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If you’re like me, your knowledge of chicken paprikash may be limited to that scene in “When Harry Met Sally.” Waiter! There is too much pepper on my paprikash! If so, also like me, you’ve been missing out. But, have no fear, we can make up for lost time and deliciousness.

Fast forward 25 years to last month, when one of my friends shared a recipe for this dish. It sounded so good, I wanted to give it a try with some of my own twists. Here’s a little disclaimer: I’m not Hungarian, I’ve never eaten this dish before and can’t tell you how authentic it is. In fact, I believe the original dish calls for chicken thighs rather than breasts. But, that’s the beauty of making something your own–you can do exactly as you wish. I can tell you it’s quite delish and I’ll be making it again during the season of my discontent (a.k.a. winter).

CHICKEN PAPRIKASH

½ pound egg noodles

Butter and olive oil to coat the bottom of a pan
1-1.25 pounds chicken breast, cut into hearty chunks
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, pressed
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1½ teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 cup sour cream
fresh chopped parsley

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt. Add chicken and toss to coat.

Add olive oil and butter to a pan over medium-high heat.

Add chicken and any remaining seasoned flour to pan. Brown chicken on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a dish.

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PSSST! Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Soon, it will be time to cook the egg noodles.

But, for now, back to the pan where the chicken was cooking. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add onion and cook till golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper and sliced mushrooms. Cook 5 minutes more.

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Then add wine, chicken stock and tomato paste.

Time to cook the noodles! Like magic, watch how the timing comes together perfectly.

Return the chicken to the pan and cover. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 7-10 minutes. This is about the time it will take to cook the noodles. For the last few minutes of the chicken part of the program, reduce heat to the lowest setting, add sour cream and parsley, heat through—about 1-2 minutes.

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Serve with noodles. Enjoy the living daylights out of this dish. We did!

And, on an optimistic note, tomorrow is the winter solstice. Brighter days are ahead, amici!
Midnight has come. I hear music and I’ll keep on singing. 

lemon ricotta cookies ONE

There’s been a serious lack of sunshine ’round here lately, so I’ve been baking my own. First, it was lemon bars–always a favorite. Then I wanted to make ricotta cookies. My mom’s been making ‘em for years. But I wanted to do a lemon twist on the classic. So, I’ll show you two ways to make these light-as-air, delicious little pillows of cookies–one lemony, one almond-y. Yes, it’s a word. Ask any almond lover.

lemon ricotta cookies Celebrate with Hope

Care to celebrate with Hope? Here we go.

LEMON RICOTTA COOKIES
adapted from recipes from generations of talented Italian ladies, including my mom

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Combine and set aside.

1 stick of butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla*
1 teaspoon almond extract*
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon, if you like)*

*To make an almond version, double the vanilla and almond extracts (so, 2 teaspoons of each) and omit lemon juice.

Adjust racks to lower and upper thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream together softened butter and sugar till fluffy. Add egg, ricotta, vanilla, almond extract and lemon juice*. Gradually add dry ingredients. Dough will be very soft. I used my trusty Zeroll 60 pink scoop, but you can use a teaspoon if you don’t have one. Drop onto ungreased cookie sheets.

I like to do the halftime switch trick: turn the cookie sheets front to back and switch racks halfway through. Bake for 14-15 minutes total–so, try 7 minutes, then switch racks for another 7–at 350 degrees F; bottoms of cookies will be golden.

Let the cookies cool, then choose your glaze–lemon or almond–and dip the top of each cookie.

Lemon glaze
Whisk together:
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of one lemon
¾ cup powdered sugar

Almond glaze
Whisk together:
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 heaping teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons milk

I hope sharing two recipe variations in one makes up for some lost time here. Know that my heart is never far from the kitchen. I’ve missed posting here and I’ll be back soon!

Dutch butter cake

If you like almond shortbread–and who doesn’t–you’re gonna love Dutch butter cake. It’s ultra-rich, with a generous dose of almond extract and plenty of sliced almonds on top. I understand it’s even better the next day. This is a little tough to imagine as it was quite wonderful when I baked it this morning.

Other recipes call for unsalted butter and less salt. But baked goods without enough salt taste like something is missing–to me, anyway. All that’s missing here are the portions I couldn’t stop eating this morning. Let’s butter cake it up!

DUTCH BUTTER CAKE

1/2 pound salted butter (two sticks)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon almond extract
1 egg, separated
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sliced almonds

With a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together. Beat in egg yolk and almond extract. Add flour, baking powder and salt; combine till well mixed. Press evenly into 8 x 8 ” pan. I lined my pan with a silicone liner.

Brush top with beaten egg white and set aside for 30 minutes. Brush with egg white a second time. Use a fork to make a grid pattern if you wish. It will be hard to see under the almonds, but is kinda fun to do.

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Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes until golden brown. Resist the urge to eat a whole row on your own.

Package ‘em up and share them–quick-quick!

Dutch butter cake triangles

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Twenty years ago, I tried beer cheese soup for the first time at the 391st Bomb Group in West Palm Beach, Florida. Since then, I’ve tried it other places. But there’s something about the original I wanted to try to replicate.

Fast forward fifteen years, I thought I’d found the recipe in an old article from the Sun Sentinel. But all I could see was another fan looking for the recipe. I posted the link on a food site I frequent and said if anyone did have the original recipe, I’d be grateful to have it.

Four years later, someone responded to my inquiry and let me know the recipe was right there in the article–on a second page I hadn’t seen. Whattafind! I felt a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

You've always had the power

So with this week’s cooler temperatures, I strolled Memory Lane and made the soup. I was about to follow the original recipe to the letter till I realized the chicken bouillon had MSG. I would try it again with non-MSG bouillon, but what I riffed was really excellent! It’s a little hotter and has that extra something coarse ground mustard can bring to a creamy soup like this. Here’s what I did.

BEER CHEESE SOUP
adapted from the 391st Bomb Group’s original recipe

4 slices bacon, diced
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
4 cups whole milk
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco Frank’s Red Hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 tablespoon coarse ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound Velveeta cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
16 ounces light beer poured into a 2-cup measure to eliminate some of the foam (I used Coors, a.k.a. Colorado Kool-Aid)

In a skillet, cook the bacon and onions over medium heat, stirring, about 5-10 minutes or until the bacon is crisp and the onions are soft and lightly browned. Set aside.

I didn’t use a double boiler or a thermometer as indicated in the original recipe. Cubed Velveeta magically melts into warm liquid like nobody’s business. So, into a large stockpot on medium heat, add 4 cups milk, 2 cups chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, Frank’s Red Hot, cayenne, mustard, sriracha, Velveeta and the bacon and onions. At this point, you can add just one cup of the beer. Set the rest of the beer aside.

Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch into the remaining 1 cup beer. When the cheese has completely melted into the liquid, stir the beer/cornstarch mixture. Whisk and cook until the contents thicken.

Next, strain out the bacon and onions. Garnish with parsley, chives, paprika or popcorn. I topped mine with (new to me) Buffalo Cheddar Smartfood. Laugh if you must, but try it first. I think the soup tasted even better the next day.

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While we’re hanging out on Memory Lane, here is 20-something me outside the 391st Bomb Group. Cheers and enjoy your soup!

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With a quick blitz in the blender, you can be cool as a cucumber–or maybe even Joe Cool. Agua fresca is enjoyable on its own or fun to spike for warm weather drinkin’! Ready for how easy and tasty?

CUCUMBER LIME MINT AGUA FRESCA

1 large cucumber (cut off both ends), chopped
juice of one lime
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon agave syrup (use sugar if you don’t have agave syrup)
handful of mint
Put all the ingredients in a blender. Turn it on and blend till it gets nice and frothy. That’s all there is to it!

Pour over ice. Add a splash of seltzer on top if you like, or start with a couple of ounces of vodka (or your weapon of choice). CLINQUE! Stay cool, amici!

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Calling all chocolate lovers! If you love chocolate chip cookies, you may quite possibly love double chocolate cookies even more. Double your pleasure, double your fun after all!

KATTY’S DOUBLE CHOCOLATE COOKIES

1 stick butter (salted), softened
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup dark chocolate, chopped

Cream the butter and the sugars until light. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add lightly beaten egg and vanilla; mix just till egg is incorporated. Scrape down the bowl again.

Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into a separate bowl. With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients. Mix only until combined: do not overmix. Fold in chopped chocolate with a spatula.

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If you can wait (!), refrigerate the dough overnight, or better still, for 24-36 hours to let the flavors develop. Not patient? You will love them regardless.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust racks to lower and upper thirds of the oven. Bake 7 minutes on one rack, then flip the baking sheet’s direction and bake 7 minutes more on the other.

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I used my medium ice cream scoop to these a bit bigger than my usual cookies. Space them 2 inches apart.

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This recipe yields 18-19 double-double chocolate-chocolate cookies-cookies. Enjoy them! NOM NOM NOM!

 

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I’m back again to talk about the Cubano–a sandwich so tasty, it deserves a few more pictures (and a song!) to tell its story.

Start with club rolls. Around here, let me save you a trip or two and tell you Tri-Town in Portland sells them. Stop & Shop and Price Chopper do not.

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Now, remember that pork tenderloin from the other day? Slice it. Then, send it on a quick trip in the microwave (about 20 seconds or so) to warm it up.

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Now, let’s load up the rolls: spread mustard on one side, then layer:

  • Swiss cheese (or provolone, if you prefer)
  • Thinly sliced ham (I used Boar’s Head habanero ham)
  • A Vlasic stacker
  • Pork

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And now, you’re ready to grill. Melt some butter in a pan and have another pan ready for pressing purposes.

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Do you like my fancy press? In case it’s hard to tell, it’s a frying pan covered by a teakettle filled with water for weight on top. And now, amici, we grill, flip, grill again and it’s time to eat! What else can I say but I like it like that! 

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