Friday, March 23, 2012

Hot Chocolate

Hunger Games Week:
Every day this week, I'm going to post a recipe that was inspired by food mentioned in The Hunger Games  trilogy.  In anticipation of the the movie, Cleveland's Plain Dealer hosted a Hunger Games recipe contest.  The recipes had to be original, and we were allowed 50 words of description and one photo. 

Today is the last day of my Hunger Games recipes.  If you missed any of them, let's recap: Creamy Mushroom Soup, Goat Cheese Wrapped in Basil, District 12 Ration Grain Biscuits, the contest winning Roast Groosling with Sweet Roots (check out the other winning recipes here) and Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies.  The recipe below is what I submitted for Hot Chocolate (contest category: Capitol Fare). 
When you think of the hot chocolate served in the Capitol, what do you think of?  Chocolatey, rich, smooth, and thick enough for dipping rolls or cookies into it.  That's exactly what this recipe delivers.

Hot Chocolate
Original Recipe
Yield:  2 mugs, or 4 tea cups

2 cups milk
3 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped (can substitute mini chocolate chips)
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the milk.   Heat for 5 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients except the vanilla.  Whisk until the chocolate melts completely, the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes).  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Ladle into tea cups and serve with rolls for dipping.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Brown Sugar Shortbread

Hunger Games Week:
Every day this week, I'm going to post a recipe that was inspired by food mentioned in The Hunger Games  trilogy.  In anticipation of the the movie, Cleveland's Plain Dealer hosted a Hunger Games recipe contest.  The recipes had to be original, and we were allowed 50 words of description and one photo. 

I submitted six recipes, I've already revealed Creamy Mushroom Soup, Goat Cheese Wrapped in Basil, District 12 Ration Grain Biscuits and the contest winning Roast Groosling with Sweet Roots.  (Check out the other winning recipes here.)  The recipe below is what I submitted for Shortbread Cookies (contest category: Wild Card Dishes). 

Mr. Mellark gave Katniss some cookies before leaving.  I imagined that they were something that would travel well, a sturdy cookie like shortbread.  It's really too bad Katniss threw them away because for such a simple looking cookie, the brown sugar lends a nice flavor.

Mr. Mellark's Shortbread Cookies
Original Recipe
Yield:  about 18 cookies

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cream the brown sugar and butter on medium-high for 2 minutes.  Slowly add the flour and mix on low until combined.  Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet.  Flatten the dough so they are about 1/4 inch thick.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden.  Remove cookies from the baking sheets and place on a cooling rack.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables

Hunger Games Week:
Every day this week, I'm going to post a recipe that was inspired by food mentioned in The Hunger Games  trilogy.  In anticipation of the movie, Cleveland's Plain Dealer hosted a Hunger Games recipe contest.  The recipes had to be original, and we were allowed 50 words of description and one photo. 

I submitted six recipes, and I've already revealed Creamy Mushroom Soup, Goat Cheese Wrapped in Basil, and District 12 Ration Grain Biscuits

The winners of the recipe contest were announced in the Taste section of today's paper and the Roast Groosling with Sweet Roots WON!  Check out the paper's web version here.  The recipe below is what I submitted, you'll notice it's a little different than the one in the paper because they adapted the recipes.  

Side Note:  I don't agree with their choice of winner for the Breads of Panem category.  The winning bread is not at all like the District 12 bread described in the book (flat and dense).  However, it's a great fit for District 11 (crescent shaped and sprinkled with seeds), so maybe it was just a typo.  If that's what happened, then I think it was a good choice.

Groosling shows up quite a bit as a source of food, especially in the Arena.  An important alliance between Rue and Katniss was developed while sharing a meal of groosling.  Foraged root vegetables make a great accompaniment to the roasted meat.

Roast Groosling with Sweet Roots (aka Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables)
Original Recipe
Yield:  6 servings

3 lbs various root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, katniss roots, etc.), chopped into similar sized pieces (~ 1 1/2 inches)
2 onions, peeled and quartered, root ends removed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 (~4 lb) groosling (chicken can be substituted), plucked, head, feet and innards removed and cleaned
2 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 F.

In a large bowl, place the chopped vegetables.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with dried herbs.  Mix until everything is thoroughly coated.  Distribute evenly around the pan leaving space in the center for the groosling.

Rinse the groosling with water and pat it dry.  Rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place in the prepared roasting pan.

Place the pan in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.  Turn the oven down to 375 F and cook for 80 minutes or until juices run clear and thigh meat registers 165 F.  

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.  If the vegetables aren't done, put them back into the oven while the chicken rests.  When the vegetables are done cooking, mix them around with the pan juices.  Carve the chicken and serve with the roasted root vegetables.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Hunger Games: District 12 Drop Biscuits

Hunger Games Week:
Every day this week, I'm going to post a recipe that was inspired by food mentioned in The Hunger Games  trilogy.  Cleveland's Plain Dealer hosted a Hunger Games recipe contest.  The recipes had to be original, and we were allowed 50 words of description and one photo.  They'll post the winning recipes in the Taste section of the paper tomorrow.

I submitted six recipes, I've already revealed Creamy Mushroom Soup and Goat Cheese Wrapped in Basil.  The recipe below is what I submitted for District 12's bread (contest category: Breads of Panem). 

The people of District 12 were constantly battling starvation so it makes sense that their district bread wasn't anything special, just a flat, dense biscuit.  Katniss mentioned that the Capitol's version looked much nicer.  They were probably made with luxury ingredients like butter or leavening that most District 12 residents couldn't afford.

District 12 Ration Grain Biscuits
Original Recipe
Yield: 6 biscuits

1 cup rye flour (or other dark grain)
2/3 cup milk (or water if milk is not available)
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Mix all ingredients and let sit for 5 minutes to let the milk work into the flour.  Drop large spoonfuls onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes.  Transfer biscuits to a cooling rack.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Hunger Games: Goat Cheese Wrapped in Basil

Hunger Games Week:
Every day this week, I'm going to post a recipe that was inspired by food mentioned in The Hunger Games  trilogy.  Cleveland's Plain Dealer hosted a Hunger Games recipe contest.  The recipes had to be original, and we were allowed 50 words of description and one photo.  They'll post the winning recipes in the Taste section of the paper on Wednesday March 21.

I submitted six recipes, I revealed Creamy Mushroom Soup on Friday.  The recipe below is what I submitted for Goat Cheese Wrapped in Basil (contest category: Wild Card).  Thinking back, I wish I had done it differently.  I should have taken a 4 oz log of goat cheese and wrapped it with a few large basil leaves, then sliced it to be spread on fresh bread.  The recipe below was too much basil, not enough goat cheese.

Prim's goat, Lady, supplied the Everdeen's with milk and cheese which could be eaten or sold/traded for other goods at the Hob.  Prim made these treats of goat cheese wrapped in basil for Katniss as a gift on Reaping Day.

Goat Cheese Wrapped in Basil
Original Recipe
Yield: 5-10 servings

2 oz goat cheese, softened
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
5-10 large basil leaves

In a small bowl, mix the goat cheese, salt and pepper.  Place the basil leaves, vein side up (dark green side down), on a plate.  Put a spoonful of goat cheese on each leaf.  To wrap, start at the leaf's tip and fold it down so it sticks to the goat cheese.  Then wrap the two sides to the middle of the package, overlapping slightly if possible.  Chill until ready to serve.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Creamy Mushroom Soup

The Hunger Games movie comes out next week and I'm so excited!  I really loved the book!

The Plain Dealer held a recipe contest for food inspired by The Hunger Games trilogy.  Entries were due on Monday and they'll post the winning recipes in the Taste section of the paper on Wednesday March 21.  The recipes had to be original, and we were allowed 50 words of description and one photo.  I submitted six recipes, I was hoping for more, but ran out of time.  I'm going to be sharing them today and all next week to celebrate the movie opening.

This is what I submitted for Creamy Mushroom Soup (contest category:  Capitol Fare).

Capitol food is so rich and luxurious that Katniss had problems eating it because she was accustomed to a bland diet.  This creamy mushroom soup is a far cry from District 12 food, it's rich, velvety and full of flavor.

Creamy Mushroom Soup
Original Recipe
Yield:  4 servings

1 lb mushrooms, sliced
1 small (~1 cup) onion, diced
4 Tbsp butter, divided
1 tsp dried thyme
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Balsamic vinegar (optional)

In a stockpot on medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, then add the onions.  Cook until they are softened (about 5 minutes).  Turn the heat up to high, add the remaining butter and the mushrooms.  Stirring occasionally, cook the mushrooms until they brown.  Lower the temperature and add the thyme and chicken stock.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, then remove from heat.  

Puree the soup until it's smooth.  If using a blender, work in batches and have a large bowl ready for the pureed portion of the soup.  Don't fill the blender more than 1/3 to 1/2 full.  Remove the cap from the hole in the blender lid.  Put the blender lid on tight and cover the hole with a towel while pureeing.  Repeat until all of the soup is smooth.

Return the pureed soup to the pot on medium-low heat.  Stir in the heavy cream.  Reheat the soup slowly, and do not boil (lower the heat if needed).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately and drizzle each serving with balsamic vinegar (if using).  This soup goes great with a salad of bitter greens and pea-sized tomatoes, thin-sliced, rare roast beef, and noodles in a green sauce.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Coq Au Vin

Coq au vin is the chicken equivalent to beef bourguignon:  meat cooked in wine with bacon, mushrooms and onions.  The chicken comes out tender and delicious, and the mushrooms and onions add a nice earthiness to the dish.  Mashed potatoes or egg noodles make a nice base for everything, and they work well for catching the sauce.
When cooking the mushrooms, don't crowd them in the pan.  They need room to breathe so they brown nicely, you don't want them to steam.

A word of warning, the chicken turns purple.  It's unexpected until you think about it, it is cooking in red wine afterall.  When you make beef bourguignon, you don't notice because the meat is already dark.

This dish would be great for a dinner party.  You can make it ahead of time, then reheating right before dinner.

Coq au Vin (Chicken in Red Wine with Onions, Mushrooms and Bacon)
Adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking as seen on Smitten Kitchen
Yield: 4-6 servings

1 (3-4 oz) chunk of bacon (I used 4 slices of bacon, chopped)
2 Tbsp butter
1- (2.5-3 lb) frying chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup cognac (I omitted)
3 cups young, full-bodied, red wine such as Burgundy, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Chianti
1-2 cups chicken stock, brown stock or canned beef bouillon
1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
Brown-braised onions (recipe below)
Sautéed mushrooms (recipe below)
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp softened butter
Sprigs of fresh parsley (for garnish)
  1. In a Dutch oven, sauté the bacon slowly in hot butter until it is very lightly browned. Remove to a side dish.
  2. Dry the chicken thoroughly. Brown it in the hot fat.
  3. Season the chicken. Return the bacon to the Dutch oven with the chicken. Cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once.
  4. Uncover, and pour in the cognac. Averting your face, ignite the cognac with a lighted match. Shake the Dutch oven back and forth for several seconds until the flames subside. (I skipped this whole step.)
  5. Pour the wine into the Dutch oven, and add just enough stock or bouillon to cover the chicken. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and herbs. Bring to the simmer. Cover and simmer slowly for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and its juices run clear when the meat is pricked with a fork. Remove the chicken to a side dish.
  6. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms (recipes below).
  7. Simmer the cooking liquid in the Dutch oven for a minute or two, skimming off the fat. Then raise the heat and boil rapidly, reducing the liquid to about 2 1/4 cups. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf.
  8. Blend the butter and flour together into a smooth paste (buerre manie). Beat the paste into the hot liquid with a wire whisk. Bring to a simmer, stirring, and simmer for a minute or two. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.
  9. Arrange the chicken in the Dutch oven, place the mushrooms and onions around it and baste with the sauce. If this dish is not to be served immediately, film the top of the sauce with stock or dot with small pieces of butter. Set aside uncovered. It can now wait indefinitely.
  10. Shortly before serving, bring to the simmer, basting the chicken with the sauce. Cover and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is hot enough.
  11. Serve from the dutch oven or arrange on a hot platter. Decorate with sprigs of parsley.

Oignons Glacés a Brun (Brown-braised Onions)
Mastering the Art of French Cooking

18-24 white onions, peeled, about 1 inch in diameter (I used a 10 oz bag frozen pearl onions, thawed)
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 Tbsp oil
1/2 cup of brown stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine or water
Salt and pepper to taste
A medium herb bouquet: 3 parsley springs, 1/2 bay leaf, and 1/4 teaspoon thyme tied in cheesecloth (I used dried parsley and thyme, a small bay leaf and skipped the cheesecloth)

When the butter and oil are bubbling in a large skillet, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

Pour in the liquid, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove the herb bouquet (since I didn't tie them in the cheesecloth, I just had to fish out the bay leaf). Serve them as they are.

Champignons Sautés Au Buerre (Sautéed Mushrooms)
Mastering the Art of French Cooking

2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp oil
1 lb fresh mushrooms, cleaned with a damp cloth, left whole if small, sliced or quartered if large
1 to 2 Tbsp minced shallots or green onions (optional)
Salt and pepper

Place a large skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. (If you don't have a 10" pan , cook the mushrooms in batches, they need room in order to brown.)  As soon as you see the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating that it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes.

During their sauté, the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

Toss the shallots or green onions with the mushrooms. Sauté over moderate heat for 2 minutes.

Sautéed mushrooms may be cooked in advance, set aside, then reheated when needed. Season to taste just before serving.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Roasted Tomato & Ricotta Crostini

The bright flavored, roasted tomato, creamy ricotta and crunchy
crostini make a fabulous combination.
When I was writing about the oven roasted tomatoes, I came up with this idea for an appetizer.  I'm happy to report that it turned out beautifully.  The  moist tomato drips just enough of it's packing oil onto the ricotta which gets a slight bite from the pepper.  The crunchy baguette gives a nice contrast to the soft toppings.

The three components can each be made ahead of time, but don't assemble everything until you're ready to serve it.

Roasted Tomato & Ricotta Crostini
Original Recipe

Baguette, cut into 1/2" slices
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
Salt & Pepper
Thyme (optional)
Roasted tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil

Preheat the oven to 375.
Place the baguette slices on two baking sheets.  Lightly brush the bread with olive oil.  Bake until the crostini are pale golden and crisp, around 15 minutes.  Let cool completely.

While the crostini is baking, mix the salt, pepper, and thyme (if using) into the ricotta.

Once the crostini is cooled, spread the ricotta mixture onto the slices.  Top with roasted tomatoes.  Serve immediately.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic

I really need to cook more with my dutch oven so I'm dedicating March to dutch oven recipes.  Up first is Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic.  This chicken was amazing!  It was juicy and full of flavor.  I poured the sauce over the chicken and mashed potatoes as if it was gravy, an herby, garlicky gravy.

Normally when I cook a whole chicken, it's pretty basic.  When making this chicken, I looked for something different and wanted to use my dutch oven.  When I found this recipe which includes lemon zest, herbs and garlic, I made my mind up right away.

Don't be afraid of the 40 cloves of garlic.  The garlic flavor becomes less intense and slightly sweetens as it roasts.  So delicious, I love roasted garlic!  By the way, 40 cloves is about two heads of garlic (give or take a few cloves).  Cloves will vary depending on the size of the head and size of the cloves.  You don't have to be exact, just use two good sized heads of garlic.

Here's a tip for peeling all that garlic:  smash the head of garlic to separate the cloves, put everything in a bowl (size doesn't matter), invert a second bowl of the same size over top and shake vigorously.  The agitation will peel most of the garlic for you in very little time.  If you need a visual, check out this video.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma
Yield: 6 servings

1 (~4 lb) chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
40 garlic cloves (about 2 heads of garlic), peeled
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
Zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 400. 

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a wide Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Working in batches, brown the chicken, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. 

Add the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the chicken, rosemary, thyme and lemon zest and stir to combine. Cover the pan, transfer to the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Baste the chicken with the accumulated juices. Continue roasting, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear when the meat is pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes more. 

Transfer the chicken to a platter; leave the garlic in the pan. Cover the chicken loosely with aluminum foil. 

Set the pan over medium heat and mash the garlic with the back of a spoon. Add the wine and cook for 3 minutes. Add the stock and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to a warm gravy boat.  Serve the chicken immediately and pass the sauce alongside.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chocolate Bark

Chocolate bark is so easy: melt chocolate, spread it in a pan, sprinkle with topping, cool, break apart and eat.  Chocolate bark makes a great gift and can be customized in a million different ways with candy, dried fruit, nuts, coconut, flavored extracts, whatever.  It keeps for a long time too.  Chocolate bark is a great option for a cookie exchange if you don't want to bake.  Leftover candy from your Easter basket (or any holiday) would make a great topping for chocolate bark.  Those Robins' Eggs Whoppers sprinkled on some dark chocolate?  Yum!

If you're melting chocolate chips, you don't need to chop them up.  If you're melting chocolate from a bar or large block, use a serrated knife to chop/shave the chocolate.  The baking and/or candy sections of some grocery stores and markets sell good chocolate in larger bars or 0.5 lb - 1 lb chunks broken off from giant blocks.

Chocolate Bark Master Recipe
Original Recipe

For every pound of chocolate, use about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of toppings or mix-ins.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Melt the chocolate in the microwave stirring at 30 second increments until completely melted.  If using mix-ins, stir them into the melted chocolate.  Pour onto prepared baking sheet.  Sprinkle with toppings and lightly press them down.  Let cool completely, then break apart or cut the candy into pieces.

Peppermint Bark
Original Recipe

1.5 lb dark chocolate, chopped
1 lb white chocolate, chopped
40 peppermints or 12 candy canes, crushed
1 tsp mint extract

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave stirring at 30 second increments until completely melted.  Stir in mint extract.  Pour onto prepared baking sheet.  Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Optional Step:  While the chocolate is cooling, put the crushed mints in a sieve over the bowl holding the white chocolate.  Let the mint dust fall into the white chocolate, and reserve the mint pieces for decoration.

Melt the white chocolate.  Pour the white chocolate over the dark chocolate.  Working quickly, spread into an even layer.  Sprinkle with crushed mints, then press down slightly into the chocolate.  Let it cool at room temperature or in the fridge. 

When the bark has cooled completely, break apart or cut into pieces.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

I'm in CLE Magazine's Blog Contest!

Cooker Girl - Sarah Berridge's blog started as a way to document what she cooks at home and includes a great photo of each dish.

Cleveland Magazine has created a March Madness spinoff with entertaining Cleveland bloggers.  I am so honored to be part of this blog contest!  If you have a copy of the magazine, the bracket (shown above) is on page 22.  I can't tell you how cool it was to see my name and blog in print!  I still cannot believe they picked this blog to be in the Top 8 for the Food and Drink category!  There are some huge blogs in these brackets and I could definitely think of a few good ones that weren't included that could have easily taken my spot on the list.  There are a ton of amazing local bloggers in Cleveland, so a big thank for nominating me!

This contest seems like it might be a puff piece the magazine came up with because they needed one more page of content for the March issue.  Being a smaller blog on the list, I think it's really cool!  Plus it's just fun and raises awareness about some of the awesome blogs we have in NE Ohio.  I can be really competitive at times, and I'd love to make it out of the first round.  Even if I don't advance to the next round, I don't want to go down in flames.

But again, just to be included on a short list with all of these awesome Cleveland bloggers, wow!  Just wow!

Voting is now open! 
If you would be so kind, please vote for me:

Thanks for reading and for all your support!