Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Really Gouda Cauliflower Soup

I was the world's pickiest eater as a child (okay maybe until 18). Going out to eat with my parents meant fried mozzarella sticks, which I would inevitably choke on at least once during the night due to eating them too fast. At home, the most reliable way to get me to eat vegetable involved a sauce made from heating milk with American cheese and whisking it together. At that time I loved it, especially over potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower (said quietly while looking at the floor in shame).

While American cheese has not been on my grocery list since, well, I started buying groceries, I have continued my passionate love affair with cheeses of all kinds.
This soup is a dressed up version of my childhood meals-a chunky cauliflower soup with creamy melted Gouda.

To Make Cauliflower Soup:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon parsley
2 cups chicken stock
1 can evaporated milk
2 tablespoons flour
Splash dry white wine (2 tablespoons, more or less)
4 oz Gouda, grated or chopped into tiny pieces
Optional: chopped chives

Melt 2 tablespoons in large stew pot. Add onion and garlic to pot and saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so that garlic and onion do not brown. Add cauliflower and parsley and cook 5 minutes to soften.

Add white wine to pot. Let wine come to simmer and cook off, about 3-5 minutes, stirring vegetables. Add chicken stock to pot and bring to simmer.

While soup is cooking, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in sauce pot. Whisk flour into butter. Add milk slowly, stirring so that it becomes incorporated. Stir mixture until it begins to thicken. Add gruyere chunks and whisk as it melts into roux.

Take some broth from soup (about 1/2 cup or so) and whisk into roux/cheese. Pour entire mixture into soup pot. Let soup simmer about 15 minutes.

Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with chives if desired.

By the way...I apologize for the recipe's cheesy name (oops I did it again!)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Easy Chicken Marsala

To Make Chicken Marsala:

4 chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each, but not a big deal if they are a different size)
10 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms (I bought mine pre-sliced at TJ's)
1 small diced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon parsley
1/2 cup Marsala
1/4 cup Sherry
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 250.

Rinse chicken well and pat dry with paper towels. Cut off any visible fat. Flatten chicken with meat pounder, using wax paper over chicken if available.

Put flour on large plate. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Dip chicken in flour, shaking off excess.

Melt butter in large saute pan over medium high heat. Add chicken breasts and brown both sides. Remove from pan, set in oven dish and place in oven to keep warm.

Add olive oil to saute pan. Add onion, garlic, mushrooms, parsley and thyme. Saute until juice from mushrooms has evaporated, stirring to prevent vegetables from burning.

Add Marsala and sherry to saute pan. Let mixture come to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Add chicken stock and chicken pieces. Cook at low simmer for 15-20 minutes, then remove chicken pieces and place on a plate.

Add milk to mushroom mixture and let simmer 10-15 minutes until thickened. Add chicken pieces to warm them up before serving.

Plate chicken breasts on 4 plates and scoop mushroom and sauce over meat.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Prosciutto-Stuffed Gorgonzola Chicken

Once upon a time a girl met a boy. For their second date, she impulsively offered to cook him dinner, then realized what a big, romantic gesture that might appear, and began to do what she did best, which is freak out and over think the whole night. She then proceeded to spend an hour googling "platonic dinner ideas" on her computer. Mature? Perhaps not, but she did gain a simple and succulent chicken recipe, prepared the meal in under an hour and remained mostly normal throughout the evening. A modern day love story, if you will.

To make the girl's chicken:

2 chicken breasts
8 strips of thinly-sliced prosciutto
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola

Rinse chicken and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut off fat/gristle. Pound thin between 2 sheets of wax paper and set in ovenproof glass baking dish.

Dice 2 strips prosciutto. Place 1/2 of prosciutto and 1 tablespoon Gorgonzola on each chicken breast and fold over mixture. Wrap 2 strips of prosciutto around each chicken breast and hold folded with toothpicks.

Sprinkle chicken with rosemary and garlic. Pour white wine over chicken and drizzle olive oil on top of chicken breasts.

Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place uncovered baking dish in middle of oven and cook chicken about 20 to 25 minutes or until cooked through.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Dulce de Leche Empanadas

I love dulce de leche. I love ice cream. I love apples. I figured they can only be more delicious when combined (sort of a holy triad, if you will). I felt what some might describe as inappropriate joy upon eating these gooey, creamy and sweet creations...*content sigh*.

Maybe these are better described as turnovers, but as I am using frozen empanada wrappers (not as homemade, I know, but it saves SO much time, I highly recommend them in a pinch) to create empanadas de dulce de leche con manzanas y una bola de helado: dulce de leche and apple empandas with good old fashioned vanilla ice cream.

To make 10 empanadas:
1 pack frozen Goya empanada shells
5 small to medium sized apples
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup dulce de leche
Vanilla ice cream

Defrost empanada shells in fridge until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 400.

Slice apples into 8ths and then once again horizontally. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon over apples and add lemon juice. Stir mixture.

Melt butter in medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add apples and stir until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Use a rolling pin to flatten empanada shells, one by one. Add about 1/2 of an apple to shell and a scoop of dulce de leche (a bit less than a tablespoon).

Fold dough over and pinch shut. Use a fork to create ridges along edge of dough. Sprinkle remaining cinnamon and brown sugar over the empanadas.

Bake empanadas for about 20 minutes or until slightly golden brown.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Homemade Dulce de Leche

After a fruitless search for Dulce de Leche around my neighborhood, I had purchased all the ingredients I would need to create my own elixir; milk, sugar and vanilla promised to result in a tempting golden sauce. Also called cateja, leche quemada, doce de leite and manjar, this seductive blend of caramel and vanilla can be found throughout South and Central America.

After slowly simmering milk, vanilla and sugar, the majority of the water in the milk evaporates and the mixture thickens; the resulting dulce de leche is the caramelized product of the Maillard reaction. You can also submerge a can of sweetened condensed milk in water and boil it for several hours, but there is always the slight possibility of a can of molten caramel exploding in your kitchen. Personally, I would prefer to avoid burns, especially when the burning substance sticks to you.

My dulce de leche turned out darker than what I have previously eaten. Perhaps flakes of dark brown from the vanilla bean contributed to the color, or a slightly elevated or lower temperature made it darker, I don't know. I was a little sad at first, thinking it would taste grainy or like burnt sugar, but upon melting it today (1 day after it was finished) and drizzling it over vanilla ice cream, I will stand behind my recipe (well, the food network's recipe, to be exact).

Recipe is from the Food Network's website, thus the italics, to show "it's different from me". I copied their instructions, as mine were more a bit more spastic. Picture me raising the heat, going into the other room to study, the mixture bubbling up with me running back into the kitchen after forgetting about it, swearing as I tried to stir out any foamy parts.
To Make:

4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups sugar

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a large, 4-quart saucepan and place over medium heat.

Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.

Once the sugar has dissolved, add the baking soda and stir to combine.

Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered at a bare simmer.

Stir occasionally, but do not re-incorporate the foam that appears on the top of the mixture.

Continue to cook for 1 hour.

Remove the vanilla bean after 1 hour and continue to cook until the mixture is a dark caramel color and has reduced to about 1 cup, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.

Store covered in the refrigerator. Drizzle over bananas, strawberries, crepes, on ice cream or cake.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Nursing, Weddings & Squash Blossoms

I know, I know...I said that I would write more often, but with life and school I have learned that I need to re-organize my more television or surfing the internet. Err...perhaps a little tv wouldn't hurt? The past two weeks have flown by without a peep from little 'ole me. If I were in a relationship with you, dear readers, I do suspect I would be the guy who never called. It's not you, it's me.

Nursing school is one of the hardest things I have undertaken, and I suspect it will become one of the most rewarding. My classmates seem quite nice, the professors (nurses, both RNs and NPs) interesting and I am learning incredible things-our bodies are quite bad ass, in my opinion. I had my first day of clinical (working alongside a real nurse in the hospital) and managed to not kill anyone, infect myself with something deadly (or asymptomatic to this point!) or involve myself in a steamy affair a la Grey's Anatomy.

Last weekend, I went home to Minnesota for my best friend's wedding to a wonderful man. Congratulations Meaghan and Olivier! I know you will not be reading this post as you are in Santorini-if I didn't love you both so much I'd pretty much hate you out of jealousy. The wedding was in the forest at dusk. The groom is French and it is not certain how much of the ceremony his family actually understood, but they seemed content!

The food was a-frickin-mazing! Meaghan's cousin is married to a chef...we had freshly made peasant bread, cheeses, mushroom pate, roasted beets, heirloom tomatoes, the groom's mother's homemade mayonnaise, the best boef bourgignon of my life, along with butternut squash puree, a Thai walleye coconut curry and a vegetable stew I believe (I prioritized my stomach space and just had the beef!). And that is perhaps half of the reception's menu.

What is on the menu for this weekend? I searched high and low in my barrio but could not locate dulce de leche. Too lazy to travel, I decided to make my own instead-is it sad that I would rather cook tonight than socialize more? Apples upon apples fill the farmer's market, grocery after the dulce de leche is finished it will complement a cinnamon apple filling for Dulce de Leche and Apple Empanadas! (Yes, perhaps they are turnovers by any other name, but c'mon...doesn't this sound better?)

I also happened upon some squash blossoms at the farmer's market and plan to stuff half with herbs and goat cheese and fill the remaining blossoms with minced shrimp, lightly batter them and then fry'em golden. In my mind squash blossoms are one of those things you must love to be a foodie, so let's keep our fingers crossed that they turn out!