Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ina Garten's Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic and Penzey's Saffron Rice

Ina Garten, or the Barefoot Contessa has such easy recipes in her book, "Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home,"I can actually say that I can cook French food well in my first attempts.  My latest endeavor was a tasty adventure into a garlic lover's dream, Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic.

40 cloves may seem like a lot, but since they are slow-roasted, it's the perfect number to achieve that mellow but sweet taste that sinks right into the chicken and makes the sauce memorable for guests at your dinner party.
Best of all, you can make this a day ahead and reheat.

Ina Garten suggests a Moroccan couscous recipe, but both of us prefer rice, so I made a saffron rice recipe from Penzey's Spices.  We thought it was the perfect accompaniment.

Though the garlic is mellow, it's still a LOT of garlic.  I suggest a mint-inspired dessert if you are serving guests.  You can't go wrong with mint chocolate chip ice cream, plain or sundaes.

3 whole heads garlic, about 40 cloves
2 (3 1/2-pound) chickens, cut into eighths
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
3 tablespoons Cognac, divided
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Separate the cloves of garlic and drop them into a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds. Drain the garlic and peel. Set aside.

Dry the chicken with paper towels. Season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the butter and oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches, saute the chicken in the fat, skin side down first, until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Turn with tongs or a spatula; you don't want to pierce the skin with a fork. If the fat is burning, turn the heat down to medium. When a batch is done, transfer it to a plate and continue to saute all the chicken in batches. Remove the last chicken to the plate and add all of the garlic to the pot. Lower the heat and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned. Add 2 tablespoons of the Cognac and the wine, return to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pot with the juices and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for about 30 minutes, until all the chicken is done.

Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the sauce and the flour and then whisk it back into the sauce in the pot. Raise the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of Cognac and the cream, and boil for 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste; it should be very flavorful because chicken tends to be bland. Pour the sauce and the garlic over the chicken and serve hot

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Mega Fajita Value

Wow! We had some tasty fajitas for an incredible value.

We LOVE Mexican food.  We've loved it before our only trip to Cozumel a few years ago and we now love it even more.  Fortunately we have several excellent Mexican restaurants close by.  One offers a Deluxe Fajita for Two for $18.95, about $20 with tax.

I have never seen a larger fajita skillet.  It was like a large pizza pan.  Fajitas for two?  More like fajitas for six!  Seriously!

Sizziling on top of it was a mountain combination of chicken, chorizo sausage, pork, steak,  and shrimp on the side.  I'm allergic to shellfish.  My husband was fine doing without shrimp, but the server was gracious enough to offer his shrimp to be cooked and served separately.  Also included were the signature onions, peppers and tomatoes. Thankfully, the veggies were done just to our taste - crisp and not too soggy.

It was such a value, we got a total of 13 fajitas within three days.

I already had a package of 10 flour tortillas at home, which cost .99.  I also had some shredded cheese and other items to add to them.  We were able to make EIGHT fajitas at home with the leftovers for dinner last night and lunch today.

I'm quite surprised that we got so much for leftovers.  Yes, it looked big, but we were loading up our tortillas at the restaurant, especially my husband.  I had two, he had three.

He admits that he may have been able to have one or two more fajitas at the restaurant if it wasn't for all the chips and salsa we had, plus the Queso Fundito con Chorizo - melted cheese with spicy sausage, served with soft flour tortillas.  It was so good, it should almost be illegal.

We told our server that this should be called fajitas for six.  He laughed, then told us of one customer who was a big guy, more tall and muscle than fat he says, ate a full order in one sitting, after a full basket of chips.  He then ordered fried ice cream for dessert.  Ohhhhhh my!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Anniversary Dinner

We celebrated our fourth anniversary with sushi.  What a wise choice!

I had the Sweetheart Roll, of course ;)

It was a lovely combination of tuna, spicy tuna, salmon and avocado with caviar and spicy mayo.  Spicy tuna sashimi on the side.  Divine!

Hubby had shrimp sushi.

And shrimp tempura.  He likes shrimp.

As if that wasn't enough food, we started out with hot, flaky, crispy spring rolls.

And we had this savory delight - strips of sirloin wrapped around cream cheese and scallions, seared in teriyaki sauce.  Out of this world!

We had a blast reminiscing about our wedding and the last four years.  Since we've known each other for 10 years, and three of those dating until engagement, we really are friends.  And, our romantic love and deep love have grown at the same time.  Unlike some who meet and fall 'in-love,' we cared about each other before we started dating.  That deepened our relationship from the beginning, without rushing the fun and beauty of courtship.  Those were a wonderful, exciting three years, but it can't compare to the 4 married years we've shared committed working on a home and a life together.  That's some heavy stuff I never could have dreamed about with anyone else.

Here's to the fifth year, and beyond, my Love.

We call this one "Fred 'n Ginger"

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hungarian Club Feast

What a food-coma afternoon.  My family went to our Hungarian club's annual lunch at Sterle's Country House, the oldest and one of the last remaining restaurants in the area to serve Hungarian and Slovenian food.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is probably the last place in the area of this size where large families and groups of friends can gather at large tables, clank thick beer mugs together and dance the polka.  Our dues help pay for the dinner, so, we got all this for $10.

We had (from bottom, then clockwise) chicken paprikash, roasted pork with gravy, green beans and Weinerschnitzel (vee'-ner-shnit-zell), breaded and fried veal. 

We started with noodle soup.  Since their new ownership, it looks and tastes different.  My brother didn't like it at all, but, my husband (a new member) had four bowls.  It used to look and taste like chicken noodle soup.  This looked and tasted like it was a combination of chicken and beef broth.  I had half a bowl; partly because I was saving room for the heavy-hitters, partly because it was not like I remembered it.  Some things change.
At least it's all still served 'family style,' with kettles of soup and large platters are set in the middle of the table to serve yourself, just like at home.

The club hosts a dinner in October as well at the same place in the private party room.

It wasn't always held here, and there used to be more events.  Actually, before there were 'events,' it was a lifestyle.  The club used to be an integral part of a tight community.

Our group, our heritage is specifically Sathmar.  In short, uncomplicated terms (hopefully), we are displaced Germans (due to Catholic beliefs) from the Black Forest region in the 16th century and settled in the Sathmar Schwab region of Hungary, (until it became part of Romania, near Transylvania after WW2).  And, I guess we weren't too popular with the resident Hungarians.  We were immigrants invading and buying their land, and working for cheap.  Some of the Sathmar Schwabs were too poor to even buy the cheap land that was available; they traveled, took odd jobs, or performed for food.  They became what can be considered gypsies.  My great-grandpa's family were farmers.  The Industrial Age lured many from that region to the US, most to Cleveland, Ohio to work for ACME.  My great-grandfather was one of them.  He was 13, and working in the field.  His parents approached him with a suitcase and a man from the village.  He was told that he was going with the man to the New Country and they had to go at that instant.

My great-grandfather was one of the founding members of the club in 1925.  He helped build the club's own large building close to their neighborhood church.  Sadly, the club sold that building in the '60s, so my brother and I have never been there.  The tight neighborhood scattered to varied suburbs.  Generations have been lost and some didn't carry on the tradition.  Membership has shrunk.  Even today, my mom and uncle savored telling us delightful stories of their time at the club.  I love hearing about it.  My uncle loved helping the ladies in the kitchen and watching the guys play pool, but, he got lots of extra bakery when he helped in the kitchen.  I have photos of he, my mom and their late cousin in traditional costume, waiting to dance on one of the club's two dance floors.  As soon as I find them they will be included in this post.

Back then in the 50s and 60s, they tell us they didn't go to restaurants.  They didn't go 'out' as we now know it.  They can remember the few times they went to McDonald's for 'special' occasions.   If they went 'out,' it was the whole family, and it was just a few blocks away at the club.  Ladies cooked and played cards.  Men played cards and shot pool.  Kids had much space and time to invent their own games and imaginary worlds if they weren't practicing traditional dance.  Some things change.

Now, less than a hundred of us meet twice a year for a meal.  It's sad to see a tradition fade, yet inspiring to be one of the few that are keeping it alive.

Yet, some things don't change.  We listened to fellow member Joe Jeromos play some Hungarian music along with polka and some tunes one would probably hear at a wedding.  Grandma and Grandpa had all of his vinyl records.  You can listen to him HERE.
There's Joe

Here's a few more photos:

Upon entrance


Old-school babooshka

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Greek Potatoes

Two of my best high school friends are Greek.  I spent my teens and early 20s savoring their mother's cooking until they moved back to Crete.  I've visited them twice and have enjoyed these in kitchens and restaurants across the island.  This is the best recipe I've found that brings that Mediterranean taste home.

You can find this recipe here.

This is all about the moist absorption of flavor.  The potatoes are almost sure to soak up whatever you've got.  

You can keep them the oven longer to get them as brown or as crispy as you want them.  I enjoy them well done; however, this is the way that I was used to growing up and visiting Crete, with just slight browning on all of the edges.

It's super-easy to make but difficult to clean.  All of that liquid will reduce, browning the sides and bottom.  The caramelized garlic bits will stick like glue.  I saved myself much clean-up time and frustration by using a disposable but recyclable aluminum pan.  It was worth the .99 cents.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Orzo with Spinach and Goat Cheese

When I first read food blogger Auntie Chatter's post for Orzo with Spinach and Goat Cheese I knew I had to try it as soon as possible.  It looked so tempting and easy to make.

My husband and I have devoured almost an entire recipe for four.  He looks forward to lunch tomorrow.

The goat cheese makes this distinctive. It was heavenly creamy.  What a tasty, well balanced one dish meal or an impressive side.  I plan on making this again with salmon once we break out the grill.

This dish is perfect for your next dinner party.  You can prep the veggies and orzo before hand and then saute and toss in a few minutes.  It's filling and vegetarian.  Though, the goat cheese is the star of the show here, you can plate a vegan friend's dish before you mix it in.  It's so delicious, this is sure to create a big WOW factor with your guests.

Thank you, Auntie Chatter!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Hungarian Onion Soup

This soup has been known in my family as " 'Bray'-zlee' Soup."  Unfortunately, my mother, uncle, brother and I were not taught Hungarian.   With the elder generations of our heritage gone, I do not know the proper spelling of this soup.  All I know is that it's a delicious peppery, creamy soup loved by my family for generations.

What makes this soup so distinctive are the grated noodles.

The delightful little nuggets boast a slightly chewy texture and they do a wonderful job of absorbing the soup's flavors.  Grandma and Great Grandma would make a large ball of egg pasta dough and, instead of taking the extra steps to roll and cut it, they simply took the ball to the box grater and produced tiny-sized dumplings or spaetzels.  This must have been a time-saver back in the day before ready-made pasta and import stores.  Today, it's considered extra work.  Thank goodness for import stores and online ordering.  However, it's a goal of mine to someday make the noodles on my own.

Locally, Clevelanders can find these at the import store in the corner of the West Side Market.

If the grated noodles aren't available, try the small squares or the Csiga (Chee'-gah) noodles, which are also distinctively Hungarian.

Someday soon I plan on writing a separate post on Ciga noodles, showcasing my great-grandmother's Ciga maker, and possibly making my own.

If you are a seasoned pro at making your own egg pasta dough, the extra steps shouldn't be too difficult.

This soup had been done with plain water with my grandparents and great grandparents.  They were defined by the peasant recipes of their old country as well as the Depression.  Plus, this was a family tradition on meatless Lenten Fridays.

While it was always good, Mom has updated the recipe to give it a bit more flavor and depth.

I'll never forget the time Mom came over to our new house to help me make my first version of the soup.  She and I have both discovered that my husband loves almost any kind of soup.  This is now one of his favorites.

There is great pleasure in sharing something from your family history and having it accepted by the one you love.   It's as if in one bite you have the opportunity to share an entire childhood book of memories.
I have felt this in my husband's family as well when they share their favorites.

This is a simple soup with few ingredients.  Paprika is the key, and, you need to add a lot to give it the distinctive flavor; therefore, sweet Hungarian paprika is recommended, so you can add a lot without it getting too hot and spicy.  When I made this with my husband's 98 year old grandmother, she swore that in all of her years, she has never seen so much paprika go into one recipe.  Do yourself a favor and invest in some GOOD and FRESH paprika.  Our favorite paprikas are from Penzey's.  I remember Mom and Grandma filling out their mail-order catalog forms in the 80s and calling in the orders during the 90s.

Listen to some Hungarian music to put you in the mood!


This is the recipe that my Mom and I created

Makes 2-4 servings

5 min prep
30 minutes cook time

1/4 stick butter
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups diced onions
1 small clove minced garlic
3 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika (4 tablespoons if you're daring)
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup sour cream
1/2 bag (4.4 oz) of small Hungarian egg noodles, preferably grated  (If none can be found, orzo pasta can be used)

Cook the diced onions and garlic in the butter and oil on medium heat until translucent and tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Don't cook at a higher temp to save time.  You don't want the onions to overcook, plus you don't want to cook away the fats as they will add flavor and body to the soup.

Add the paprika, stir.

Add the broth, stir, bring to a boil.

Turn down to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Temper the sour cream.  You need to do this carefully with small doses of the hot soup into the cool sour cream, or else it will curdle.

Place the sour cream in a large mixing bowl and slowly pour one large spoonful or small ladle of soup into the sour cream.  Stir until blended.  Repeat several times (4-5) until you get a thick liquid.

Pour back into the pot and turn on high to boil.  Add half a bag of noodles.  Boil for 2 minutes.  Cover, turn down to low and simmer for 7-10 minutes, until the noodles are tender but slightly chewy.

These little nugget noodles will soak up a lot of broth.  Serve immediately as it will thicken while it cools.

Friday, April 5, 2013

How to Make Grandma's Potato Pancakes

There's nothing like cooking with those you love.  My friend Jessica and I had a blast together while making my family's recipe for potato pancakes.

I have probably eaten thousands of these since I was a child, yet, I never tire of them.

Grandma and Mom always made these because they were inexpensive. Plus, it was often requested for Lenten Friday dinners. It takes a little work and time to grate the potatoes (less if you have a food processor with a grater attachment, and/or a good friend), but it is worth it. It is SO worth it.

We have always used Russet potatoes for this recipe, so I have no experience the texture or tenderness others may provide.

This recipe has never been written down before, it has always been done as we go - a little of this, a little of that until the consistency is right.

For a reference, consider that a medium-sized Russet will make two medium pancakes.  One to two are filling for a side dish, three to four are a meal for myself, but my husband and other hungry guys may prefer more.

We ended up making 20 for five of us with eight potatoes, two of them large.

This recipe is for about a dozen pancakes:

6 medium or 4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and shredded

2 small or 1 medium onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika (or paprika of your choice)

2 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 cup all-purpose flour  (I guess whole wheat or any flour could be used, too - for those who would prefer)

Canola or vegetable oil for frying

Salt and pepper to taste after frying

After shredding the potatoes squeeze out the excess liquid, ESPECIALLY if you grate them by hand.  I grew up helping Mom and Grandma on box graters.  For some reason, the potatoes are not as soggy when I've grated them in a food processor.  You want them moist, but not soggy and wet.

Once the potatoes are drained, add the rest of the ingredients.

You want a consistency that looks like your potatoes are coated in a pancake batter.

If it's too thick, let it rest for 5 minutes, then stir.  If still too thick, you can drizzle a little water or milk in a tablespoon at a time.  Don't let it get too thin.  After frying your first few pancakes you will see that more liquid from the potatoes will be released and the batter will eventually be thinner.  You can always add a bit more flour to thicken it up if necessary.

Have a pan on medium high (8) heated with a light flavored, medium to high heat capacity oil like canola or vegetable oil coated on the bottom.  Do this even if you have non-stick, and especially if you have not made this before.  In order to do this 'traditionally,' you need to bind this mixture quickly at high heat.  I have tried this with no oil in a non-stick pan, and it did not turn out the same.  I wound up making hash browns.  Tasty? yes. Pancakes, no.

Sometimes making something quickly at high heat is difficult.  Not for Jessica.

She's been around the kitchen before.  She knew her way around a fry pan.  And, as a vegetarian for over 15 years, she knows a bit about 'taters, too.  I made the first couple of pancakes, then she took over, making the rest of the batch.  The batter did get thinner at the end.  But, if the pan and the oil are hot enough, it should be fine. You can always add a little more flour if necessary.

Fry about 2 minutes on both sides.  You can flip again until they are brown and firm when lightly pressed with a spatula.

You will want a crispy outside and a moist inside.

Serve with ketchup, sour cream, or traditional applesauce.

You can also customize your pancakes by adding a teaspoon or two of your favorite herb.  Jessica brainstormed using all kinds of herbs such as dill or rosemary.