Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sausage & Egg Biscuit Sliders

We all love sliders. I mean, how can you not love a miniature burger? Honestly, I made them small because the only breakfast sausage patties at my closest grocery store are small, but I am really keen on the idea of making them small from now on. What an adorable breakfast!

I actually have another, slightly larger batch of these biscuits in the oven as I type this, while my boyfriend makes some thick-cut bacon to go with them. We love breakfast food around here, even (especially!) around mid-afternoon on weekends.

There are 2 keys to making these biscuits turn out beautifully.
1) I'm serious about the butter & milk being very cold.
2) Do not overmix, follow the kneading directions. It's worth it, and it's not difficult.

Best Flaky Biscuits
makes 10-12 depending on size.

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter (7 for dough, 1 for brushing on top)
3/4 cup very cold milk + 2 tbsp for brushing on top

Preheat the oven to 425º.
Slice off 1 tbsp of butter and set aside. Cut the remaining butter into thin slices and place in the freezer for a few minutes.
In a medium/large bowl, whisk together the flour, paking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the frozen thin butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter. When the mixture looks like lumpy crumbs, pour the milk in and stir with the pastry cutter until it just barely forms a dough. Dump out onto a clean surface and press into a solid rectangle. Fold it in thirds (like a letter), press out to the original rectangle's size, and repeat 3 or 4 times until the dough is fairly smooth. Roll or press out to about 1/2" thick and cut with cutters. Brush the tops with a mixture of milk & melted butter before placing in the oven for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Now to make them into breakfast sliders!

While the biscuits are in the oven, cook some sausage patties (I used 8). Crack 4 eggs into a bowl and lightly beat them with salt & fresh ground black pepper. Cook them in a skillet omelet style with some butter. Cut out egg rounds with the same cutter you used for the biscuits.

Assemble the sandwiches as soon as everything's cool enough to touch.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chicken Flautas

I live in a predominantly latin neighborhood. I don't specify what kind of latin because it's a mix, which means I am surrounded by pretty amazing (and cheap) food. My first apartment in this neighborhood was wonderfully placed, a block away from the best cheap taqueria in the neighborhood (in my opinion, anyway). It was there that I got hooked, obsessively, permanently, on chicken flautas.

Flautas, in case you are not familiar with them, are basically pre-cooked meat (pork, beef, chicken, whatever), seasoned and wrapped in a flour tortilla then deep fried. Of course, it's not required that you eat them with beans and Spanish rice and guacamole, and the plantains are just there because I love them. But it's really not a bad idea.

Chicken Flautas
serves 2 to 4 people, depending on how many side dishes you make.

2 boneless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon adobo
1 teaspoon Sazón
1/2 tsp onion powder
6 to 8 small flour tortillas

Cut the chicken into long thin strips, about 1/2" wide. Heat a skillet with about 1/4 cup of water in it, then place the chicken in it, dust with seasonings and cook until the chicken is solid white. Remove from heat. Dump any excess water.
Pour about 1 1/2" of vegetable oil in the skillet and heat over medium-high. Wrap a few strips of chicken tightly in a tortilla, place it in the hot oil carefully, repeat with the rest of the chicken. Cook them until the tortillas are golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels before topping with sour cream, salsa, crumbled queso fresco, hot sauce, whatever.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Chocolate & Vanilla Spiral Cookies

Every December I put together a pile of favorite cookie recipes and make 6 or 7 kinds, arrange them into assortments and mail them off to friends and family who don't live nearby. This year I took a road trip with my boyfriend and delivered them by hand, for the most part. These didn't make it into this year's round because I couldn't find the recipe anywhere, that is, my copy of it got wet on my kitchen counter and there was really no telling how much of the first 5 ingredients it called for. Fortunately, when I made the xmas cookie extravaganza a couple of years ago, one of my friends fell in love with these cookies and I gave her a copy of the recipe, which she just happened to locate last week. Many thanks, Shannon, for scanning it for me! Reunited and it feels so goood......Eh, I'll save it for karaoke night. I'm just happy to have these babies back in the recipe box.

The best thing about these, if you ask me, is that they require refrigeration. Usually that annoys me about cookie doughs, but in this case the dough has to be rolled into a log anyway, so it's like making your own slice-and-bake dough way better than the premade grocery store garbage and if you forget about the dough for a few weeks, SURPRISE, instant cookie dough! Do yourself a favor and make a double batch, and leave one log of dough in the fridge or freezer for a later date. Oh, and sometimes I press the dough-log's sides in so the cookies are square. It's just one more way I entertain myself for almost no money. (They only stay square if the dough is still very cold when they go into the oven.)

Another note, please please don't try to make these without parchment paper.

Chocolate & Vanilla Spiral Cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter @ room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 1-oz squares baking chocolate (or 9 tbsp cocoa powder)

If you are using baking chocolate, start with melting it in a small saucepan or double boiler and set it aside to cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula, add the egg & vanilla. Beat at medium speed until just combined, then mix in the dry ingredients.
Separate the dough into two bowls. Stir the melted chocolate or cocoa powder to one bowl, leaving the other alone.

Roll out the vanilla dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a 12'x16" rectangle roughly 1/4" thick. It doesnt have to be precise. Repeat with the chocolate dough, on separate paper. Throw them both in the freezer for ten minutes, then remove the paper from one side of each. Carefully lay the exposed side of the chocolate face down on the exposed side of the vanilla, then peel off the top layer of parchment. Working from a short side, roll the dough from one edge to the other to create the spiral, using the parchment paper underneath to help you as much as possible. Wrap the parchment around the finished dough log and put in the fridge or freezer until nice and cold and solid.

Preheat the oven to 375º. Slice the cookie dough 1/4" thick and place 2" apart on cookie sheets. Bake 12-18 minutes or until the vanilla parts are golden at the edges. These cookies will be very soft for a few days, then they're about the texture of storebought cookies - that is, if you are shipping them, wait a few days or they will crumble in the mail.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Banana Pancakes

What, more pancakes? Look, if you have people over for brunch as often as I do, you have to have more than one pancake trick up your sleeve. This is my basic pancake recipe (the sour cream ones I posted last week are my basic recipe now) with an over-ripe-spotty-but-not-solid-black-yet banana thinly sliced and added to the uncooked side just before flipping them over. If you have a little butter in the pan, the bananas caramelize ever so slightly and get sweetly fragrant. Way better than just slicing some bananas on top of the pancakes after they're finished.

I learned this method of banana pancake making from one of my former roommates, Yves, who also happens to be the person who schooled me on plantain frying. Go figure. I wonder if I still have a photo of her huevos rancheros... they were to die for!

Banana Pancakes
serves 2-3 people, makes roughly six 8" pancakes.

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp melted butter
1 or 2 overripe bananas thinly sliced

In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, sour cream, and melted butter. Stir gently into the dry ingredients, leaving the batter a little lumpy. Add more milk if needed to make the batter pourable.
Use a 1/3 cup or 1/2 cup measuring cup to pour batter onto a hot, lightly buttered griddle. When the large bubbles start to show up, lay a few slices of banana on the batter before flipping the pancakes over. If you put the bananas down too soon the batter underneath never cooks.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Grilled BBQ Chicken & Pan-Fried Sweet Potato Thick Chips

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while (or are actually my friends in real life and have been here for dinner) know that I am more than a little obsessed with sweet potatoes. Not a week goes by that I don't include them in my dinner, and I am always trying to think up new ways to prepare them.

When I was a kid, my grandma used to occasionally cut potatoes about 1/4" thick and pan-fry them in a little vegetable oil. They'd get nice and brown and crispy around the edges and soft inside, like fries, only flatter. I have attempted to make an oven-baked version of those thin-cut potatoes (and sweet potatoes) and, well, it wasn't pretty. Tasty, but not pretty. I'll spare you those recipes, because they usually ended up being served as mashed potatoes (ha!) anyway.

This barbecue sauce recipe is just a basic idea, of course one can't always measure when throwing in a dash of this and a few shakes of that, but if you use this as a guideline you can adjust however you like and it'll still be barbecue sauce. If you don't like the idea of using ketchup, feel free to use plain tomato sauce and throw in some extra vinegar.
I like my bbq sauce dark and thick and sweet and a little spicy, specifically, I like it to taste like the so-called 'sweet' sauce at a Floridian BBQ chain called Sonny's - deep down we all love what we grew up with, right?

It's worth noting that this meal only cost like $5.ºº to make and we were stuffed.

Grilled BBQ Chicken

BBQ Sauce:
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tbsp mustard powder (or prepared mustard)
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp molasses
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
pinch of allspice
2 chicken breasts with fat removed

Whisk together all ingredients (except the chicken, obviously) in a bowl or jar. Adjust seasonings as desired.

Pour half of the sauce into a medium bowl or wide shallow dish. Cover the chicken in sauce and let marinate for at least 30 minutes. Reserve the other half of the sauce for dipping or pouring later. Be sure not to let it come into contact with any raw chicken.

Heat a cast iron stovetop grill over medium-high heat and lightly oil. Place the chicken on it when a drop of water sprinkled on the grill sizzles like crazy. Flip the chicken with tongs after 8-10 minutes, and cook the other side another 8-10 minutes. Check for doneness before serving.

Pan-Fried Sweet Potato Chips

1 gigantic sweet potato
2-4 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
1 tsp kosher or table salt

Peel the sweet potatoes and slice them about 1/8"-1/4" thick. (1/8" makes crunchy chips, 1/4" give you soft centers with crispy edges).
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom, not overlapping. When they start to turn dark brown, flip them. Drain on paper towels while you cook the remaining batches, adding a tiny bit of oil if needed. As the last batch finishes, put all of them back in the pan to get hot again. Remove them onto paper towels and sprinkle generously with salt. It always takes more salt than I expect to get sweet potatoes nice and salty.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Best. Pancakes. Ever.

I think it's pretty clear that I'm a breakfast fanatic. These are the best. BEST. pancakes I have ever had. I've been on a kick lately of putting sour cream into quickbreads of all kinds, after a really successful experiment involving waffles a few weeks ago. I somehow always seem to be out of sour cream now. Small price to pay for fluffy delicious breakfasts, if you ask me. The quesadillas can live without it, right? Err... not really.

Often with thick pancake batter, you end up with really nice pancakes with a bit of uncooked batter in the middle. It's always so disappointing, and I hate serving pancakes to friends only to find halfway through brunch that they've found themselves a glob of uncooked batter on their plates. That doesn't happen with these. That's only part of why I'm so in love with them, though. You'll understand when you try them.

For the record, since the first time I made this recipe, 2 weeks ago, I've made them 5 times. Damn! I also discovered that pancakes are really really awesome with Nutella and sausage and apples. Not that I'm surprised.

Amanda's Favorite Pancakes
serves 2-3 people, makes roughly six 8" pancakes.

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp melted butter

In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, sour cream, and melted butter. Stir gently into the dry ingredients, leaving the batter a little lumpy. Add more milk if needed to make the batter pourable.
Use a 1/3 cup or 1/2 cup measuring cup to pour batter onto a hot, lightly buttered griddle.
You know how to make pancakes, do I really have to explain? Nope. :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I'll Never Tell.

The finale of our New Year's Day feast was my pecan pie. My super-secret recipe that I have spent years perfecting--and without intending to blow steam up my own skirt, it is perfect. My pecan pie is equal parts buttery, sweet, savory and creamy. It is the one party trick I have, and no, I'll never tell.

In lieu of giving away classified information, I will give you another crowd-pleaser: peanut butter cookies, dressed up two ways. My special recipe makes them super light and fluffy and not at all your typical peanut butter cookie.

Peanut Butter Cookies
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and peanut butter till creamy. Add brown sugar & granulated sugar and mix thoroughly. Beat in egg, milk and salt. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder. Add a little of the flour mixture at a time to the wet ingredients. It is easiest to do this with a little elbow grease and a spoon. When all the ingredients are combined the dough will look a little dry, but it should hold together when you roll it into small balls with your hands.

Chill dough for a half hour while your oven preheats to 350 degrees. When your dough is chilled, roll spoonfuls into 1 1/2 inch rounds and place on a baking sheet. For peanut butter and jelly cookies, use your thumb to create an impression in the dough and fill with a dollop of your favorite jelly. For peanut butter kiss cookies, let the peanut butter cookies bake for 8 minutes and then remove from the oven. Carefully press unwrapped Hershey kisses into the center of each cookie and then place back in oven and cook for an additional two minutes. For plain (but delicious!) peanut butter cookies, using the tines of a fork, press a cross into each dough ball and bake for 10 minutes.

Disclaimer: I may be the worst food photographer really, ever.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ropa Vieja, Plantains, Fried Cheese, and Rice of course.

My friend Eddie is a wonderful cook. From the first time I went to his house and he served me this meal, I have been obsessed with it. I have asked him to make it for me every time I've gone to visit him and his wonderful wife Sabina ever since, and am never let down. His recipe is a lot different from mine, probably more authentic, but mine is fairly simple and tastes really good, so I hope he doesn't mind my alterations too much. Eddie says to use pot roast, skirt steak, flank steak. I usually just pick out the thickest, prettiest steak I see that's reasonably priced. It works. You can save yourself a lot of time by doing the chopping while the steak sears in the first step.

The rice is way plainer than it should be, just do me a favor and pretend it's real Cuban-style rice. Plantains and fried cheese are absolutely the most perfect thing you could eat with ropa vieja. I can only assume that they are classically served together because the fried cheese has such a punch it can actually hold its own against the strong, smoky spicy flavor of the beef, and the subtle sweetness of the plantains is a welcome break from the intensity of the other dishes.

This all may sound very complicated, but there's nothing that difficult about it. I urge you all to try this, because it's DELICIOUS. Oh, and don't forget the sangria (or mojitos)!

Ropa Vieja

2-3 lbs steak at room temperature
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
a few tablespoons olive oil for the pan
1 cup white wine (I tend to use sherry, of course)
3 cups water or more as needed
1 large onion, chopped (preferably a Spanish onion)
6 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice
2-3 plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 to 1/2 cup chipotle hot sauce (This is my fave)

Rub the steak with salt and pepper. Heat a large pot over medium/high heat with a little olive oil and place the steak in the center. Don't move it for 5-10 minutes, until it has seared to a nice rich brown and left a mark on the pan, then flip and repeat.
Remove the steak from the pan and set aside for now, but do not turn off the heat. Pour the wine and 1 cup of water into the pot, scraping the bottom to get the browned juices. After 2-3 minutes return the steak to the pot.
In a separate pan, sautée the onion, green pepper, and garlic in olive oil until the onions are clear. Add the tomatoes and lemon juice, stir for another minute then add all to the steak pot. Add a cup or two of water and the hot sauce, stir well, then cover and simmer for an hour or two, stirring and adding liquid occasionally as needed. When the beef looks really tender, shred it with two forks. Adjust seasoning as desired.

Fried Cheese
1 12-oz block queso blanco or queso fresco
oil for frying

Cut the cheese into slices about 3/8" thick. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and add the oil. Place a few slices of cheese in the pan, far enough apart that they won't touch after melting a little. Fry until the cheese is golden and flip once. Drain on paper towels while you cook the rest. Serve immediately, returning the first batch to the pan to get hot again if needed.

Fried Plantains
3 very ripe plantains
oil for frying

Cut the plantains at an angle, 1/2" to 3/4" thick. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add the plantains. Fry until golden brown on both sides, then remove from the pan and drain. Smash them a bit with a plantain press or the bottom of a glass, then return to the oil and fry both sides again. Drain on paper towels again and salt as desired.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Quintessential Southern Sides

It is southern tradition to eat black-eyed peas, for luck, and greens, for wealth, on New Year's Day. When I was growing up my mom would always make us eat at least 7 peas before we were allowed to leave the table--so we could "start off the year on at least one good week," she would say. Really though, you shouldn't find it difficult to eat 365 of these--they are wholesome, delicious and just a little bit spicy.

Black-Eyed Peas

1 lb dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight (or 1lb frozen black-eyed peas)
1 small Vidalia onion, diced
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1/2 cup diced green pepper
vegetable broth
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper to taste
In a large sauce pan, saute onions in olive oil till clear. Add peppers and saute for 2 more minutes. Add black-eyed peas, bay leaf, cayenne pepper and 1tsp salt and stir. Pour enough vegetable stock into the pot to cover the peas and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When mixture reaches a boil, reduce heat, cover, and allow to simmer for one to two hours or until peas are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Collard Greens
1 large bunch of collard greens (10-15 leaves)
1 red onion
5 cloves garlic
3 tbsp balsamic
2 tbsp brown sugar
olive oil
black pepper
Prepare the collard greens by washing thoroughly and cutting the leafy part off of the hard stem. You can discard the stems. Cut the collards into roughly 2 inch pieces (when I'm feeling lazy, I just rip them with my hands as I toss them into the skillet).

Slice the onion into thin strips. Pour a generous amount of olive oil into the skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cover. Roughly mince the garlic and add to onions. Allow onions to caramelize.

Add balsamic, brown sugar, dash of salt and some cracked pepper and stir. Lay the collards over the onions and cover with a lid. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes until the leaves begin to wilt, then stir everything together. Add 1/2 cup of water (or veggie stock if available) and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Collards will reduce in size significantly, this recipe serves 2-4.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Hello, A Goodbye and a Few Recipes Inbetween

Miss Amanda--proprietress of All From Scratch, cupcake connoisseur, goddess of goodies--gave me a welcome introduction several months back. Being the procrastinator that I am (I blame it on the south/my upbringing/childhood traumas/[insert some other totally-false-but-typically-accepted-excuse here]) I put off actually posting a recipe till I realized a whole new decade had started. Now, though! Now there are no more excuses...well, there will be, but tonight, tonight I write! So this is a hello to all of you that read All From Scratch. And a fair farewell to a decade: 2000s, I will not miss you. Suck it.

In honor of the new decade, new year, and my 24th year on this planet, Mademoiselle Amanda and I cooked a phenomenal feast. I was born and raised in Georgia, and despite my general disdain for most things brought to mind about the south, I still hold dear many of the traditions I grew up with. The vast majority of these traditions involve food--I love and relish in cooking southern food.

So for my next few posts I will entice you to visit the south, at least in your own kitchen, with the dishes I made for our traditionally southern New Year's Day feast.

Today's recipe: Cornbread!

Ingredients (vegetarian version--yes, there is a non-veg version that involves bacon*)
2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
3 tbsp Crisco
3 tbsp butter

It is best to use a 9inch cast iron skillet for this recipe. However, any heavy duty pan that can go from stove top to oven will suffice. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and baking powder. In a smaller bowl whisk together the eggs and buttermilk till thoroughly incorporated.

On the stove top, melt the Crisco and butter over a low flame. Be very careful! Crisco gets extremely hot and should be handled with caution. While Crisco and butter are melting, make a well in the dry ingredients and add the egg and buttermilk mixture. Stir till combined but do not over stir.

When the butter and Crisco are thoroughly melted, carefully add about 3/4 to the cornbread mixture. It will sizzle, so be careful while stirring it in. Once the Crisco is completely mixed in, pour the entire mixture back into the pan with the remaining grease.

Bake at 400 for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Eat warm with more butter!

*If you aren't worried about feeding vegetarians, you can use bacon instead of butter and Crisco. Simply fry up about 8 slices of bacon in your cast iron skillet until crispy. Set the bacon aside, if you really want to go all out, you can crumble some of it to add to the batter before baking. Use the bacon grease in the pan to add to the mixture the same way you would with Crisco.

My poor mother slaved over creating the vegetarian version after my sister and I became vegetarians when we were kids. She finally discovered the perfect amount of fat to use in replacement of the bacon grease to keep the cornbread nice and moist. A million thanks to her for sacrificing her sanity and affinity for meat to keep my sister and I happy.


Potato Skins

It's been awfully quiet around here. The blog, I mean. I can't believe we haven't added any recipes since Thanksgivingish! I have a good excuse, though, I went on a road trip to Florida, then went to DC for Christmas, and somewhere in there I acquired a boyfriend and well, a lot has been going on. Fortunately, I have still been cooking and taking photos, so I can catch up now. I don't know what Jesse's excuse is.

Potato skins are a personal favorite, always so tempting when listed among appetizers but they always seem a little overdone, a little too greasy, a little too scraped-out. What can I say, I'm picky. That's what got me cooking in the first place!

These were served at a party co-hosted by a vegetarian (Jesse, in fact!) otherwise I would've definitely put crumbled bacon all over them. They're great to take to potlucks, because they're really easy and you can make a ton of them for very little money - much like deviled eggs, which were also at this party. More on that later...

Potato Skins

6 whole baking potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar (or monterey jack, colby, etc)
1 scallion or chive stem, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)
4 tbsp butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 350º. Wash the potatoes thoroughly and place them on a cookie sheet. If you want soft skins, wrap them individually in foil OR brush them with butter. You can also roll the potatoes in coarse salt before baking for extra flavor. Bake for about an hour, then remove from the pan (and foil if used) and allow to cool. When they are cool enough to touch, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the centers with a teaspoon, leaving about 1/4" of potato in the skin. (I like to set aside the scooped-out insides and make mashed potatoes out of them the next day. ) Back on the cookie sheet, brush each one with melted butter, then sprinkle with cheese, chives, bacon, then salt and pepper. Bake until cheese is melted and/or edges of the potatoes are browned. Add tons of sour cream before serving.