Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fresh Herb Mayonnaise

When I was writing about my oven fries, I got the idea for this mayonnaise to go with the fish, instead of tartar sauce. I had seen mention of something kinda sorta similar on the internet while doing my research, and I couldn’t help thinking how this might be a better option than the tartar sauce, which is really more of an American tradition anyways. As in my oven roasted potato wedges, the thyme has kind of a light lemony flavor and the parsley gives it a brighter and fresher flavor which complements the fish nicely. Again, because I used it in the coleslaw, I thought a touch of malt vinegar would be a nice addition, thereby making it unnecessary to add more again later on top of the fish, unless you really want to.
To be fair, I had been on the tartar sauce train from the start, but a simple mayonnaise seemed so much better in a sandwich that already has so many other flavors and textures going on. Especially with the bread I chose, which is covered in sesame seeds, I didn’t feel it necessary to add a lot more texture and flavor in a sauce. I also didn’t want a bunch of conflicting flavors going on throughout the entire dish, so it was important to me that I incorporate the same seasonings and flavors throughout. As it turns out, when everything is mixed together, this mayonnaise looks an awful lot like tartar sauce… It turned out to be a wonderful combination and complemented the fish nicely!

Printable Recipe

1 c. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, snipped
1 Tbsp. malt vinegar

Whisk mayonnaise, thyme, parsley, and vinegar in small bowl to blend. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Makes approximately 1 cup

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Creamy Broccoli Slaw

Since I’m making Fish ‘N Chips, I think it’s only proper that I also make a coleslaw to go with it. While I was at the grocery store, I happened across a mix for Broccoli Coleslaw and I couldn’t pass it up as an alternative to the cabbage variety. While I actually like cabbage coleslaw, I thought the broccoli might be a nice change, in addition to being milder than cabbage. I’ve heard people say over and over again how they like to serve the coleslaw on top of the fish inside the sandwich and I thought I might like to try it, but I also didn’t want it to overpower the flavors in the battered fish - in this respect, I thought the broccoli would be a nice change from the norm.
Being that I’m trying to stay fairly authentic to the fish ‘n chips tradition, I thought it only logical that I try to replicate the coleslaw as closely as possible. I came across a recipe for coleslaw dressing on the Food Network UK website, and figured it couldn’t get much more authentic than that! Although I did change a few things, I liked the base of the recipe very much and so kept it mostly the same. One of the changes I did make was to the pineapple juice part of the recipe, because I had another idea in mind. A popular tradition is to eat this dish with malt vinegar sprinkled over the top, and I couldn’t help but think to incorporate it into the coleslaw, as I’ve seen several other coleslaw recipes call for some type of vinegar. I didn’t want anything too overpowering, though, so didn’t want to add all that much of it to the mix when I thought about how much I like lemon juice sprinkled over my fish and other seafood. How could one go wrong with a little bit of that thrown in too?! So, instead of the pineapple juice, I opted for a mixture of both the malt vinegar and the lemon juice. I also omitted the celery seed, because I’m not entirely fond of it – to me, it has a very overpowering, and not altogether pleasant, flavor. I did, however, sprinkle some sesame seeds over the top of my coleslaw before eating it, which I enjoyed very much. I will definitely be making this coleslaw again!

Printable Recipe

12 oz. packaged broccoli slaw mix (or make your own)
¼ oz. (5g) minced flat leaf parsley leaves
4¼ oz. (120g) prepared mayonnaise
3¼ oz. (95g) sour cream
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. malt vinegar
½ oz. (15g) sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. sesame seeds, optional

In a large bowl, toss together the broccoli slaw mix and parsley. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, malt vinegar, and sugar. Toss the vegetables with the dressing and season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. If desired, sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oven Fries (Potato Wedges)

For the past week or so, I have been researching the recipe for and background of Fish ‘N Chips, after seeing it on the one and only blog I was following at the time (I now follow two). What I found, and was surprised by, is that Fish ‘N Chips is not entirely an English tradition as I had thought. The dish also has a strong Irish background and is popular in many countries other than those affiliated with England, including Germany and Australia. I also learned that there are several variations of this dish, with characteristic traits based on the region, although most of them do go back to the English and Irish origins.

With that being said, I know that these are not the traditional “chips” by any means, but I couldn’t help the feelings of guilt about eating so much fried food in one meal. I’ve tried making French fries in the oven several times and they never seem to come out right, so I didn’t want to go that route. But, there’s nothing wrong with potato wedges made in the oven! Even though these are tossed with some olive oil, I feel a little bit better about eating them since they’re larger pieces of potato to a smaller ratio of oil.
So, I went about making my baked potato wedges! Thinking about the fish, I couldn’t help but think of the lemon I like so much with fish and then another idea came to me. Thyme is such a wonderful herb because of its hints of lemony freshness, and I am fond of adding it to my oven roasted asparagus as well as other oven roasted potatoes, so I couldn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t also use it for these potatoes. In addition, I like the fresh flavor that parsley gives to a dish, so I added some of that to the mixture as well. The potatoes turned out so good! They were perfectly soft and moist on the inside and a little bit crunchy on the outside. They will be perfect paired with my English/Irish-influenced fish!

Printable Recipe

4 large russet potatoes
¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
2 Tbsp. dried parsley

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Preheat a foil-lined baking sheet in the hot oven for at least 5 minutes.
While the baking sheet is heating, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and then quarter them lengthwise to make 32 big, fat wedges. Toss the potatoes with the olive oil, salt, and thyme in a large bowl. Then dump the potatoes out onto a baking sheet, spreading to a single layer. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through, brown, and crispy, being sure to turn the wedges halfway through cooking. Makes 4 servings

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Caramel Monkey Bread

One of the things I remember from when I was younger and still living in foster care is Monkey Bread. Of course, it wasn't called that then, so I didn't really know what to look for when searching for a similar recipe... Nonetheless, I have pleasant memories of this stuff, and was most excited when I happened across a recipe when I wasn't even actually looking for it!
This recipe was in the latest Taste of Home cookbook, 2011 Taste of Home Annual Recipes, which I received in the mail as a free gift when a friend ordered a subscription for me as a Christmas present. (Thank you, Brooke!!) When I saw the picture and glanced at the recipe, I knew immediately that it was what I was looking for! Many of the recipes call for biscuit dough, but I'm a little biased and refuse to make that kind. Instead, I was looking for one that used bread dough as the base of the monkey bread. Which is what this is!
My foster mother never made her own bread, and I've not yet braved the undertaking, but the base of the recipe was what I wanted most. Like my foster mother, I prefer to use the shortcut method and purchased loaves of frozen bread dough, which are then thawed and pulled apart. This time, other than making my own bread dough, I followed the recipe (for the most part) and made the caramel sauce. I used walnuts in mine instead, since that is what I prefer, and increased the caramel to twice the amount, but I followed the method of it all exactly. Although it's very similar to what I had when I was younger, it still isn't exactly right so I'm going to play around with it a little more. Isn't it funny how we can be so adamant about the taste of something, simply because it's what our memories recall? But, this recipe is very good, in any case!

Printable Recipe

2 (1 lb.) loaves frozen bread dough

1⅓ c. packed brown sugar
½ c. butter, cubed
½ c. heavy whipping cream

¾ c. chopped walnuts
1 c. sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ cup butter, melted

Thaw the frozen bread dough according to package directions.
For caramel, in a small saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter and cream to a boil. Cook and stir for 3 minutes. Pour half into a greased 10-in. fluted tube or Bundt cake pan; sprinkle with half of the walnuts.
Shape the dough into approximately 40 balls (about 1-1/4-in. diameter). In a shallow bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Place melted butter in another bowl. Dip balls in butter, then roll in sugar mixture.
Place half of the dough balls in the tube pan; top with remaining caramel and pecans. Top with remaining balls. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. (Cover loosely with foil if top browns too quickly.) Cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Serve warm. Yield: 1 loaf (20 servings).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Strawberry Cake

You guys hear me talking about making a recipe your own all the time, about how if you don't like something in a recipe you can always change it. Or, even if you do like all of the ingredients in a recipe, you can still change it up a little and make something different but equally good! You might not always have the same ingredients for a dish in your pantry and/or refrigerator, but that doesn't mean you can't still make something good.
This recipe is a perfect example of what I'm always talking about! A few months ago, after a visit from some friends who brought yummy cranberry treats with them, I made a yummy cranberry cake, which was very much like a coffee cake. It's really very delicious! So, while rummaging through my freezer one night, I found some strawberries that I had forgotten about and decided to make the cake again only a little differently, using the strawberries instead of cranberries. Heck, you could even mix the cranberries and strawberries, if you really want to, and that would be yummy as well! Other than changing the cranberries to strawberries, I also decided to do a streusel topping for this one instead of the nut topping. And I made a strawberry butter to go with, which was also quite tasty!! The basic recipe for the cake stayed the same, however the changes made it an entirely different treat. See how easy it is to make it your own?! :-D

Printable Recipe

3 eggs
2 c. sugar
¾ c. unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
2 c. flour
16. oz. frozen chopped strawberries

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan or a 10" springform pan and cut the butter into chunks.
Beat eggs and sugar together for 5-7 minutes; the eggs will increase in volume quite a bit, streaming into ribbons when you lift the beaters. They will also turn pale yellow. Add butter and flavorings and beat for 2 minutes. Stir in flour and fold in cranberries (especially if using frozen cranberries, the batter will not be thin or soft at this time). Spread into a greased pan and sprinkle with the streusel topping (recipe below).
Bake 45-50 minutes for a 9x13, or a little over an hour for the springform. You may need to tent the cake with foil in the last 15 minutes or so to keep the top from browning too much. Cool completely before serving (Or not!) and serve with strawberry butter, if you'd like.

Streusel Topping:
1 c. (packed) golden brown sugar
1 c. old-fashioned oats
¾ c. all purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
½ c. (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Combine brown sugar, oats, flour, and salt in large bowl; toss to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture comes together in moist clumps. Cover; chill while preparing cake. (Topping can be prepared 1 day ahead; keep chilled.) Sprinkle streusel mixture over the top of the cake and bake as directed above.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chicken and Asparagus Pasta Bake

This recipe came about because of another recipe I had concocted many years ago. I was at the grocery store last night and had decided to pick up the ingredients for that recipe when I got the idea to do something a little bit different, which I have since discovered is equally delicious. They're not exactly the same thing, but the ideas are exactly the same. One of the things that I've said over and over is that recipes are merely guidelines, nothing is written in stone, and you can make a dish into anything you want it to be! When I next make the recipe which was the base for this, I will post it and let you compare it. But, really, there is not much difference between what that is and what this is...
This idea came about because I was in the soup isle at the grocery store, and I happened to pass the cream of asparagus soup before I got to the one I had been initially looking for. Knowing that I had some fresh asparagus in the refrigerator at home, my mind immediately switched gears and came up with this variation. Since I also had chicken breasts in my freezer, that sounded like a great choice to go with the asparagus and pasta. So, throw a few things together, and... Voila!

Printable Recipe

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. cavatappi pasta
1 - 2 bunches fresh asparagus asparagus
3 (10.75 oz.) cans Cream of Asparagus soup
2 c. chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Fill a large stockpot with water and bring it to a boil; add the pasta and cook for approximately 8 minutes. (If you decide to use a different pasta, simply cook it for one minute less than the instructions call for for al dente pasta.)
Place the chicken breasts in a medium sauce pot and cover with water. Bring them to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking the chicken until it's no longer pink on the inside. When the chicken is cooked through, remove it from the water and cut into cubes; place in a large mixing bowl.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan and then combine the olive oil into it; add the onion and sauté until transparent. During the last minute of cooking, add the garlic to the pan and sauté with the onion until the raw bite of the garlic has been cooked off. Add this mixture to the bowl with the chicken.
Clean and trim the asparagus, cutting it into 1-inch pieces. Add the asparagus pieces to the mixing bowl.
Empty the contents of the three cans of soup into a small mixing bowl and combine it with the chicken stock until the soup is thinned out and the mixture is fairly smooth. Add this to the bowl with the chicken, onion and garlic mixture, and asparagus. Stir the mixture to combine everything and salt and pepper to taste; fold in the cooked pasta. Pour the entire mixture into a greased 9x13-inch baking pan, cover with foil, and bake in a preheated oven for 30 - 35 minutes. Uncover the mixture, sprinkle with cheese, and bake for another 8 - 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.