Friday, May 26, 2006

An Amazing Restaurant

Dessert Comes First has a mouth-watering post on a restaurant called "Heat" in the Phillipines. Her photos are amazing, and here are just a couple. Go check them out!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Chicken Cacciatore

Coming from a multi-ethnic family, I grew up eating a lot of Italian food. Specifically, since my father was an immigrant of mixed Italian-Spanish-Basque (with a wee bit of French) heritage, my mother cooked the northern Italian dishes familiar to him. Italian-American food was a mystery to me.

My mom was a wonderful cook, and I have been trying to duplicate and improve her chicken cacciatore. I finally found a recipe that I love more than any others that I've tried, and after tweaking it a bit, share it with you.

Chicken Cacciatore
Adapted from Eleanora's Kitchen, by Eleanora Scarpetta

1/4 c olive oil
3 (or to taste) garlic cloves, pressed or finely chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 t dried oregano
2 t dried parsley
1/4 t dried rosemary, minced
1/4 t red pepper flakes, dried (or to taste)
1/4 c tomato paste
4 chicken thighs and drumsticks, about 3 pounds
2 whole split chicken breasts, about 2 pounds
1/2 c red wine vinegar

32 ounces crushed whole plum tomatoes
1/4 c dry white wine
1/2 c pitted good quality olives - Kalamata or Gaeta
2 or more red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch strips
4 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and quartered
1/4 roughly chopped fresh basic leaves
2-3 T fresh chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet (or dutch oven) over medium heat, until you see ripples in the oil. Salt and pepper the chicken. Lightly brown the chicken on both sides. Remove to plate. Leave about 2-3 tablespoon of oil in the pan, and pour off the rest.

2. Reduce heat. And the onion, 1 t oregano, basil, rosemary, dried red pepper, parsley, and tomato paste. Stir often, until the onion is translucent but not browned. Deglaze the pan with the 1/4 c of vinegar. Cook, stirring, for about one minute. Sometimes I add a little bit of white wine, if I seem to need a bit more liquid to deglaze.

3. Take the pan off the heat while you proceed to step four.

4. Add the garlic to the pan. Then, skin the chicken. That's right - get rid of the skin. If you do not like the flabby, wet, nasty texture you end up with after braising chicken, just get rid of it. If you do, then leave it on.

5. Add the chicken, juices from the plate, the remaining 1 t of oregano, and the tomatoes to the pan. Place back on low heat and cook until the tomatoes have reduced and slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. If the sauce is too thick for your tastes, add water until you reach the texture that you prefer.

6. Add the basil, wine, olives, sweet red peppers, and mushrooms. Cook until the peppers have softened and the chicken is very tender, about 15- 20 minutes.

7. Serve over rice or pasta.

  • This is a very forgiving dish. You can use all thighs or drumsticks, and it will turn out well. No mushrooms? Leave them out, or substitute another type. Missing one of the herbs? The dish has such bold flavors, other herbs will pick up the slack.
  • Add more or less of garlic or herbs, to your taste. I am not a big fan of dried red hot pepper, so I use very little of it.
  • Be careful with the salt. Most canned tomatoes are salted, and the olives can be very salty. Be cautious, taste as you go, and adjust seasoning accordingly.
  • Remember to pit the olives!
  • If you deglaze the pan with the white wine, remove the pan from the heat, first.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


One of the cooking blogs I enjoy reading is Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen. Julie always has a funny quote or interesting factoid. Today I tuned in and found this in the sidebar:


Niles: I'll have a grande half-caf latte, with a whisper of cinnamon, and for my father, plain coffee. I cannot emphasize the word "plain" enough. No foam, no cinnamon, no exotic flavors. If it is not plain, I take no responsibility for the consequences.

Waitress: How about a biscotti?

Niles: All right. But when you bring it, call it a cookie.
I'm still laughing!

Friday, May 12, 2006

This past weekend, Master Chow and I tasted the Williams-Sonoma sticky buns that I mentioned before. He says they're the best sticky buns he's ever had.

They are delicious, but you should have a bit more information before you leap to your computer and order them. First, they are made with a croissant dough, so they are light and flaky. If heavy, doughy buns are your fantasy, you may not care for these. Then again, Master Chow loves Cinnabon, and he thought these pastries were outstanding.

Second, the caramel and nuts are on the light side, and are not cloyingly sweet. That's one reason I liked these so much - they were not too sweet, and they didn't make my teeth ache or pull out my fillings. But you may enjoy trips to the dentist!

Finally, the instructions tell you to let the buns rest a minute before you turn them out on a plate. After you do that, I would recommend letting the buns sit for another 5-10 minutes to help firm up the caramel and develop the flavors a bit.

Definitely on the repeat list.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Elvis's Favorite Pound Cake

Follow the instructions exactly, and you will end up with a rich, buttery, dense, white masterpiece. Master Chow absolutely loved this. I used a bundt pan. Courtesy of Gourmet September 2005, which said the following about this recipe: "This is the best pound cake we have ever tasted. Its tender appeal is owed in part to cake flour and cream, and in part to beating the batter an extra 5 minutes."

Elvis Presley's Favorite Pound

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus additional for buttering pan
3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) plus additional for dusting
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups sugar
7 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup heavy cream

Special equipment: a 10-inch tube pan (4 1/2 inches deep; not with a removable bottom) or a 10-inch bundt pan (3 1/4 inches deep; 3-qt capacity).

Put oven rack in middle position, but do not preheat oven. Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess flour. Sift together sifted flour (3 cups) and salt into a bowl. Repeat sifting into another bowl (flour will have been sifted 3 times total).

Beat together butter (2 sticks) and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or 6 to 8 minutes with a handheld mixer. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in vanilla.

Reduce speed to low and add half of flour, then all of cream, then remaining flour, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down side of bowl, then beat at medium-high speed 5 minutes. Batter will become creamier and satiny. Spoon batter into pan and rap pan against work surface once or twice to eliminate air bubbles.

Place pan in (cold) oven and turn oven temperature to 350°F. Bake until golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in middle of cake comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool cake in pan on a rack 30 minutes. Run a thin knife around inner and outer edges of cake, then invert rack over pan and invert cake onto rack to cool completely. Cooks' note: Cake keeps, covered well with plastic wrap or in an airtight container, at room temperature 5 days. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Do You Like Spanish Food?

La Tienda is a Williamsburg, Virginia store that specializes in food items imported from Spain. Among other things, they carry Serrano ham, many varieties of paprika, and paella supplies. They also have an amazing 36-inch paella pan!

Food Review: Williams-Sonoma Croissants

If you want better, try Europe. Absolutely amazing. We've tried the plain croissants, and the sticky buns are next on our list. And, no, I do not get a kickback from Williams-Sonoma. They are pricey, but the taste is extraordinary - buttery, with depth, and a wonderful flaky crust. Photo: Williams-Sonoma.