Winter Archive

Monday, December 8, 2014

gingerbread biscotti

gingerbread biscotti for hot chocolate dunking

It’s scientific fact that the most decadent hot chocolate needs the perfect dunking cookie. Last week, the hunt for this led me to assault family and friends with bold, high-stakes queries such as “would you rather dunk graham cracker flavored, snickerdoodle or gingerbread biscotti in your hot chocolate?” Don’t let it ever be said that the Smitten Kitchen shies away from the hard questions! Gingerbread was the clear winner, and while I aim to please, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that a little snickerdoodle-style roll in cinnamon-sugar is never unwelcome in winter, and so it was.

what you'll need
wet into dry ingredients

This is gentle gingerbread; it’s not going to muddle your steamy cup of dark chocolate cocoa with molasses and cloves, but instead gently suggests a little winter spice. It’s as much a cookie as it is the ideal golden and crisp packet of December warmth, essential on 26 degree days like today (too soon, New York, too soon!) even if you, perhaps, after reading one too many articles about how Norwegian and Danish children go outside all winter, regardless of how cold it is, didn’t conclude that this meant that you and your small child should arrive at the schoolyard 30 minutes before the school bell to get your fix of “fresh air” and “nature exploration” and have still, 3-plus hours later, not warmed up.

forming the dough into a log

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

decadent hot chocolate mix

decadent hot chocolate mix

Here is how I’ve made hot chocolate for most of my life: heat some milk in a saucepan, add a bit of unsweetened cocoa and sugar and whisk. Form lumps. Be unable to break up lumps. Get frustrated, try again, this time slowly slowly slowly whisking milk into cocoa and sugar, hoping to form something of a cocoa roux. Heat mixture until steamy and drink merrily, trying to ignore faint background of chalkiness. Hooray for cocoa?

what you'll need, except maybe not marshmallows
grind it up and you're done

Until this week, that is. This week, I saw a recipe for a homemade hot chocolate mix in this month’s Cook’s Illustrated that had my undivided attention because it wasn’t just cocoa and sugar but ground chocolate and vanilla and salt and and and… I mean, how bad could it be? What was the worst that could happen — we’d have to warm up with several cups of hot cocoa in a single week in the name of recipe testing? I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: sometimes, this job is the worst.

homemade hot chocolate

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

sticky toffee pudding

date cake with toffee sauce 3

Prior to last month, I had spent exactly zero minutes of my life thinking about date cake, craving date cake or noting the absence of date cake in my life and/or site archives. Clearly, this was a misstep on my part, but I’d always assumed they were exceedingly sticky sweet, and also, well warm. I should just stop right here rather than confessing the latest entry in How Weird Are Deb’s Food Tastes?, I know I should, but that’s never stopped me before so here goes: I’m not very into warm, quivery desserts. Like soufflés. And oozy chocolate cakes. I basically don’t understand how I survived the 90s either. I understand if this means you cannot speak to me anymore.

dates dates dates
chopped dates

But all of this changed at a party, when, to be honest, it was getting late and I was tired from being roused awake before 6 that morning by a unnamed Kindergartener and mentally calculating how long it would take to get home in a cab vs. two subway lines and I was not craving dessert or cake in the least but I had a bite and all of this mental noise stopped, which is to say it was nothing short of a miracle, even if it hadn’t been spectacular. But it was that, too.

soaked chopped dates definitely look gross

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Monday, October 6, 2014

better chicken pot pies

better chicken pot pies

There are over 900 recipes in this site’s archives, [which is completely nuts, but also conveniently gives me an answer to the ever-present “what do you do all day?” question besides my usual, “mess around on Instagram?”] and while I’m overwhelmingly quite fond of all of them, there are ones that nag at me not necessarily because they don’t work but because they’re not, in hindsight, the “best in category” I once found them to be. Among these are the chicken pot pies I made from Ina Garten’s beloved recipe six years ago, and somewhere, my friend Ang is gasping because these are, to date, her favorite thing I’ve ever made for dinner. But I always thought they could have been better for several persnickety reasons.

making the flaky pastry lids
chilled dough, quartered

First, instead of braising the chicken in that delicious veloué sauce you’re making, Ina has us roast chicken breast until they’re fully cooked, cool them, dice them and then add them to the sauce. But why? I asked Ina, but my book didn’t answer. That’s not the only extra step. Vegetables such as carrots, peas and those persnickety pearl onions are each blanched for two minutes in water before being added to the pot pie base, which baffled me even then. Why not just cook them in that finger-licking stew, too, and let them drink up all that awesomeness? My third quibble with the recipe is that for four servings of pot pie, the soup part alone uses 12 tablespoons (that’s 3/4 cup or 170 grams; it does not include the additional cup of butter used for the four pastry lids) of butter, and guys, I think it’s been fairly well established, perhaps even 900 times, my fondness for butter, but this is just … I cannot. When I created my own anything-but-abstemious pot pie recipe a few years ago for my cookbook, my filling only need 3 1/2 tablespoons butter for four portions to give you a nice rich sauce. Finally, I’d found that the sauce didn’t thicken well but assumed I’d done something wrong. A scroll through the comments that have arrived since indicates that it’s not just me.

browning the chicken parts

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Monday, February 24, 2014

dijon and cognac beef stew

dijon and cognac beef stew

I don’t mean to shock you, I mean, I do hope you’re sitting down for this, but it turns out that when I asked my husband to choose between a caramelized cabbage dish, mushroom tacos, or a beef stew whose ante had been upped with butter, bacon, Dijon, cognac and a splash of red wine as his ideal homemade Valentine’s meal, he chose the beef stew. I could hardly believe it either. I mean, between my delivered flowers, his cufflinks and the kid’s heart-shaped candies, I might have to mix things up next year just to rage against predictability.

what you'll need
rendering the bacon fat

This isn’t just any beef stew, however. This stew is fancy. It’s luxe and lush and so intensely flavored, if you’re anything like me, after one bite you’ll forget every crock pot attempt that yielded thin broths, tough meat, weak flavor and, always, unevenly cooked vegetables (potato mush and still-rubbery carrots, sigh), or at least I did. It will an excellent consolation prize for a winter you’re totally ready to be done with, pretty as it can occasionally be.

snowy february

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