the pan. If it's getting too dark, add more stock or water. The pan means a lot to us right now, it's what is going to make us the base of our marsala sauce, so if it burns...well... we'll figure something out.
Okay, now you can make your side dishes!! Like this fresh rosemary pasta. That's another post though... sorry.

Great, the chicken is done and you can practically taste it! Probably because you've taken that bit of brown skin off the part of the bird nobody really pays attention to and snacked on it. I got you. So let's move that bird to a carving board and cover it with foil, and take that pan back to the stove top on medium heat. Add in 2 tbs of butter and the sliced shallots. Cook until translucent and throw in the mushrooms. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and cook again until browned. Add the sage, stirring about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Now we'll make the roux, or the base for our gravy/sauce. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and cook until the juices have seized and the raw flour has cooked, about 1 minutes. Turn the heat off (because a surprise kitchen flare up isn't welcomed everywhere), and pour in the marsala. Turn the heat back to medium and cook.  Now we can customize! Too much wine flavor? Too thick? Add chicken stock. Not enough? More wine. Hold off on more salt though until the sauce has all it's elements. Now whisk in the heavy cream and the juice of 1/2 the lemon. Taste again! I know, it's torturous tasting this marsala sauce... Salt and pepper can be added now to fit your family's preference.
Now you can smother that roast chicken with the pan sauce and devour! My family ate this in 15 minutes. A new record.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

So Far, Soufflé.

    Alright Ladies and Gents it's time to put your fancy pants on, because we're about to make some chocolate soufflé!
Soufflé is one of those magical food items. It's light, fluffy, and warm. Depending on what you put into it, it could satisfy your cheesiest or sweetest dreams, and right now we're dreaming in chocolate. Ladies, you know what I'm talking about.
It may seem like something you'd only see on the Metropolitan Opera House's dessert menu, or in a 5-star Brasserie, but with a little know-how, you can whip one up as quickly as a batch of cookies. Trust me, when you're craving some serious dessert, it's more satisfying than a cookie. Unless the cookie is filled with warm salted caramel... but enough of that, I'm getting side tracked.
Soufflé!  One thing that it is however, is time sensitive. So plan on serving it as soon as it comes out of the oven or else you lose the "wow" of the puffed confection. My boyfriend Mark photographed this baking session, and he first handedly found out just how quickly the deflation occurs. So we will have one picture of mine from inside the oven, and then the slightly deflated finished product. He did a great job though! Next time, I'm sure he'll have that finger on the shutter when the oven door is opening. A round of applause for the food photography rookie!
I served this with a warm raspberry sauce for some acidic bite with the rich chocolate. Try it with any fruit you like! Blackberry or tangerine would be heavenly.
Here we go.

Chocolate Soufflé with Warm Raspberry Sauce.
Serves 6
1/2 c. Heavy Cream
6 oz (yes, weighed) Bittersweet Chocolate, chips or chopped
3 Egg Yolks at room temperature
3 Tbs Creme De Cacao 
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract 

6 1-cup ramekins buttered and dusted with sugar

5 Egg Whites

5 Tbs Sugar

 Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Sorry, that was demanding. Please preheat your oven.
Now it's time to get your double boiler happening. This is where a lot of people go wrong. Either they put too much water in the bottom pot so that the bowl with the chocolate touches the scalding water (burning and seizing the chocolate); or they boil the water underneath and again...seize the chocolate. Here's the ideal double boiler. Put enough water in a pot to come up about 1/4 of the way, and gently simmer it. Simmering water looks like seltzer, and we're going for not the most active seltzer you've ever seen, more like seltzer that makes my mom angry that someone hasn't tightened the bottle top enough. Place the chocolate and cream in a separate bowl that sits on top of the warm water. Monitor the water so it doesn't boil and gently melt the chocolate.
Now, blend in the egg yolks one at a time until fully incorporated. Add in the Creme De Cacao and vanilla.

Great job! You can now take the bowl off the heat and sit this aside until you're just about ready to bake and serve.
Stop right now. Just stop. Are you planning on whipping the egg whites and then walking away for an hour until your company arrives? Well with soufflé, that simply won't do. You can make this chocolate mixture ahead of time and prep the ramekins, but save the egg whites until you're about to clear the dinner plates.

In the mean time, let's make raspberry sauce! Here I trusted my go-to chef, Ina Garten. Don't try to fix what isn't broken, folks.

Raspberry Sauce 

1/2 Pint Raspberries
!/4 c. Water
2 Tbs Raspberry Liquor
1/4 c. Seedless Raspberry Jam
1/2 c. Sugar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, and cook until combined. I strained the mixture and then warmed it back up before serving. "Now how bad could that be"?

Now that your delicious dinner has been enjoyed by all (I'm sure it was), let's get these bad boys cookin'. Place your room temperature egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk them together at a low speed until frothy. Slowly bump up the speed and add the sugar in a steady stream. Now we're going to whip them until they become a shiny and stiff meringue. When the egg whites start creating a stream behind the whisk and turn shiny, you're just about there. Don't over-whip or you'll break the meringue down and be *&^% out of luck. Sorry to be frank, but it's true and has happened to me so so so many times.

Did I scare you? I'm sorry, you're going great!
Let's get that chocolate mix out, and fold the egg whites in thirds. Be gentle, because the more air in the batter, the fluffier the finished product. Now we can finally fill the ramekins about half way and bake for 15 minutes.

Pull them out, dust with powdered sugar and spoon over some raspberry sauce. Yeah, I'm probably going to go make some now. I made myself hungry.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Drunken Pumpkin Pie.

Figuring out where to start, turns out, wasn't as hard as I thought it'd be.
Start with pie!
Every thing's better with pie. Awkward parties you were invited to by your old friend from high school, filled with people who haven't seen you in 7 years who expect a very quick yet surprisingly detailed description of "what you've been up to": better when someone brings out a pie. A hard 12+ hour day at work and someone "accidentally" makes an extra pie (yes that happens when you work in a bakery): instantly excitable. So what am I trying to say here? Eat pie, sometimes too much, mostly whenever offered. Sorry Michael Pollen, but you and I both know that when it comes to pie, these eating rules rarely apply.
October means chilly weather, spices like cinnamon and clove, and gourds. Let's do everyone a favor and combine the best of the season by making some drunken pumpkin pie! Bourbon, for the chill in the air, cinnamon and clove for zest, and pumpkin...well for the pie. Great! I'll shut up now and get to that pie.
Everyone who knows and loves pie, knows that it all starts with the perfect crust. The flaky pastry is a fairly easy concept, chilled butter and flour mixed with ice water until it's a dough. Getting it right (and pretty), isn't something everyone can get on the first try though. So try, try again! After all, that means you'd be making more pie. Mmmm.

Pie Crust
Enough for 1 pie crust

1 1/4 c. All Purpose Flour
1 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 stick frozen butter cut in cubes, and 1/4 c. frozen vegetable shortening cut into cubes. 
3 tbs ice water with 1/2 tsp vanilla (more if needed)

Here's what I love about this whole homemade crust business. It's so much cheaper and more customizable if you make your own. It takes all of 4 minutes to make and about an hour to chill. I added brown sugar and cinnamon to this pumpkin pie, but in a cherry pie maybe I'd use almond, and in a quiche maybe I'd add pepper!
Let's do this thing!

Add all of the ingredients, minus the water, in the bowl of your trusty food processor.
Like that! 
Now give it a few whirls until the butter is about the size of small peas.
Now pop that lid back on and we'll start slowly pouring in the vanilla ice water. It will become a dough very quickly, but don't add too much if it doesn't look like it's coming together right away. Give it a few more pulses and it will all combine into a large ball of pie crust!  

You don't want to add any more water now, because that baby's perfect. Lightly flour a work surface and shape the dough into a 1'' disk. Here's the hardest part. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling. 
Don't you dare skip this part. Resting and chilling the dough will allow the butter and shortening to re-solidify, which is a pretty important part of flaky pastry. When the butter hits the heat of the oven, it will steam and create air, which creates fluff. Which is tasty. 
Alas, it's been an hour and we're so ready for pie. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Roll out your pie dough until it's about 14 inches. When you get out your 9 inch pie dish, I'll tell you the easiest way to transfer that dough to the pan. Ready? Put your rolling pin on the very bottom of your 14 inch pie circle. Start rolling up the dough around the rolling pin. You're a natural! Now that you have a pretty solid pie dough burrito, pick it up and place the overlapping piece on the edge of the pan. Now we unroll. See?! I know, you'll thank me later. Fit the dough to the pan, cut off the excess, and prick the bottom with a fork. This will allow the steam to escape and keep the bottom of the crust nice and flat. 
Bake the pie crust unfilled for about 15 minutes. Hold onto those scraps by the way. Keep them in the fridge. I'll explain in a minute. 

That's my baking partner, Frida. Say hello!
Now that you've met Frida, we can make the filling. 

Bourbon Maple Pumpkin Pie
15 oz. Canned Pumpkin
1 c. Heavy Cream 
1/4 c. Whole Milk
2 Eggs
1 c. Dark Brown Sugar 
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Clove
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Grated Fresh Ginger
1/4 c. Real Maple Syrup
3 tbs. Bourbon
This part is so easy. Put the pumpkin in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, mix together the cream, milk, eggs, maple syrup, and bourbon. Add the cream mixture into the pumpkin. Add remaining spices and sugar, and whisk until combined! Pour the filling into the pre-baked pie shell. Now let's get our Martha Stewart on. I made little acorns to decorate the edges of my pie! Right?! Do you need to do this? Well no. I guess not. But you eat with your eyes first, and these look pretty cute. 
Let's bake this bad boy.
Bye-Bye, Pie.
Bake in the middle of the oven for about 40-45 minutes. It'll be done when the center of the pie giggles just slightly when moved. Cool completely before eating. I know. More waiting, what am I trying to do to you?
By the by, I added a pan underneath the baking pie. This was just for spill-insurance. It didn't spill though.
I served this with molasses whipped cream, which is essentially heavy cream,  powdered sugar, and vanilla whipped together with a touch of molasses folded in. I really just wanted an excuse to post a picture of my beautiful copper mixing bowl. You understand. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

October 7th, 2013

        Honestly, I wish I could start over. This blog, that is. I want this project to be legitimate, strong, and a piece of me. I guess it is part of me...but a young me. Now I'm 24. Yeah yeah, still young I get it, but I'm so much more present in the real world than I was at this blog's beginning. I bake full time,  waking up at 4:30 am to start making breakfast for the masses at 7. I pay bills. I have a bachelor's degree in English Arts and Literature. I don't have due papers, a commute to school to spend hours on end doing nothing with friends between lectures, or long train rides home.  So, as you're reading this and asking yourself, "What gives? Where's my food picture?!" know that today I'm starting over. This doesn't mean the end (or delete button) for old posts and recipes, as much as an archival of them. Get ready for the future of To Cook a Mockingbird, of myself. It's a brand new year!
       Now where do I start...