Monthly Archives: September 2011

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Potato Rolls: Bring on the Buns!!!

In my last post I mentioned saving the water that you boil your potatoes in to use for making bread.

I didn’t know if I would have time today to show you want to do with it.  I had some serious cake baking that needed to get done and even though I’m a super duper multi-tasker I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew (haha!).  Well, I got into a cake bakin’ groove and figured that whipping up a quick batch of buns would be no problem.  I love baking bread.  I would even go as far as to say that I love baking bread more than I love eating bread…and that says something! :)

My grandma R. makes fabulous bread.

Grandma R., the ultimate bread baker.

Some of my earliest memories are of her taking the rolls out of the oven,  slathering them with gobs of butter and homemade strawberry jam, and giving them to us kids to eat.  And man…did we eat!  Back then I never paid any attention to grandma’s bread baking process, and to be honest all I really remember is having to wait FOREVER for the dough to rise.  FOR-EV-ER.  But as I got older my impatience subsided…kind of… and my interest in baking began to increase.  I asked grandma for her bread recipe.  She said the recipe was her mother’s, and that she’d love to teach me how to make it.  So one day while my cousin was home from college for Christmas break, grandma came over and taught us both how bread dough should feel when you’ve added enough flour.  She taught us how to shape the rolls and loaves and most importantly, how to make cinnamon rolls!   This post isn’t about that recipe though.  I’m sure sometime I’ll share it on this blog, but today is not the day.  This post, instead, is about a little bit of information grandma told me a couple weeks ago.

Mom had brought grandma and grandpa over for the day and while I was baking grandpa his lavender chocolate macarons (he loves those things!), grandma was looking though some old magazines I had.  There must have been a recipe or something that caused her to remember, I’m not sure. She told me that when her mom made bread she sometimes would save the water that she boiled potatoes in and added it to the dough instead of milk. She didn’t have the recipe, but gosh, would she like one.  Thanks to the magic of Google, I was able to fulfill her request.

Potato water, with all it’s starchy goodness, really adds some nice moistness to the dough.  The rolls came out pretty light and they tasted like little pillows of pure bliss.  One note, if anyone decides to try this wonderful recipe, you should only refrigerate potato water for about 24 hours.  If you keep it any longer it may sweeten and really mess with the taste of your bread.   Another quick note I have about bread baking is that anyone can do it!!!  It’s so easy and really doesn’t take a lot of time at all.  Less than 75 cents for a loaf of bread sounds pretty awesome too, doesn’t it!?

The Recipe

Potato Dough Rolls (adapted from The Kitchn)

(I made 12 big rolls.  This could easily make 15-20 though)

  • 1 cup boiling potato water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups flour (I used closer to 5 1/2)

Directions

  • In a big bowl whisk the boiling potato water, 1/2c. sugar, salt butter and zest together and let cool.
  • In a separate, little bowl combine the warm water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and yeast. Let it sit and mingle for about 10 minutes or until foamy. (*note* when adding live yeast to warm water, make sure the temperature of the water doesn’t exceed 140 degrees F.  It’ll kill your yeast.  Also, I usually skip this proofing step and throw all my wet ingredients together first and then add the yeast, sugar and flour.  I’m just a bread bakin’ rebel, I guess.  I’ve never had problems doing it this way but someday I’m sure my yeast will have entered into retirement and my bread won’t rise properly.  So if you don’t want to risk it…proof it!).

Proof (haha) that my yeast is good!

  • In a large bowl whisk the potato water mixture and the yeast mixture together. Add the eggs and 2 cups of the flour. Whisk well, then stir in the other 2 cups of flour with a wooden spoon. The dough should be a little on the sticky side.  I didn’t knead it, and instead left it sit on the counter for a couple hours to rise.  The original recipe said to cover and refrigerate it, up to several days.  That’s a good idea…but I want it now!  I’m all about the instant gratification.
  • When you want to bake them, shape into balls and place side by side in a greased 9×13 pan (I used a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper). Coat hands lightly with flour to roll. Let’s talk about shaping the rolls, quick.  I want to show you Grandma R.’s way of doing things.  Grandma pinches off a piece of the dough and quick sets it in a bowl of flour.  Don’t roll it around in there, you just want a little extra so the dough won’t stick to everything.  Then she makes a circle with her thumb and her pointer finger.  She simply pushes the dough through the hole.

view from the top

view from the bottom, after the dough has been pushed through

This creates something called a “gluten cloak”…and that’s exactly what you want!  You’ll get a nice smooth roll with the untidy ends tucked underneath.  Put the rolls on the cookie sheet or in the pan and then lightly press down on them.  This will also help with the shaping.

  • Let rise, covered until doubled.

ready to rise!

Ready for the oven

  • You may want to brush with milk or cream before baking, or a mixture of egg yolk and milk or water to create a shiny roll.  I don’t do that, instead I brush each roll with ghee when it’s done cooking, not before.

ghee = Indian style clarified butter. Use real butter if you don't have this little jar of awesomeness in your pantry...it'll do the trick.

  • Bake at 375°F for about 20 minutes, depending on size of rolls.  **Oops!  I didn’t read this part of the directions.  I baked mine at 350 degrees F for about 17 minutes.  They turned out fantastic!**

After all that cake baking…

bottom layer crumb-coated!

I realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day except a couple tastes of frosting and cake batter….quality control, you know? I was super excited to take a shower and sit down to a glass of tea and 1/2 a roll smothered in strawberry jam…

I deserved it! :)

After I scarfed down my roll, my brother called.  He and his wife stopped over for a little while.  My nephew, Nathan, was with them too.  I haven’t seen him in a long time and I couldn’t believe how cute he’s gotten!  Here, take a look…

Michael with Nathan

I was too busy taking pictures of Nathan that I didn’t catch anyone eating the rolls, but I assure you..rolls were eaten (Piyush had 3 in one sitting!).  And they were enjoyed by all!

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Coq Au Vin

Today I was craving Coq Au Vin.  I’m not really sure why I was craving it, because I’ve never actually had it before.  It just sounded good.  The weather has been dreary so something slow cooked sounded amazing.  I knew I wanted to use chicken and some veggies, but I didn’t want a hotdish or a casserole (yes, in MN they are 2 different things!).  All the sudden coq au vin popped into my head and I couldn’t get it out.  I looked up a couple recipes in some books I had and then decided to google it too, just in case.  I chose to use Ina Garten’s recipe.  I swear, if you really want to cook something good and know the results will be completely delicious, you want to turn to Ina.  Ina knows everything.

Her recipe called for a dry red wine and some cognac, so I headed to the wine shop.  The guy is always so nice and I won’t buy my wine anywhere else, if I can help it.  I told him I didn’t want to spend a lot of money but I wanted something with incredible flavor.  He picked out Crane Lake,  a Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was only $4.99…which made my pocketbook happy.  When I was paying he told me how pretty my drivers license picture is and that it is one of the best he’s seen….which made me happy.

Then it was off to the butcher shop.  I wish Rochester had a butcher shop with more variety, but what the Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe lacks in product, it makes up for in customer service.  People are just so nice!  I got 1/4 lb of their house smoked bacon and a 3.5lb chicken.  The guy offered to dice up the bacon for me (how did he know that’s what I was going to do with it?) and he chopped the chicken into 8 pieces for me.  Next time I’ll ask them to slice the breasts in half too, they were just huge!

I finally made it home after adventuring around town and running all sorts of errands.  I got some oil in the dutch oven and sliced an onion and some carrots while it all got nice and hot.  When the oil was hot I threw in the bacon and let it sizzle.  I’m not someone who loves bacon…I’m not even sure that I like it all that much…but this stuff from the butcher shop was like nothing I’ve ever tasted from the grocery store.  It had so much flavor!

Then it was time to brown the chicken.  I’ve never actually fried anything successfully in my life.  I don’t like fried food, so I don’t make fried food.  I needed the skin to be crispy though so I tossed it in the hot oil and hoped for the best.  It got some nice color but gosh!, hot oil sure makes a mess!!!

A glass of wine makes frying chicken a whole heck of a lot easier! :)

I love that Coq Au Vin is, for the most part, a one pot meal.  After I set the chicken aside, it was time to throw the sliced onion, carrots and garlic in.  I also love that Coq Au Vin requires ingredients that I usually have on hand.  I only had to buy 4 things to make this dish.

After the carrots got a little tender and the onions turned a little brown…I dumped in the cognac and added the bacon and chicken back into the dish.  I poured 1/2 the bottle of wine and 1 cup of delicious, homemade chicken stock into the pot.  I keep chicken stock in the freezer, frozen flat in ziplock bags.  It’s so easy to make and tastes a billion-trillion times better than store bought.  I had forgot to thaw some out so I simply ran hot water over the bag until I had a cup of liquid.  I set the rest aside to finish thawing.

so easy!

I added some thyme and parsley to the pot and then plopped the lid on and put it into a 250 degree (preheated) oven.  I forgot about it for about 40 minutes…during which I made 3 batches of butter-cream frosting for a wedding cake I’m working on tomorrow.  Making the frosting is the worst part!  I absolutely hate it, but now it’s over so I’m feeling a little better about it.  :)  I also tossed 5 small red potatoes into a pot of boiling water.  When they were done cooking I drained the liquid into a jar.  You want to keep that stuff!  It makes awesome bread.

Make sure to slap a label on it! It looks almost the same as chicken stock!

I threw a little butter into a pan and once it got hot, tossed in 3 fat cloves of garlic.  I sauted for a little while until the garlic was cooked.  Added in some chives and the potatoes, and then smashed away!!!  I added a little of the potato water to the potatoes along with a few ounces of goat cheese, because everything is better with goat cheese!!!

Back to the Coq au Vin.  I chopped the stems off the mushrooms and sliced them pretty thick.

I sauted them in 1tbsp of butter until they were nice and tender…but not overcooked!  The cooked mushrooms and some peeled pearl onions  (definitely buy these frozen….or else they’re just a pain in the ass!) got tossed into the pot and left to simmer awhile with everything else.  It was really that easy!!!  I think it took me about an hour and a half from start to finish—including the time it was chillin’…errr…cookin’ in the oven.

time to dig in!

so good that there was nothin' but chicken bones left!

Find Ina’s recipe for Coq Au Vin HERE.

Garlic-Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

(about 6 servings)

  • about 5 small to medium red potatoes, skin on.
  • 1tbsp. butter
  • reserved potato water
  • salt
  • pepper
  • chives, chopped
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • goat cheese, to your taste

Directions:

  • Boil some water in a large pot.  Once it’s boiling add in the potatoes.  Allow them to boil for about 20 minutes or until tender.
  • Strain potatoes from water, reserving water for later.
  • Heat 1tbsp butter in a pot and add the garlic.  Saute until it’s cooked.  Add the chives and the potatoes.  Mash the potatoes until they are a smooth consistency.
  • Add in the goat cheese—to your taste, and keep mashing.  Add salt and pepper.
  • Keep mashing, adding reserved potato water a little at a time until you get super smooth, yummy mashed potatoes!

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Now…time to relax, finish my glass of wine and watch Teen Mom.  Ahhh!  Tuesday nights!

I was trying to get all fancy and put the rice on the outside. This roll was delicious...well, they all were actually!

Sushi Party!

I love dinner with friends, the more the better!  Summer and I have been trying to plan a get-together and we decided that tonight was the night.  Her daughter, Isabelle, loves sushi and had been asking when they could come over and make some.

Piyush and I learned to make sushi from a couple of my friends from the gym, Leah and Sheila.  They told me that they’d teach us but we had to pay it forward and teach someone else.  We’ve had sushi “parties” a couple times now and let me tell you…they are fun!  Making sushi is really easy and everyone can customize their rolls to include whatever they like.  Its also quite economical after you purchase the initial supplies.  The first time you make sushi it may seem a little expensive.  That’s because you have to buy the mats, rice, nori, chopsticks, rice wine vinegar, sake…and the list goes on and on.  My advice:  take a trip to your nearest Asian store.  Things will be way more affordable!  At our local Asian store I can find 10 sheets of nori for $2.99.  At the grocery store it sells for $6.99.  I also like to purchase veggies from the Asian market, as they are usually cheaper there too.

As for the fish, I like tuna.  We’ve used salmon before too, and it was good.  Make sure that when you purchase the fish it is sold as “sushi grade”.  I usually get it from our grocery store and we’ve never had any issues.  Just slice it up right before your guests arrive and put it back in the fridge until you need it.   We also usually grab some of those imitation crab meat stick things.  I find most people like them…and Isabelle LOVES them!  I try and have a pretty varied veggie spread too, but sometimes what I want in my sushi just can’t be found.  Like sprouts! Where in the world can a person buy sprouts in Rochester?!  We went to 3 different stores, including the Asian market, and left empty handed.  I slice everything and lay it on a cutting board so its easy for everyone to pick what they want.

I whip up some “Spicy Tuna Sauce” because who doesn’t love a nice spicy tuna roll?  It’s really easy.  Just take 4 parts Hellman’s Mayo to 1 part sriracha hot sauce.  Add a tiny squirt of sesame oil.  Whisk everything together and put it in the fridge.  The flavors need to mingle awhile before you should use it.

I also cook up the rice an hour or so before everyone arrives.  When it’s finished, keep it covered with some plastic wrap and it should stay warm enough.  To make the rice I throw 4 c. sushi rice along with 4 c. water into my rice cooker.  I forget about it.  On the stove top I mix together 1/2 c. sugar, 1 c. rice wine vinegar, and 1/4 c. sake.  Let it be until the sugar dissolves.  When the rice is done cooking I dump it all out on a cookie sheet.  I use the little paddle to separate the rice before I dump the vinegar mixture on top of it.  I keep going at it with the paddle until the rice is evenly flavored.  Now, it’s ready!

Then get to rollin’!

It helps if you cover your mat with plastic wrap before you start…I use press-and-seal.  I also set a couple bowls of water out too.  It comes in handy when your fingers are so full of sticky rice that they seem like they are practically glued together.  This will happen.  I promise.

Adding the finishing touches to the sushi rolls

This girl loves sushi!

Courtney rolled like a pro!

I was trying to get all fancy and put the rice on the outside. This roll was delicious...well, they all were actually!

Time to eat!

Summer made some awesome Egg Drop soup, I don’t have the recipe but it looked really easy.  We also had some chicken fried rice and sesame chicken on the table.

Summer also fried up some green tomatoes—which really didn’t go with the sushi, but were super amazing!

Of course they're delicous! They're fried in butter!

We were all so stuffed after dinner that Summer and I didn’t even break out the wine!  Unbelievable!  It was a fun night and I can’t wait to do it again!

This is how it looks in my entry way (a work in progress).  Everything you see in the photo has been repurposed from Goodwill.

From Drab to Fab! Dresser Re-do

I’ve been looking for a dresser to put in our entry way since we purchased our home a year ago.  I wanted something cute but functional, and most importantly, I did not want to spend a crazy amount of money.  Every time I would find the perfect piece, the price tag would leave me stunned.  Seriously?!  $400 dollars for a small dresser…and it’s not even real wood?!  I don’t think so!  That’s when I decided that my budget for the dresser/table would be $25 dollars.  It was going to be a challenge but I didn’t think it was unreasonable.  I started going to garage sales, scouring Craigslist, and frequenting the thrift shops in the area.  Every once in awhile I’d find exactly what I wanted but either it was already sold or it was priced higher than I thought it should be.  Maybe I’m crazy, but most of the time I think people expect too much money for their stuff they’re trying to sell on Craigslist or at garage sales.  Am I cheap?  I don’t think so.  I’m just practical.

I knew exactly what I wanted and I was willing to wait for it (which is very unlike me.  I’m usually very impulsive!).  A couple weeks ago I decided to take a trip to The Salvation Army.  It’s kind of a dirty thrift store that has a ton of furniture…most of it junk.  I made my usual rounds, checking out the dishes and the cookbooks.  Finally I made my way to the furniture and there, surrounded by giant, damaged (but oh so expensive) buffets and broken tv stands, was my dresser!  There was no sold sign on it but I expected that the price tag would read $40.  That’s about how much they usually sell these things for, and I actually would have paid it; but it must have been my lucky day!  It was only $12.  $12!!!  Sold!

Isn't she a beauty?

I was so excited about this find that as soon as I got home I tore the hardware off and started sanding.  I primed everything but was having a hard time deciding what color to paint it.  The photo doesn’t really show, but the top of the dresser is a really nice cream colored laminate.  I knew I wanted to keep this for now (maybe eventually I’ll ask my dad to make me a new wooden top), so I had to find something that would go well with it.  I thought maybe I would paint it white and do maroon accents.  I tried this, but all the curves on the top drawer really started to annoy me.  I ended up spray painting my entire hand maroon by accident.  It was not pretty.  Nothing I had at home would get it off either…not even fingernail polish remover.  So I walked around looking like a freak for a couple days…oh well.

I decided I’d just hand paint the accents and that would work good enough for me.  So I primed back over the maroon.  Then, I thought that maybe the dresser would look nice in a light almond color with pretty metallic hardware.  So I gave it a try.  It was perfect!  Then I took some sandpaper and roughed up parts of the dresser to make it look a little less perfect and give it some character.  I was happy, and so was the dresser.

Who said dressers don't have feelings?

I love how a small hint of the maroon peeks through

I still want to hand paint that little decal on the bottom and legs too.  Then I’ll paint over them with the cream and distress it a little.  Hopefully this will make it look a little more like the top drawer and make it “pop” a little more.  For now though, I’m incredibly happy with my $12 dollar steal.  I probably only have $20 stuck into this thing.

This is how it looks in my entry way (a work in progress). Everything you see in the photo has been repurposed from Goodwill.

Do any of you hunt for deals or enjoy thrifting?  what are some of your favorite finds?

P.S.  Do you see that giant pot behind the dresser in the above photo?  It’s super heavy and still has the plastic on it (I didn’t get to it this summer).  This $130 dollar pot from the local nursery was mine for only $5 at a garage sale!  Some doctor was selling it and I asked, “how much?”  He told me he just bought it but didn’t think he’d really use it so I could have it for $5.  He also gave me a neat looking side table for free too!  It’s in the garage still waiting for it’s makeover.  Sometimes living in Rochester has it’s perks…

Who knew peas could taste so good?!

Craving something Indian

I’m looking more and more forward to my trip to India everyday!  I can’t believe it’s under a month away now. I have so many gifts to buy for people, so many things to pack for Piyush and I (note to self: don’t forget the toilet paper), and not a lot of time to brush up on my Indian cooking.  My in-laws love that I can cook their cuisine and they boast that their American daughter-in-law can cook things like aloo posto, prawn malai curry, and ladoos.  I just love that I can make them happy and we can bond over cooking.  I really believe that food has helped bridge some of the cultural differences between us.  Food is very important to my husband’s family.  Infact, when I hear from Maa or Baba (my in-laws) they usually ask what I made for dinner before they ask how I’m doing.  …And that’s alright with me!

Today was a little cold outside.  We’ve been eating leftover Bouillabaisse lately,

and although I think it tastes wonderful, I’ve had enough.  I wanted something warm, something spicy, something Indian.  I love Indian food on cold days, infact, I crave it.  It warms up the body, fills you up nicely, and makes your house smell absolutely lovely!  This is one of first recipes I learned, and its one of the easiest.  I made it for my in-laws when they were here and they told me that they felt like they were back in India!  That’s right…it’s that good!  It’s also incredibly simple!

How cute are Maa and Baba?!?

If you’re looking for the creamy, fatty, melt in your mouth type aloo matar you would recieve in a restaurant, you might want to keep looking.  There’s no heavy cream.  Not any half and half.  I didn’t even use coconut milk! I cut all that out of this recipe because not only did I think it would taste better without all the milkiness, but it’d be extremely more healthy as well.  I promise, you won’t even miss the cream!

The Recipe
1 1/2 lbs. potatoes: peeled, diced & boiled
1 c. green peas (I usually blanch these before using them.)
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 tbsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. ginger paste
1 tsp. garlic paste
2 roma tomatoes, finely chopped (peeled if you want to get fancy about it)
1 pinch of tumeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 pinch white sugar
1/2 tsp or more garam masala (I usually use a more, to taste)
1 tbsp. oil
green chile, chopped- to your taste
salt, to taste
chopped coriander (cilantro) for garnish
Directions:
  • Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan or frypan with deep sides.  Add the cumin seeds.
  • When the cumin seeds begin to pop, add the onions and green chiles.  Saute until they are translucent.
  • Add the ginger paste, garlic paste and tomatoes.  Simmer until the tomatoes are cooked are are like a smooth sauce.  Once they begin to break down I usually grab a potatao masher and just mash everything together.  I tell myself it just helps the tomatoes to break down quicker, but really I’m super impatient!   At this point I sometimes throw everything in my VitaMix and puree it until it’s nice and smooth.
  • Add the turmeric powder, chili powder, garam masala, green peas and potatoes and cook for some time.
  • Add about 1 1/2 cups of water and salt to taste.  Allow it to come to a boil, turn the heat down and let simmer for a good 20 minutes or until the gravy thickens to your liking.  The longer you let the curry simmer, the better it will taste.  Add some finely diced corriander, and you’re done!

If you think your gravy is too thin or that you added too much water, mash a few pieces of the potatoes into it.  This will thicken it up nicely.

Who knew peas could taste so good?!

You wouldn’t need to serve this with rice, infact a chapati or roti would be the better choice.  My husband, being Bengali, LOVES rice and has to eat it at almost every meal.  I also served this with Indian spiced chicken legs.  Basically I just marinated chicken legs with a bunch of spices, and it was wonderful!  I’ll post that the next time I make it because really I didn’t write down what I threw in the marinade.

Success!

Bouillabaisse: Something Smells Fishy!

Today was a productive day!  I had went to a cable class last night at the gym and was really, really hurting this morning.  I feel muscles that I usually forget I have.  As much as I wanted to just laze around and relax I decided that I should go back to the gym today and do some cardio and stretching for my very sore legs.  I am very glad I decided to go, but I’m still awfully sore.  After I finished at the gym I stopped at the grocery store to buy some seafood for making Bouillabaisse.  Piyush was requesting I make it and I was kind of craving it so it seemed like a good night to learn to cook seafood.  I’ve never really cooked seafood much before so I was a little nervous, but it was so easy!!!  I was really intimidated by the mussels and clams, but I ended up showing them who was boss and they opened with no issues.

*****

What, exactly, is Bouillabaisse?

Bouillabaisse is a French style seafood soup, and it is yummy!  In a traditional bouillabaisse there are at least 3 different types of fish, most which are not available in Rochester, Minnesota.  The broth is flavored with vegetables, shellfish, herbs and spices.  Saffron is a spice that usually plays a large part in the flavor of the bouillabaisse and although it is quite expensive (the priciest spice in the world!), I don’t recommend leaving it out.  The name bouillabaisse comes from the way the dish is prepared.  The ingredients are cooked separately and are not added all at one time.  The broth is boiled first and then the fish are added one by one.  Each time the broth comes to a boil the heat is lowered.

*****

This recipe was inspired by the Bouillabaisse I had at Zzest a few weeks ago.  I  knew most of the ingredients to use but had no idea of the quantities or the techniques.  I just bought what I knew I needed and a few other things that I thought would work well.  It took about an hour and a half, most of that time was spent letting the broth simmer and develop the flavor.  And let me tell you, this seafood stew is amazing!  It tasted just as good as what you would get at a restaurant.

Success!

I don’t really measure things when I cook but I tried my best to estimate and write down what I did so that I can make this many more times!

Piyush liked it so much that he even gave me an A+, and he never gives anything an A+.  Usually he has so many opinions on everything I cook.   This dinner was the perfect way to end the day.  I had a nice, big glass of wine—a red from Cannon Falls, MN.  Its called “Gunflint Red” and it is wonderful!  It sort of reminds me of a malbec.  It’s a little peppery and paired wonderful with the Bouillabaisse.

Its a good thing he enjoyed his dinner, it made so much that we'll be eating it for a couple days!

The Recipe

  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • About 2 large red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • about 1 c. dry white wine, maybe even more?
  • 28oz. chopped plum tomatoes + juice
  • large pinch of saffron
  • salt/pepper to season
  • about 1/2 c. flat leaf parsley, chopped very fine
  • bunch of chopped chives
  • olive oil, as needed
  • zest of 1 orange
  • scallops, jumbo shrimp, mussels, clams, ect. (I used the previous in addition to a 1lb. cod fillet) –amount based on how many servings you are making

Directions:

  • Heat some olive oil in a heavy dutch oven.  Once it gets hot add the potatoes, onions, garlic, green pepper and orange zest.  Cover and sweat everything until it’s tender and perfect!
  • Deglaze the pan with the white wine.  Stir it together and bring to a boil.
  • Add the tomatoes, parsley and chives.  Simmer, stirring occasionally until the broth looks rich and soup-like.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  The broth will taste a little “off” at this point.  The wine will be strong and so will the acidity from the tomatoes.  That’s okay.
  • Add about 1 cup of water and the pinch of saffron.  Let the saffron steep for about 10 minutes.  Stir everything together and give it another taste.  Add more saffron if you want.  Don’t add a lot right away though because it’s pretty strong and can be very overwhelming.
  • Turn the flame to about med-high and add the clams/mussels into the broth.  Cover the dutch oven and let them cook (about 3 minutes).  When they open, remove them with tongs and place them into a bowl.  Set this aside.
  • While the broth simmers along, deepening the flavor, start cooking the seafood individually.
  • When your scallops are perfectly seared and your shrimps are a pretty pink, put everything back into the broth and let it simmer about 15 minutes or until everything is heated through.

Serve with some grilled bread and a stellar wine!  Enjoy!

Piyush's dinner, before he dived in!

If you decide to have an amazing bouillabaisse dinner, make sure you add an empty bowl to your table.  You’re going to need a place to get rid of all those shells!

And now I’m going to go watch Teen Mom.  …Don’t judge me! :-)

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Macarons for My Husband

I love macarons!  I’m not talking about those coconut things people always make for Christmas either. Those are Macaroons, and they are okay, sure, but they don’t even hold a candle to the French Macaron!  The french macaron is a dainty, chewy little piece of heaven.  After one bite your life will be changed.  You will never want another cookie again!  You think I’m kidding, I’m sure, but I most definitely would not kid about Macarons!  They are my favorite cookie because they taste so yummy but also because they are a pain the ass to make.  Is that weird?  I don’t know.  I love the challenge.

So often when you make macarons something goes wrong.  The tops crack and they look weird with no feet or the shells get a funny bump on the top of them.  The shells might look grainy or maybe the cookie isn’t as chewy as it should be. I’ve tried so many ways to make macarons and I think I have finally found what works for me.  I really liked BraveTart’s recipe.  It works for me and even allows me to throw in extra ingredients too.  I often forget to add the salt (oops) but I haven’t noticed that it affects the taste or the success of the macaron.

The Recipe: (adapted from BraveTart)

4 ounces (115g) blanched almonds or almond flour, or whatever nut you like
8 ounces (230g) powdered sugar
5 ounces egg whites (144g), temperature and age not important*!
2 1/2 ounce (72g) sugar
the scrapings of 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp (2g) salt

*I find that using egg whites that are a couple days old and brought to room-temperature give me the most consistent results.  I’ve used fresh whites that were still chilled before too.  Sometimes they work great, most of the time my shells crack.   I also noticed that after I pipe the macarons,

letting them sit for about an hour really helps to prevent cracking.  The meringue gets a little dry and this helps the macaron keep its beautiful smooth top (and bottom).

I bake them at 300 degrees and hope for the best.  Usually I sit by the oven watching them for the first minute.  I can usually tell if they’ll crack or grow little feet by then.  This is what you want to see:

See how the shell is rising? There is a little fluffy part at the bottom? That fluffy part is what you want, it's called the "feet"

So the other day Piyush told me that he wanted some macarons.  We made a deal.  If he cleaned the cat litter box, I would make him any flavor macarons he wanted.  He loves chocolate ganache so he chose for me to make him chocolate macarons with dark chocolate espresso ganache.  They were delicious but the coffee flavor was way too strong for me.

I made the basic macaron recipe and added a couple spoonfuls of cocoa powder to the almond flour.  I didn’t add any food coloring to the shells because I figured the cocoa would give it a decent tint—and I was out of brown food coloring.  I made the ganache by melting chocolate with some espresso and heavy cream on a double boiler.

They didn’t turn out as smooth and pretty as I would like but right in the middle of mixing everything up I got some phone calls and had to figure out our home insurance stuff, so the macarons were neglected when they needed me the most.

Gosh, owning a home is a lot of work and it’s confusing too.  We changed insurance companies and whoever I spoke with at the mortgage company last month gave me the wrong department and fax number to have the new binder sent to.  We called a few times to verify everything was received and  that our new insurance company was on file and we were assured it was all correct.  WRONG! Although they received the binder and had it on file, the department that needed it never received it so our previous insurance company was paid a tremendous amount of money for a policy that didn’t even exist anymore.  We had to get the refund and figure everything out.  Annoying!  It’s fixed now and I’m glad that we realized what happened before we leave the country next month!

Piyush, happy to be eating Macarons after work!

Oh, the other thing about Macarons… even if the shell cracks and they don’t look as pretty as you’d like, they still taste better than anything you’ve ever tasted!