Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Belgian Fries Fix

I love fries, especially Belgian fries. A, because they're thick cut. B, because of the variety of dipping sauces, including my favorite Sundried Tomato Mayo at Pommes Frites in NYC. There's no replacement for Pommes Frites in Stamford, so the next best thing is healthier fries I make at home - oven fries with spicy mayo.

The spicy mayo is actually the same one I use in my sardines sandwich. The spiciness comes from sriracha (thai chili sauce), which also adds a hint of garlic goodness.

My husband liked it on the fries so much that he almost licked the bowl where I served the mayo. If you're worried about fat, feel free to use light mayo - I can't tell the difference between full fat and low fat mayo. But I wouldn't worry about fat when used with healthier fries! Check out the recipes here for
oven fries and spicy mayo.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Presentation, Presentation

I like pretty things that are functional as well. Like this plate I got from Crate & Barrel - it has clean, straight lines, translating into such a modern design. They call it the sushi plate, but I knew I could use it for more than that. Plus, the sale price was right.

When I saw it, I imagined using it for my spring rolls or dumplings like I did here. Last weekend, I used this plate for some homemade Vietnamese summer rolls. Among other things the plate can hold are condiments. The 3 slots built into the plate means I don't have to look for 3 little bowls for dipping - perfect for something spicy, salty and vinegary.

Here, I have sriracha (thai chili sauce), soy & vinegar dipping sauce and (I know this isn't Asian, but I love them) cornichons. In place of cornichons, pickled carrots and turnip would be perfect, and very Chinese. Having such a pretty and functional plate to use felt pretty special, even if it's just lunch.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Coffee Cream Filled Donuts

We went to Stew Leonard's again and my husband just couldn't walk away from their cider donut holes. So, instead of dipping them into hot chocolate like I did last time with the leftovers, I decided to test out our new KitchenAid Hand Mixer and whip up some coffee flavored cream. I piped the cream into these little babies after warming them in the oven, making it into one delicious and sinful dessert.

It was pretty easy and I got it done within 5 minutes. Here's what I did to make the cream, enough to fill over half of the donut holes:

Coffee Flavored Whipped Cream
1/4C heavy cream
1/4 tsp instant coffee crystals
1 tsp sugar

Beat the cream with the instant coffee in a bowl until the crystals are dissolved. Add the sugar and continue beating until the cream increases in volume and is at a soft peak. Be careful not to over beat the mixture or it will turn into butter.

I'm planning to use any left over cream in hot chocolate. Yum!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Busting Out the KitchenAid Mixer

After a much needed face lift, my kitchen was finally ready for the KitchenAid Mixer. I busted out this baby to make some Cranberry Orange Scones for breakfast. No more making scones with a dinner knife!

I can't wait to make endless baked good and grind some meat with this dream machine. I would've added making pasta to the list, but my husband didn't want me to get the pasta attachments. :-(

Thank you to my brother-in-law and sister for getting me this wonderful kitchen toy!!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Inaugural Baking

Our kitchen is finally ready (aside from the backsplash) for baking! What did I make using our new oven and hand mixer? Madeleines. These are shell-shaped cake-like cookies. I bought some madeleine pans a while ago because of my love for all things French and wanted to finally whip them out.

I found two madeleine recipes from Martha Stewart (of course) that I wanted to try out. The first was pretty easy and tasty. I added zest from half a lemon for freshness and to lighten it up from all that butter. Other than that addition, I followed the rest of the recipe, which called for baking at a high temperature at 375
°. The outside of the madeleine was a bit too crunchy for my preference, but the inside of the madeleine had the perfect texture. I'll definitely try baking at a lower temperature next time.

As for the second recipe, Orange Cardamom Madeleine, it was one of the few loser recipes that I've ever come across from Martha Stewart. Compared to the first recipe, the second resulted in a thicker (in height) and denser cookies. I suspect that the ratio of flour to liquid wasn't balanced - it had too much flour. In addition, it called for putting the batter into the fridge, which I thought wasn't needed.

All in all, the first recipe is the winner! If I want to make other flavors, like Orange and Cardamom, I'll just add it to the first recipe like I did with the lemon zest.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My First Piece of CT Mail

Isn't it so appropriate that the first piece of mail that greets me after I changed my address from NY to CT is my first issue of Food & Wine? That made me very very happy.

Sadly, I have yet to open up the magazine since I've been very busy with the house. My husband got to enjoy it first. Glad to see someone is benefiting from my lack of idle time.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

City Limits Diner

There's a lack of food scene in Stamford, and what I miss most from NYC is enjoying a nice stroll to brunch (especially from Public and Five Points). So, I did some research and came up with City Limits Diner. I can't stroll there, but it's a fine diner. City Limits is not your usual diner; it is part of the Livanos Restaurant Group, which also owns Oceana in NYC.

City Limits' decor is definitely diner-like, but its food is the gourmet type. I've never seen Maryland Lump Crab-Lobster Cake or Grilled Bass Sandwich on a diner's menu, and it made me very excited to see those items. Beside the high end items, City Limits also have the usual diner food, ranging from omelets, pancakes, waffles, burgers, and more.

On my first visit, I had the excellent Maryland Lump Crab-Lobster Cake Benedict. It was tasty and filled with chunks of crab meat. On my second visit, I had a sizable portion of Raisin Currant and Challah French Toast, served with house-made vanilla apple sauce.

The French Toast was good. My mouth was met by a nice delicate crunch on the outside and a moist, rich interior.

On my last visit, I had their Grilled Salmon Burger, served with Tzatziki. I thought the burger was mediocre, but the Tzatziki was flavorful.

If you can't tell by the repeated visits already, City Limits is on my favs list. It is by no means a substitute for Public or Five Points, but it will have to do for now during those times that I don't feel like busting out the pan.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Good to the Last Bone

I am not a fan of being wasteful, so it shouldn't be a surprise that I made stock using the chicken carcass left over from our roast chicken. Chicken stock recipes are pretty generic - they all call for carrots, onion and celery. I had even added fennel pieces that we did not use from a previous dinner.

This was my first homemade chicken stock ever. Unlike my first roast chicken, I had no mishaps. The two hour-long work was easy and definitely worth it. It practically did not cost me anything to make the stock. Now, I can give Swanson's chicken broth a break until my two quarts of stock are done. Best of all, I can put the stock in the freezer for future use.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

First Roast Chicken Attempt

As I mentioned in a previous post, we visited Stew Leonard's in Norwalk and found some fresh chickens. The whole chicken was so tempting - the color of the chicken looked natural, not the yellow color that you find in mass supermarkets, and the price was right - so I decided to bring it home to attempt my first roast chicken. Sadly, the cooking process did not turn out as I expected, but the chicken was so very tasty.

I followed the cooking method from Julia Child's Roast Chicken recipe. I had a 4lb chicken and cooked it according to directions in a roasting pan, with the exception of using the convection feature in our oven after lowering the temperature to 350°. The chicken had pink juice flowing out of it after I had cooked it for the stated time, which I calculated to be a total of 1 hr 43 min using a traditional oven or 1 hr 25 min using convection (see photo above). I did not open the oven during that time, nor did I flip the chicken.

I had to return the chicken to the oven a few times. The final time I returned it to the oven was because the back side of the chicken was not cooked - so we flipped it even though the recipe did not call for flipping the chicken. The whole process of taking it out, testing and re-baking took an hour and a half. I was ready to give up, but it was well worth it in the end - the chicken was moist and flavorful. The onion, garlic and lemon gave the chicken so much flavor. In an effort to get to the bottom of what went wrong (lack of circulation in oven, cooking time calculation mishap or convection function) and for a chance to devour another tasty roast chicken, I'll definitely try the recipe again, and skip the convection function next time.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Give Me My Food Network Back!

Cablevision really kicked off our new year to a good start (sarcasm, of course). Literally, when midnight struck on New Years Eve, Food Network and HGTV disappeared from our cable program. Sadly, I have to say goodbye to Ina for now until Cablevision and Scripps Network come to some agreement.

I've be surviving on Travel Channel and Bravo alone...I don't know how long I can hold on.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ways to Eat Donut Holes

Since it was New Year's Day, I wanted to do something special to the left over cider donut holes we bought from Stew Leonard's the day before. I thought of filling them with flavored whipped cream or dunking them in hot chocolate. The easiest was making hot chocolate instead of beating heavy cream, so that's what I did.

To begin, I heated up the donut holes in the oven. Then I busted out our Mariebelle Aztec Hot Chocolate that's been dormant all winter, made a nice hot cup and used it to dunk the warm donuts like one would milk and cookies or coffee and biscotti. That was breakfast, by the way. :-)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stew Leonard's - Trader Joe's on Crack

My husband and I made a trip to Stew Leonard's in Norwalk, CT for our no cook New Year's Eve meal. We walked out with some olives for the meal, and donuts, fresh chicken and milk for other purposes. It's a giant supermarket and the self proclaimed largest dairy store in the world. If I were to describe it, I'd call it Trader Joe's and Ikea on crack.

Stew Leonard's is similar to Trade Joe's in that they produce their own products, but it goes beyond by making fresh goods on grounds - like the cider donut holes (btw, I was sad to find that they used food coloring in these). Their value is apparent especially when it comes to milk - we bought a half gallon carton for way less than $2! And why did I throw in Ikea? Because it's like a maze in there - you can't get to one section without passing another - there are no aisles. And did I mention the samples? On one visit alone, I "sampled" two donut holes!

Don't worry, we didn't finish the donut holes in one sitting. Stay tuned for what we did the next day to these babies.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The No Cook New Year's Eve Meal

I've been extremely distracted with our house, but I'm back in the new year with a food post! My husband and I decided to take it easy this New Year's Eve, so we took a trip to Whole Foods in Westport, CT and stores nearby to get some ideas. Note to Whole Foods - you need a store in Stamford! As I've mentioned before, supermarket choices are rather limited in this area.

We ended up with a whole bunch of no cook, finger licking food (no flatware involved). On the New Year's Eve menu were some cooked dungeness crabs that we scored for $5.99/lb (regularly $9.99/lb) and a plate full of prosciutto wrapped
cantaloupe, olives, and cheese. Since it was a festive occasion, we splurged on truffle cheese.

We can't afford to buy truffles, so the next best option is cheese laced with little precious specks of truffles. Just look at this tiny piece of heaven!.

We washed down this easy, no cook meal with a bottle of champagne. After such a hectic past couple of months, this low key night was special and perfect.