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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Indian Chicken Curry

My old friend Dane first got me started with Indian cooking. In my first few years in Boston, she'd have a bunch of us from work over to her house for 'real Indian food.' Dane's from Bangalore and would whip up curries for us from her mother's and grandmother's recipes. Heaven. And knowing I like to cook, Dane recruited me as sous-chef for these large gatherings, giving me the important job of chopping onions. I mean, LOTS of onions. I'd ask her how many and she'd throw a few bags in front of me with a knife saying she'd let me know when I could stop. But oh how delicious the curry would be. This recipe from Bon Appetit is very reminiscent of dinners at Dane's. If you've ever made anything Indian - you'll have most of the spices in your cabinet. If you haven't, don't be afraid, this is an easy one pot meal that just has a lot of ingredients.

Heads up though - this is a Sunday dinner. It takes 2 hours (only 15 minutes of actual work time) so make sure you have a little time! Also - this recipe originally called for cream, which I substituted for plain yogurt.

3 tbsp canola oil
4ish chicken legs (drumsticks with thighs - as many as will fit snugly together in your pot)
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp tumeric
1 1/2 tsp coriander
3/4 tsp cayenne
4/4 tsp cardamom
8 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup crushed tomato (~half of a 14 oz can)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, 1/4 inch cubes

1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to pot, skin side down, cooking until golden brown (8-10 mins). Transfer to plate (don't flip in pan).

2. Add onion, garlic and ginger and stir until onion is soft. Add tomato paste and the rest of the spices through the cardamom, stirring often until paste begins to darken.

3. Add the chicken back to the pot, skin side up, the broth, and crushed tomato. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

4. Add potatoes and cook another 30-45 minutes, partially covered. When potatoes are fork tender and chicken is falling off the bone - it's done. The sauce should have thickened as well.

5. Remove the skin and bones from chicken add the yogurt. Stir and simmer for another 10 mins or so. Serve over basmati rice and a bunch of cilantro.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Four Layer Coffee Toffee Chocolate Cake

Ok people, look. You know I don't joke about desserts. I experiment with all kinds of cake recipes and usually bring them into work - to see what everyone thinks. I gotta say, my colleagues are very appreciative and always complimentary. But it's a captive audience. I mean, no matter how bad the cake (think 3 square feet of Stop & Shop sheet cake), cake tastes good when you're at work. We circle like vultures - no matter what it is! But I made this cake for a special occasion. My dear colleague Hilary was accepted into nursing school which called for a special chocolate cake. I found what seemed to be a good looking chocolate cake base recipe (via Smitten Kitchen) and added the frills. This is it. I don't just mean the recipe. This is THE chocolate cake. The one that I will always make from now on....make this.

*It must be noted - VERY CLEARLY - that this recipe is for TWO 10" cake pans. I accidentally made this with 9" pans and boy oh boy, 30 mins into baking I was baking a third cake on the bottom of my oven. Having tasted the batter before baking, and because I didn't want to ruin the surprise party the next day with a store bought cake, I was determined to save them. Took them out, cleaned the oven (while it was ON) and put them back in. Saved. Once you try this cake, you will understand why I almost singed off my new bangs...

Caramel Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 stick of butter, cut into 6-8 pieces
6 tbsp cream
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp water
1/4 tsp sea salt or kosher salt

Chocolate Cake
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 well shaken buttermilk
2/4 tsp vanilla

Ganache Frosting and Filling
1 lb 60% sweet chocolate chips
1 cup light cream
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces1 package of Heath Bar crunchies (available in baking section)

1. To make the caramel, melt sugar over medium heat in a saucepan, stirring if necessary to break up chunks. Once melted, it should be a copper color. Remove from heat, stir in butter then stir in cream, salt, honey, and water. Return to medium high heat until bubbling and a shade darker. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 300 and grease your (10 INCH!!) pans, line bottoms with parchment if you have it. Put the chocolate in a medium sized bowl and pour the hot coffee over it. Stir until melted. In a large bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

3. In another bowl with an electric mixer, beat eggs until thickened and lemon colored. Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture and beat until combined (watch out for the splash). Add sugar mixture (seriously watch out for the cocoa bomb that will fill your kitchen with a brown cloud if you're not careful - this ALSO happened to me while making this cake) and beat on medium until just combined. Divide batter between the two pans and bake for ~ 1 hr and 10 mins.

4. To make the ganache, bring the cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil in a saucepan and whisk in sugar until dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until melted. Add butter and whisk until smooth. Pour into a bowl or container and put in the fridge to firm up a bit.

When cake is done, set on a rack to cool for about 10 minutes and then remove cake from pans. When cool, you can assemble the cake. At this point, you can wrap the cake in plastic and put in the fridge overnight or in the freezer for longer. To save the caramel and ganache, just cover and put in fridge. Microwave on defrost for about 3 mins to soften them up when ready to use.

To assemble the cake, here's what you do. First, cut both cakes in half so that you have 4 layers. Place the layers on the counter, cut sides up. Put the first layer on your plate/cake stand, cut side up. Pour enough caramel sauce over the top so that you can spread it with a spoon and cover most of the surface. The caramel can (and should, a little) seep into the cake. Sprinkle with heath crunchies. On another cake layer, spread a thinnish layer of ganache on the cut side. Then put it on top of the first layer, chocolate side down - like a cake sandwich (!). Spread a thin layer of ganache on top of the cake and lay another layer of cake on top, cut side up. Repeat the caramel, heath crunchies, and then the fourth cake layer with ganache. Put the fourth layer on top, ganache side down. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the ganache.

You will thank me for this...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Chicken Cassoulet with Fennel and Sausage

A one pot wonder. We don't have many soup and stew days left, folks, so get it while you can. We fired up the grill last night which only means one thing - summer's on its way and soup will soon be a thing of the past. The great thing about this cassoulet from Food and Wine is that it's full of flavor with so little hassle. One of our recent favorites...

Four chicken legs, skin on
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, cored, 1/2 inch dice
1 carrot, 1/2 in dice
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp rosemary, minced
2 tsp thyme, minced
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed, drained
1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450. Place chicken on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 mins. Remove from oven but keep the oven on.

2. In a dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the sausage and cook until nearly cooked through. Add the onion, fennel, carrot and cook until softened.

3. Add the garlic, rosemary, and thyme and cook for about 3 mins. Stir in the stock and beans and bring to a boil.

4. Nestle the chicken legs in the stew and sprinkle the panko and cheese over the top. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 25 mins until bubbling and the top is crisp.