Monday, January 12, 2015

mushroom marsala pasta bake

mushroom marsala pasta bake

Over the last couple years — a dark time in which I’ve slowly had to accept that my once-tiny baby with fairly simple needs now required real square meals at very specific times of the day, such as dinner, far earlier than we ever do and that he’d likely be looking to me (me!) to provide them or face the hangry consequences — I’ve attempted to increase my repertoire of two things: 1. Dinners that can be made easily in under an hour that I actually want to eat, and 2. Casseroles. No, no, I don’t mean the canned cream of soupiness things. I mean, the idea of taking disparate meal parts and baking them in a big dish until they’re much more than the sum of their ingredients. Plus, they’re dinnertime magic: they reheat well; they make excellent leftovers for as long as you can stretch them; and they rarely require anything more on the side than a green salad (for grownups) or steamed broccoli (for people who haven’t yet come around to salad). Long Live The Casserole Rethought With Minimally Processed Ingredients! is hardly a sexy catchphrase, but there you have it: my new battle cry.

what you'll need

In the first category, Alex’s Chicken and Mushroom Marsala from 2008 in the archives became a favorite again in 2013 when I began making it much more quickly with thigh cutlets. Within the second, I’ve been trying as best as I can to reimagine baked pastas into dishes that are less of a cheese-valanche and more of an insanely good flavor assault with a sizable portion of vegetables within. (See also: Baked Orzo with Eggplant and Mozzarella and our previous house favorite, Baked Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage).

brown the mushroomsadd the onionsadd butter, then floursimmering until thickened

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

butterscotch pudding

old school butterscotch pudding

One of my worst cooking traits is that when I get frustrated with a recipe, it can take me years to get back to it. I mean, I’m theoretically too old to be having tantrums, kitchen or other, but there’s no other way to describe this behavior where I get frustrated, throw my jangly measuring spoons in the sink and huff off to gaze at jeans I could probably fit half a thigh into, which is how I mope.* Sure, you could just say that I need a little space, a break, it’s-not-you-it’s-me from the recipe so I can gain some perspective, and consider other approaches but six years? That is how long it’s been since I last attempted to share a recipe for old-school, dead-simple butterscotch pudding from scratch which refused to set. A six-year tantrum. (Fine, I snuck some pudding pops in there, but it’s so cold today, I cannot even look at them.)

for classic butterscotch pudding

There’s a reason butterscotch pudding is a classic, and no, and I don’t mean custard or pastry cream with 6 egg yolks and over a quarter-pound of butter. I don’t mean mousse, with all of those egg yolks, twice the butter and also egg whites and heavy cream. I don’t mean budinos, flan or any of the other luxurious jiggly desserts we order in restaurants. I mean, butterscotch pudding, the kind a grandmother would make with just milk and a little thickener, like the kind that comes in a box but will never, ever taste as good as this.

a little butterbriefly cook your brown sugar caramelbring to a gentle simmerthickened

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Monday, January 5, 2015

my ultimate chicken noodle soup

my ultimate chicken noodle soup

I blame Katz’s for this. Two months ago, when we spent a day out playing tourist — i.e. breakfast bagels, Madeleine at the New York Historical Society followed by The Dinosaur Museum of Natural History (what my son calls it, please never correct him) — we decided to finish off our shivering afternoon with a visit to Katz’s Deli, a place I hadn’t been to in probably 10 years despite living fewer than 15 blocks from it, and the kid, never, shame on us. Alex ordered the chicken noodle soup and this hot mess arrived and it was peculiarly perfect: overloaded with noodles, colossal chunks of carrot and chicken and I… was jealous. My homemade chicken noodle soup never looked like this.

making the broth
what you'll need, plus the lovely broth

Now, it’s not like we haven’t made chicken soup here before. I shared last year my favorite uncluttered chicken stock, which is technically just some extra parts away from a completed bowl of soup. I’ve got a quickie recipe for from-scratch chicken noodle soup in the archives, too. But what I didn’t have was what was in front of me, the kind of soup that might take the better part of an afternoon to make but rewards you with a depth of flavor that makes everything bad — threatened head colds, shivering wind outside, pangs of social media envy over apparently everyone being on a tropical vacation but us and also this taunting me every time I walk by it — at least temporarily disappear. Everyone needs a winter miracle recipe like this in their back pocket.

diced chicken breast

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

popcorn party mix

popcorn party mix

Let me get the possibly obvious out of the way: I, Deb Perelman, unapologetically, shamelessly, unwaveringly love Chex Mix. Sure, the last time I made it to the letter I was in high school and decided to have a party where we’d invite boys too (yes, I was as cool in high school as you’d expect) and it seemed so strange to me, this aggressive mix of steak sauce, spices and butter, but holy moly was it good.

what you'll need
brown butter + spices

So, let’s not pretend this is anything but a Smitten Kitchen homage to this beloved mix — which I’m sorry to reveal, did not bring all of the boys to my yard, er, parents’ wood-paneled living room. These days, I make it a little differently. At some point, the Chex cereal became popcorn, not because I don’t like crispy crunchy magically woven pillows of corn, wheat and rice cereal, but because I love popcorn that much more. I add nuts, pretzels and something cracker-y to it. And then, as should surprise exactly nobody, I brown the butter for extra toasty depth. I add some mustard, in both Dijon and powdered English mustard formats; smoked paprika, because it completes me, and sometimes a tiny bit of dark brown sugar too. I tend to make massive amounts of it and

a kind of putrid, delicious mess

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Monday, December 29, 2014

roasted grape and olive crostini

roasted grape and olive crostini

Within the great file of my favorite food category, Things I Can Put On Toast, I dare you to find anything easier to whirl up in the minutes before a party than artichoke-olive crostini, the terribly named but unmatched in Mediterranean deliciousness of feta salsa or walnut pesto. Lightly broil a thinly sliced baguette — and I vote for preparing a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, ready to bake off later, nobody minds — and voila: it’s suddenly a party.

a mix of grapes and olives isn't necessary
ready to roast

This is my new favorite addition to the category. Although it takes longer to cook, it takes just as little time to throw together. This seemingly simple combination of two ingredients, roasted together, become so much more than the sum of their parts. Personally, I’m not a great fan of either on their own; I find most grocery store grapes too sweet and readily-available olives too aggressively salty and one-note. But in the oven together, these bugs become features. The briny bite of the olives tangles with the syrupy sweetness of the grapes and together, make a juicy mess that’s incredible with rosemary and sea salt, heaped on a ricotta-slathered toast.

roasted grapes and olives

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