Tag-Archive for ◊ comfort food ◊

26 Jan 2018 Potatoes Baked in Cream (Potato Gratin)

potatoes-baked-in-cream-with-abby

Did the name of the recipe entice you click on this?! Well then, that makes us friends forever!

When my friends from Southern France were staying with us, they offered to make a side dish for dinner.  They didn’t use a recipe. They sliced up a few potatoes, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, poured a carton of cream over the top, and put the whole thing in the oven. Sixty minutes later my family’s love affair with Potatoes Baked in Cream began.

Last year I found an actual written down recipe, one that I can pass on, one with precise quantities and directions.  The recipe is from David Tanis’ cookbook, “Market Cooking”. I made one change to Chef Tanis’ recipe, I cut out an additional four tablespoons of butter! Chef Tanis calls his recipe “Classic Potato Gratin”, but to me and my family it will always be “Potatoes Baked in Cream”.

I think you will be surprised at how delicious this very simple dish is. I certainly was. Sublime. After you taste Potatoes Bake in Cream, that will be your word of the day. Sublime.

An important note:  Leftovers don’t reheat well, so make sure you eat all of the potatoes in one sitting (invite friends over, take the dish to a potluck, serve these potatoes for a holiday meal…). I haven’t tried reheating leftovers in the oven, so that might work (see David Tanis’ *note below). I have tried reheating leftovers in the microwave.  Don’t do it on 100% power!  I had so-so results reheating on 50% power. I wouldn’t serve them to anyone else, but I was able to eat them!  I have also had so-so results from throwing a handful of diced ham into a hot frying pan, dicing up a serving of leftover casserole, and reheating over medium heat. It made for a good breakfast, but nothing-nothing-like the original casserole served hot from the oven.

Another important note: The potatoes need to be sliced thinly and evenly. 1/8th inch or 3/16ths an inch is about right. You can do this with a very sharp knife and by working slowly and carefully, like my French friends did. I use a mandolin to slice the potatoes. If you don’t have one, I’d suggest getting one.  I bought mine on Amazon after looking at all the reviews and selecting the highest rated one. Later I started seeing mandolins at Savers/Goodwill for about $6.  I bought used mandolins for my daughters. Go to Savers.

Potatoes Baked in Cream (Potato Gratin)

  • 3 pounds russet potatoes
  • butter to coat the baking dish (Chef Tanis uses 4 more tablespoons butter to dot top of casserole, I don’t)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2½ cups heavy whipping cream (don’t even think about substituting anything for the cream, such as half and half or whole milk, it just won’t work!)
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375°. Peel the potatoes and put them in cold water (to prevent them from turning brown while you finish the prep work. Slice only one layer of potatoes as a time. Keep the other potatoes in the cold water. The browning happens fast when the potatoes are so thinly cut).
  2. Smear a baking dish thickly with butter. (I use a 9×13 dish but I am looking for a dish that’s the same size and a bit shallower since the quantity of potatoes only come half way up the sides of the 9×13 pan. The waste of space bothers me a bit as I’d like to have a dedicated Potatoes Baked in Cream pan because, after all, this is a dish I will be making over and over! That being said, I’ve been using the same 9×13 pan for a few years now, so it’s really not a problem.)
  3. Drain and dry one peeled potato at a time. Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice one potatoes at a time as thinly as possible. Quickly lay the potato slices in the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping them just slightly to make a “roof tile” style pattern. Sprinkle each layer of potatoes lightly with salt and pepper. Slice more potatoes and make another layer. Continue in this fashion, seasoning each layer, until all the potatoes are used. You should have at least 3, but no more than 4 layers.
  4. Pour the cream over the potatoes and tilt the pan to distribute well. With your hands, push down on the top layer to even out the pile (I don’t do this, but Chef Tanis says to). The cream should just barely cover the potatoes; add a little more if necessary.
  5. Cover the casserole dish tightly with foil and place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes at 375°.
  6. After 30 minutes remove the foil from the casserole, and return to the oven for another 30-35 minutes to finish cooking the potatoes and turn the top of the gratin to a crispy, deep golden brown.
  7. Let the gratin rest for 10 minutes before serving.

*Note from David Tanis: The gratin can also be cooled and left at room temperature for several hours, then reheated in a moderate oven. (I haven’t tested this)

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen today, what is cooking for tomorrow, hmmmm…. Pork and Tomatillo Stew?

24 Mar 2017 Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

 

chocolate-peanut-butter-chip-cookies

This recipe is from the back of the bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips (see picture below).  The cookie is fabulous.  It’s like a peanut butter cup in cookie form.

My daughter made these cookies for a “Back of the Box” themed Cookbook Club meeting.  She loves peanut butter.  She saw the chips.  She read the recipe on the back of the bag.  She made the cookies. Everyone swooned. End of story.

Well, not quite the end of the story because now I’m posting the recipe, as is, lifted right off the back of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chip bag. You’ve just read the recipe and my swooning review. You are going to go out to get a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips. You are going to make the cookie. You and yours will swoon. You’ll go down as one of the best cookie bakers EVER!

End of story.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (natural baking powder-like Hershey’s, NOT Dutch processed cocoa powder)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 10 oz. pkg REESE’S Peanut Butter Chips – divided use
  • 1 1/4 cups butter (2-1/2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

 

  1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  3. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
  5. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well.
  6.  Stir in most of the  peanut butter chips. Hold out some peanut butter chips to decorate the tops of the cookies before baking.
  7. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased, preferably parchment lined, unrimmed cookie sheet. If desired, press 2, 3, or 4 peanut butter chips onto the top of each cookie.
  8. Bake 8 to 9 minutes. (Do not over bake; cookies will be soft. They will puff while baking and flatten while cooling.)
  9. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.
  10. Makes about 4 dozen cookies, but depends on the size of your cookie.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

reese-s-peanut-butter-chips

20 Mar 2017 B.O.B. Brownies

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Google “Back of the Box” recipes and you’ll get lists such as 10 Best Back-of-the-box recipes from Epicurious, or Buzz Feed or The Daily Meal.  Never 20 best back-of-the-box recipes or 100 best back-of-the-box recipes.  Nope. Just 10. Because there are only about 10 really good back-of-the-box recipes 🙂

In my (albeit, limited) experience, it seems most back-of-the-box recipes sound good but in reality are quite plain and quite bland.  There are 10 good ones though!  Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies, Philadelphia Cheesecake, Alber’s Cornbread, Rice Krispie Treats, Lipton Onion Dip jump to mind.  Pssst…! And now I have found another one! It’s on the back of the bag of Dutch Process cocoa powder that I purchased at Costco (brand name: Rodelle Organics).

These brownies are delicious, and just my type of brownie.  Everyone seems to have their own preferred brownie type, right? This is mine.  Slightly crunchy top, oh-so-chocolately flavor, dense-but not fudge, light-but not cakey.  These are just right!  AND, they’re easy-to-make, and one batch fills a 9×13 pan!  The brownies slice well, too. What more could one want?

B.O.B.* Brownies

*Back of Bag (Rodelle Organic Dutch Process Baking Cocoa, sold at Costco)

  • 1 cup plus 2 T. butter
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 5 eggs (yes, 5. I was shocked, too)
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ¾ cup plus 1 T. flour
  • ¾ cup plus 1 T. Dutch Process cocoa powder (no substitutions)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup chopped nuts (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray.
  3. Melt butter and sugar in a heavy saucepan on very low heat.
  4. Let the mixture slightly cool and transfer to a large bowl. Beat well.
  5. Add eggs, gradually, mixing well.
  6. Add vanilla extract.
  7. Sift dry ingredients together.
  8. Add dry ingredients to egg mixture, stirring gently and minimally.
  9. Stir in chips and nuts.
  10. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake approximately 35 minutes. Do not overbake.
  11. Cool before cutting.
  12. Cut into squares and enjoy.
03 Mar 2017 Double Chocolate Marble Loaf

double-chocolate-marble-loaf

Weekend Cake!  Isn’t that a delightful subcategory of dessert? According to Dorrie Greenspan it’s a French concept. Weekend Cake is good for anything from breakfast through late night snacking.  Weekend Cake travels well, is long lasting and is best if left to sit a day before eating.

This recipe for Double Chocolate Marble Loaf, a “weekend cake” is from her cookbook, “Baking Chez Moi” . I’ve never been much for Marble Cake, often finding it to be dry and muddled.  Not this one! It’s truly delicious.  I’ve only made the orange chocolate-white chocolate version, but I am dying to make the mocha-cardamom version and the chocolate-mint version.

Double Chocolate Marble Loaf

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (272 grams)
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1½ sticks (12 tablespoons or 6 ounces/170 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces best-quality white chocolate, melted and cooled (Lindt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange or peppermint oil (I used a bittersweet chocolate-orange chocolate bar, so no oil)
  • 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Pull out an insulated baking sheet or stack two regular baking sheets one on top of the other. Line the (top) baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, dust with flour and tap out the excess; set it on the baking sheet(s).
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.
  3. Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 3 minutes, or until smooth. Add sugar and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes, scrape sides. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each one goes in. The batter may curdle, but you needn’t worry.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low and mix in the vanilla. Still on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing only until each addition is incorporated.
  5. Scrape half of the batter into another bowl. Using a flexible spatula, gently stir the white chocolate into half of the batter. If you’re using the orange oil, stir it in as well. Stir the dark chocolate into the other half of the batter.
  6. Using a spoon or scoop, drop dollops of the light and dark batters randomly into the prepared pan — don’t think too much about the pattern — and then plunge a table knife deep into the batter and zigzag it across the pan. It’s best to move forward and not to backtrack. Don’t overdo it — 6 to 8 zigzags should suffice.
  7. Bake the cake for 80 to 90 minutes, or until a tester inserted deep into the center comes out clean. (My cake was done in 70 minutes, and I might have taken it out 5 minutes sooner.) Check the cake at the halfway mark, turn it around and, if it’s getting too brown, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for 10 minutes, then unmold it, turn right side up on the rack and let come to room temperature.
  8. Storing: Wrapped well, the cake will keep at room temperature for up to 4 days. It can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost it in its wrapper.

Spiced Mocha Variation: add 1 tsp. ground cardamom into the white chocolate portion and 2 ½ tsp. instant coffee or espresso mixed with 1 T. hot water to the dark chocolate portion. Omit the orange oil.

Mint Chocolate Variation: stir ¼ tsp. peppermint oil into the white chocolate portion and use only regular semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate in the dark chocolate portion. Omit the orange oil.

24 Feb 2017 Italian Wedding Soup

italian-wedding-soup

Italian Wedding Soup is easy to make, and is good as soon as it’s made (no need to sit overnight to intensify the flavors).  Not being Italian, I can’t claim this is just like my Nonna made. Nor can I claim to know the origin of the name, “Italian Wedding Soup”, but I did do a bit of Internet research.  Contrary to what some think, this soup is NOT served at Italian Weddings (although, because of it’s name, it is served at some Italian-American weddings in…Pennsylvania!).  Another theory is that the soup is a good “marriage” of ingredients, possibly green vegetables and meat. The most common story is the soup is easy enough for a new bride (or new groom) to make as one of their first home-cooked meals.  My non-Italian, non-traditional thought it that it’s great for a couple to make together.  One person could make the meatballs while the other makes the vegetable broth base.  Throw the vegetable broth and the meatballs together, simmer for a few minutes, and then sit down to enjoy a bowl or two of heart-warming Italian Wedding Soup.

This recipe is based upon one by Ina Garten, but I have changed Ina’s recipe somewhat.  The major change is I cook the meatballs in the broth, rather than bake them in the oven as Ina directs. I also make my meatballs out of ground beef instead of Ina’s ground chicken/ground chicken sausage combo.  I like a tastier meatball, and I think beef goes better with the Parmesan in the meatball than chicken does. I also added basil to the meatball. I don’t know why Ina forgot that!

I love soup. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. One tip, every time I make a pot of soup, I freeze one or two individual servings.  It’s wonderful to have a ready-made, wholesome bowl of soup in the freezer for those days when you are rushing from points A to Z with no time to spare.  A bowl of soup in the freezer can keep you away from those fast food places. Honest.

Now go on, try it…Italian Wedding Soup!

Italian Wedding Soup

For the soup base

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
  • 2 teaspoons dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (use more of the parsley in the meatballs)
  • 10-12 cups chicken broth (homemade is the best, of course)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta (orzo, tubetini, small stars, mini shells..)
  • 1 batch of meatballs (recipe below)
  • 12 oz. baby spinach, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • additional grated Parmesan, optional (for serving)

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pan.  Add the onion and saute until slightly caramelized, about 6 minutes.  Stir in chopped celery and saute for another 3 minutes. Stir in carrots, dill, parsley, chicken broth, and wine and bring to a boil. While soup is boiling, stir in pasta and meatballs.  Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Stir in chopped spinach and simmer for an additional 2 minutes.  Turn heat off. Taste broth.  Add salt and pepper as needed. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with additional grated Parmesan, if desired.

For the Meatballs

  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef (can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken, but the meatballs won’t taste as good!)
  • 2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs (2 slices of bread, crusts removed, whirled in food processor OR, in a pinch, stir in bought bread crumbs or Panko)
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
  • minced garlic, to taste (1 or 2 cloves, minced OR 1/2 teaspoon garlic OR onion powder)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Place ground beef, breadcrumbs, basil, garlic, parsley, cheese, and desired amount of salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix lightly with a fork (don’t use hands because the resulting meatballs will be too dense).  In another bowl, combine the milk with the egg and beat lightly.  Stir the egg/milk mixture into the meat mixture, again, using your fork. When all ingredients are evenly distributed, use a small scoop or a tablespoon to portion meat and form into about 40 meatballs. Roll the scooped meat gently in palm of your hand to form into a ball. Use meatballs as directed above.

 

20 Dec 2014 Minty Malty Hot Chocolate

You HAVE to try this!  It’s delicious, and it’s mild and smooth and warm and comforting, and sooooo Christmassy!.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like bitter hot chocolate (Starbucks!), and I don’t like hot chocolate that is so strong I can hardly finish it (Starbucks!), or so rich I feel sick after drinking it (Paris!).  This hot chocolate is perfect. Mild. Creamy. Totally Yummy. Totally Christmassy.  Serve it with a candy cane stirrer or crushed candy canes sprinkled on top of the whipped cream. I served it at my Christmas party and it was a big hit.

Make it to watch your favorite Christmas movie with, or to read your favorite Christmas book with, or to just sit under the Christmas tree and watch the lights.  Make it for after a long walk in the snow (or, in California, in the rain), or for the Christmas Carolers (there’s so few of them now). Or to celebrate having finished all your Christmas shopping. Or make it for Santa and leave it out with the cookies–with testers for the whole family, of course. Make it for Christmas morning, to open the presents with, or make it for Christmas night to end the day with.  Just make it.  You’ll love it.

There is a problem though, finding Chocolate Malted Milk Powder.  I had to order it from Amazon.  The first time I made it, I made it with Vanilla Malted Milk Powder though, which is easily found in any grocery store, then I added cocoa powder and sugar to taste. It was great! (I used 1/2 cup Vanilla Malted Powder…, and just kept adding equal amounts of cocoa powder and sugar until it tasted right.)

The original recipe starts with a gallon of milk, and leftovers do keep well in refrigerator and warm up well in the microwave, but if you want to make half a recipe, I have written the recipe with easy to half measurements. If you are making for a party, mix everything on top of stove, then pour into a crockpot to keep warm.

Trust me!  This is delicious.  Let me know how you like it.

Minty Malty Hot Chocolate

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • 1 11 oz pkg (about 20-22) chocolate-covered cream filled mint patties (Mini York Peppermint Patties)
  • 1 ½ cups chocolate malted milk powder* (order from Amazon)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • Whipped cream, marshmallows, mini candy canes or crushed peppermints topping (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a pan on top of the stove, stir  until mint patties melt.  Stir occasionally, and watch like a hawk. Once milk gets hot enough to boil over, there’s no stopping it.  Just gently heat the milk and melt the mint  patties. (Can be made a few days in advance.) Beat to combine well.  Serve from pan, or place in crock pot to keep warm up.  (Can keep in crockpot for at least 2 hours.) Top with whipped cream, marshmallows, mini candy canes or some crushed up peppermints…, or serve “as is”.

*Or sub ½ cup vanilla malted milk powder and enough cocoa powder and chocolate to taste. I did this once, delicious, but don’t remember the quantities…, just a bit of this and a bit of that. Then a bit more of this, a bit more… Until it tastes delicious!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today,