Parchment Aplenty

Issue 69 had a feature on using parchment as a cooking method.  It had full meals, main dishes, sides, and even breakfast in a parchment.  So, here we go.

The first recipe I made was for a dinner party with the lovely neighbor.  I made the Chicken with Mango and Ginger.

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Not being a huge fan of spicy foods, I went easy on the jalapeño on my packet.  Somehow it managed to impart a small amount flavor without much heat so it worked well for me.  The ginger infused the chicken breast and the mango kept it nice and juicy.  (Warning: the mango also made the entire packet pretty juicy so be sure to serve it with something that can absorb a lot of liquid — I went with coconut rice.  It was a good decision.)  This was a delicious recipe and I will most likely make it again in the future, especially when I need a tropical escape!  I also think I might start pairing chicken and mango more often, grilled for example, or in a sandwich.  Yeah, it’s a good match.

Next, I made the Eggs with Mushroom and Spinach.

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I’m not going to lie to you.  I didn’t think this one was worth the effort of cutting the parchment (let alone any of the actual packaging of the ingredients into said parchment.  To be fair, I did make this recipe on a day when I had chills and aches set in by mid afternoon (yep, the flu) so I may not have been a totally unbiased opinion on that day.  I definitely didn’t feel any desire to finish eating my packet.  I maybe made it through half.  It was really plain and more or less boring.  And when considering the effort put into fixing it, it just wasn’t worth it.  I think I’d skip the parchment next time and just make a scramble.  So much easier and the separate parts would work a bit better together that way.

Needless to say, after coming down with the flu, I didn’t do much cooking for a while.  I ate soup.  Soup from a can.  Because I didn’t have the energy to eat anything else.  And after the flop that was the eggs with mushrooms and spinach I wasn’t particularly tempted to make another parchment recipe.  But I did.  I made the Potatoes, Leeks and Carrots in Parchment

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It may not look that thrilling, but it tasted pretty decent.  This was another instance where I would normally have just roasted these vegetables together, because vegetables are more delicious when roasted.  But! This is the light issue (hence all the parchment) and by using steam trapped in the parchment to cook these veggies, they stayed pretty flavorful and required much less fat than when roasted.  In fact, the fat was optional in this method of cooking, so it has its perks.

Finally, I made the Broccoli, Asparagus, and Snap Peas in Parchment.  And as a bonus, I also made the Herbed Orzo.

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This is probably the one parchment recipe that I think really benefits from this cooking method.  Each of these vegetables is still super flavorful when steamed and don’t necessarily require anything added to make them awesome.  We liked it so much that we made it two days in a row.  Try it.  Trust me.  

The Herbed Orzo was slightly less exciting, but still an alternative to rice or potatoes so it might be a good thing to add to the mix.  The main issue with this recipe is that I found out after I made it that the bear doesn’t like dill.  And of course, I had decided that the main herb flavor would be dill… I ate a lot of orzo that week.

And now, G will fill you in on the final parchment recipe! Go G!!!

Thanks, B!  I’m winding this one up with the Salmon with Green Beans and Lemon Zest

There's fish under there somewhere...

There’s fish under there somewhere…

This was definitely good and certainly easy enough.  I like cooking things en papillote (that’s French for “No, G, not papillon.  You’re thinking of the dog…or the Steve McQueen movie.”), but I will admit it makes me slightly nervous.  I don’t think I’d be able to make B’s chicken dish without ruining it by busting open the packet and checking it.  But I grew to love the method by making a very similar dish from a Rachael Ray recipe.  She inelegantly calls it Spanish Fish in a Sack.  You’ll see that recipe is much more involved than the one in EF here.  I think this recipe is a good, simple option.  The wide pieces of peel are a nice touch.  But…if I’m bothering to make parchment packets, I’m probably going to go with the Rachael Ray fish sack.  It’s just too good. 

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Sunday dinner for four.

Dinner!

Dinner!

Dessert!

Dessert!

Beet and Carrot Slaw, January/February 2010, pg. 21

Our Sunday night dinner this past week included a beef roast grilled at a low temperature on our charcoal grill, mashed potatoes, beet and carrot slaw, and black forest upside-down cakes.

Dinner was delicious, especially the beet and carrot slaw.  I love raw carrots.  On average I eat them 6 days a week: on salad or just plain carrots (Bugs Bunny style).  I love the sweetness of them and crunch.  I also really like roasted beets.  They are sweet and have a very unique color and taste!  I had never had raw beets or beet greens before so I was looking forward to this colorfully sweet slaw.

The slaw was very simple to make, although a little dangerous and it turned my hands pink!  I must admit I was pretty nervous grating the beets, picturing myself loosing pieces of fingers, every time I pushed the beet down the grater.  Next time I won’t cut both ends off the beets, so I will have a little more to hold onto while grating.  Washing the grated beets took a lot more water than I expected.  They WOULD NOT stop bleeding pink!  I finally got relatively clear water and called it quits.  The slaw dressing was very good.  The sweetness from the orange juice and tangy taste of the mustard and vinegar complemented the vegetables well.

The beet and carrot slaw was a hit!  Everyone went back for seconds, but we still had one serving of slaw leftover.  P brought it for lunch a few days later and said it still tasted great, however, everything had a pink tint.  Definitely a recipe to eat the day you make it, if you want three distinct colors!  I will be making this slaw again.

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Black Forest Upside-down Cakes, January/February 2010, pg. 51

The black forest upside-down cakes tasted good but the baking process was not positive.  As I made the batter, I was convinced the cakes were going to be a disaster.

My parents had dinner with us, so I doubled the recipe.  I was not a fan of the recipes directions.  The recipe tells you to stir room temperature butter (it’s January, so room temperature is 65⁰F) and sugar with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy.  Are you joking me?!  That was NOT going to be possible, so I got out my electric hand-beater.  The butter and sugar never got light and fluffy, it didn’t seem like there was enough butter to get the fluffy texture you usually get after beating the two ingredients.  (Since I doubled the recipe, so I checked my math and I did put the correct amount of each ingredient in the batter.)  Then I stirred in the rest of the ingredients and the batter was not what I was expecting.  It reminded me of an extremely thick brownie batter.  The batter was so thick, it stuck to my wooden spoon as I was putting it into my cherry lined pans.  I pulled up a few of the cherries as I was trying to evenly spread the batter in the pans.  At this point, I was positive, we wouldn’t be having dessert…

I ended up baking the two cakes for about 45 minutes.  This was probably because of my pan choice.  I didn’t have ramekins, but I did have two 5” springform cake pans.  While I let the cakes cool for twenty minutes, I made the whipped cream.  I left out the rum, because I’m not consuming alcohol anymore, and followed my grandmother’s advice for homemade whipped cream.

Put a glass bowl and the metal beaters in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before making the whipped cream.  (Yes, specifically a glass bowl.  I’ve gotten scolded for using a metal bowl, I honestly don’t know the reasoning behind the glass bowl but that’s how grandma does it.)  The cream whips much faster if all the utensils are colder than the cream.  Add a teaspoon or two of white sugar and then whip together until you get the consistency you want.  Back to the cakes…

The springform pans worked really well!  The cakes looked perfect.  Although, I think the batter was a little thicker and I probably should have used a third pan or pans that had a larger diameter.  This would have made the cherry to batter ratio more equal.

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Everyone really liked the rich tasting cakes.  One small piece for each person was more than enough.  I had never had sour cherries before and they were very good and went well with the chocolate.  But, honestly what doesn’t go well with chocolate?  I also liked the portion size of the cake.  In hindsight I didn’t even have to double the recipe.  The four of us ate one of the two cakes that night.  Personally, the cake was a little too dense for me.  I am going to blame the density on the very thick batter.  At this point, the black forest upside-down cakes, are a one-time experience for me.

A nice Sunday dinner…

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Old-Bay Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Jan/Feb 2010, pg. 105

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Old-Bay is a great spice!  I had never heard of it until I lived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and then it was in everything!  Now it’s a staple on our spice rack.

P and I don’t eat a lot of meat anymore so on Sunday’s we usually cook a larger cut of meat that will provide leftovers throughout the week.  This past Sunday we spatchcocked a chicken and grilled it.  For our sides we had steamed broccoli and old-bay roasted sweet potatoes.

A low stress, simple Sunday dinner.  Everything was delicious, especially the potatoes!  Sometimes old-bay can be overpowering, but the natural sweetness of the potatoes paired well with the amount of old-bay.  We had leftover chicken and potatoes, that we made into chicken salad for lunches and I used the potatoes in Monday’s dinner; black bean burgers.  I used the food processor to blend the black beans and potatoes, spices, and an egg.  The burgers were also delicious!

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The old-bay roasted sweet potatoes were great as a traditional side and an additional ingredient to black bean burgers.

Broiled Pineapple with Frozen Yogurt,  Jan/Feb. 2010, pg. 65

A lovely dessert!  It was simple and quick.  The broiled pineapple with frozen yogurt was a perfect last course to a Sunday dinner.  But nothing beats a fresh pineapple, no additions required for me to eat the whole thing in one day or one sitting.  It’s been known to happen.

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Fish and unintentionally crunchy veggies

Halibut with warm bean hash

I think it goes without saying that the fish is actually whatever Aldi had and not halibut

I think it goes without saying that the fish is actually whatever Aldi had and not halibut

The fish was tasty even though it was kind of a hassle to do the pan frying with the flour and everything.  The potatoes and carrots didn’t actually get cooked all the way.  I don’t think I’ve ever cooked carrots in a pan like that.  I kept thinking, “Why would this work?”  It wouldn’t.  The carrots were still crunchy and some of the potatoes were crunchy too.  I wonder if maybe it would be better to roast those two ingredients in the oven with some oil and then toss them with the canned beans and the vinegar.  On a related note, the beans and vinegar were very delicious together.  Now that I think of it, it’s basically like a wintery bean salad.  No wonder it’s good.

“Ain’t nothin like the real thing, baby”

Slow-cooker chicken mole

Rice pilaf with peas and almonds

None of the effort, some of the taste

None of the effort, some of the taste

I was conflicted as to whether I even wanted to like this mole recipe.  Here’s the thing: my big culinary triumph is/was making mole from scratch one time in 2011.  I used this recipe.  The 2 hour cooking time on that recipe is a prank.  It took me and, eventually, D, 6 plus hours of intense, hands-on cooking.  Here’s a picture of all of the ingredients that went into the mole:

I think I still have that Mexican chocolate...excuse me for a minute

I think I still have that Mexican chocolate…excuse me for a minute

Well, not the dish soap.  Anyway, I had planned to take pictures at every major step.  Then I spilled hot chicken broth all over my brand new phone and convinced myself to focus on cooking.  The end result?

My friend Katie contributed homemade tortillas and was paid in mole.  It was a good trade.

My friend Katie contributed homemade tortillas and was paid in mole. It was a good trade.

Man, was that good.  It was such a hassle to fry and blend and cook and wait and fry and worry and wait some more, but oh my was it good.

Which is why I was so conflicted about this recipe.  On one hand, if it’s just as good, then I’ve found a way to short-circuit 6 hours of madness using the slow cooker.  On the other hand, if it’s just as good, then my great culinary triumph was roughly on par with making a pot roast.

Thus, I am equally disappointed and relieved to tell you, dear readers, that this is in no way as good as real mole.  What it was missing was the depth of flavor.  This recipe is like a cheap bottle of wine: the flavor is pretty much there, but it’s not as deep, not as complicated.  Which is not to say that this isn’t good.  It is.  This is a fine recipe for what I’m forced to call imitation mole.  And it’s exceedingly easy.

The pilaf?  Um, it’s rice with peas and almonds.  It tastes like….rice with peas and almonds.  I think we can leave it at that.

The power is yours!

Roasted chicken with celery root and onion

Roasted acorn squash with lemon and nutmeg

The dynamic duo...forgive the mixed superhero metaphor

The dynamic duo…forgive the mixed superhero metaphor

First, brace yourself for some early 90’s cartoon references.  

Ok, as for the recipe, let me say that these two are absolutely delicious recipes on their own.  I would definitely make them again.  

This is probably the American guy, Fire.

This is probably the American guy, Fire.

The chicken is great.  The celery root and onion make for a fine side dish, so you really don’t need to serve anything else.  My very best friend chicken fat makes another appearance, so you know I’m happy.  The red pepper flakes keep it from being too rich.  Nothing gets burned or weird.  

But no one has to be Heart.  That poor kid...

But no one has to be Heart. That poor kid…

The acorn squash is spectacular.  Nutmeg and acorn squash are a natural combo.  There’s something wonderfully fall-like about it.  I would make this as a side dish for Thanksgiving.  The lemon zest is interesting and bright.  It keeps the squash from dragging into that too rich territory that Thanksgiving sides often veer into.  

But that’s not what makes this a great meal.  It’s the combination of the two.  When their powers combine they create a delicious synergy…a Captain Planet of meat and veggies, if you will.  Look it up, kids.  Honestly, I don’t know why the magazine doesn’t suggest making them together.  They normally don’t miss an opportunity to show you how the recipes can go together.  From a cooking standpoint, they are both made in the oven at the same temperature.  That’s huge.  How many times have you looked at two recipes only to find out that one is cooked at 325 and the other at 400?  Too many times.  And the chicken cooks for a longer than the squash, but not by too much.  That gives you just enough time to prep the squash while the chicken starts cooking.  Then there’s the lemon  zest.  They both get lemon zest on top.  The lemon on the chicken connects the flavor to the lemon on the squash.  Finally, the squash acts as your starch for the meal, while the chicken takes care of the protein, fat (read: schmaltz for life!), and aromatics.  I recommend these on their own, but I really love them together.

My dad hated Captain Planet.  That just made us want to watch it more, even though we hated it too now that I think about it.

My dad hated Captain Planet. That just made us want to watch it more, even though we hated it too now that I think about it.

I just realized that I enjoyed the episodes of Captain Planet much more before actual Captain Planet showed up, so this isn’t a great metaphor for this meal.  I liked to see all of the ethnic stereotypes try and work it out for themselves.  It seemed like a cop out to have Captain Planet swoop in and fix things, even if he was sort of part of them…I guess.  Did he exist or were they imagining him as a way to explain their own actions?  Does anyone remember if other people could see him?  If you want to fall down a wikipedia rabbit hole, here it is.  All that aside, the powers of these recipes combined are greater than my confusion about the cartoons of my childhood.

A Couple of Seriously Delicious Sides…

Mushroom and Leek Gratin

Celery Root and Apple Remoulade

Now, you may notice from the titles of these dishes that one recipe is truly decadent sounding and one is fairly healthy sounding.  Those impressions would be correct.  The Mushroom and Leek Gratin was so rich I struggled to eat all I had put on my plate despite how delicious it was.  The Celery Root and Apple Gratin was also super delicious but was light enough that I was able to keep going back for seconds.

Here’s the Gratin:

I may have gotten lazy and gone with pre-sliced cremini mushrooms instead of portabella…

I may have gotten lazy and gone with pre-sliced cremini mushrooms instead of portabella…

The cream and parmesan worked so well with the leek and mushrooms.  I also have yet to meet a dish that feature leeks that I don’t love.  They are just so good.  Mmm… now I’m remembering those braised leeks…  This is definitely a special occasion dish and not an every-night-of-the-week dish.

The Celery Root Remoulade, however:

It may not be the most photogenic dish...

It may not be the most photogenic dish…

This is seriously, seriously good.  I was picking at it all evening.  I’ve also made the executive decision to try to incorporate celery root into cole slaw in the future.  Don’t bother with the celery seed, go for the celery root.  Seriously.

Apple doughnuts….Yum!

December 2011, pg. 123

Apple Fritter Done

Apple Fritter Rings recipe

The apple fritter rings were a hit!  I made them Sunday morning for my parents and P.  Everyone was excited about apple fritters, but I had a three sets of eyes staring at the apple rings.  “Don’t apple fritters have chopped apple in them?”  I must admit, I’ve never seen apple fritter rings before but, I was pretty excited to try them.  Yes, they were fried but the dough to fruit ratio was very favorable in my eyes.

I used an apple corer for the first time and it worked like a charm.  I also used powdered buttermilk and put a ¼ cup less of water than what the directions called for.  I finally learned my lesson with powdered buttermilk: You don’t need as much water as the directions call for.

Enlarged center holes on bottom.

Enlarged center holes on bottom.

I recruited P to fry the fritters for us.  Hot oil and I don’t get along.  In hind sight having two people make the fritters was much easier.  I peeled, cut, battered, and put the cinnamon and sugar on the fritters.  P fried the fritters.  We were an amazing apple fritter ring team!

Apple Fritter Frying

The fritters were delicious.  We each ate 2 or 3 warm fritters.  The apples were cooked perfectly inside.  We made the center hole larger after the first batch because, there was not a center hole in the apple fritters and the dough in the center wasn’t cooked.  The batter was nice and thin around the apples.  Again more fruit than batter per bite is better.

Apple Fritter Inside

We had leftover fritters and tried them cold, and rewarmed later that day.  I would highly recommend only making enough apple fritter rings that will be eaten in one sitting within 30 minutes of being fried.  The apple fritter rings are amazing fresh but do not make good leftovers.  They are a great addition to a brunch or weekend breakfast!

Anything that needs that much milk and butter might not be good

Shredded beef chuck roast

Celery root and potato puree

Those are whole cloves of garlic.  Remember when restaurants used to have roasted garlic as an appetizer?  I miss that.

Those are whole cloves of garlic. Remember when restaurants used to have roasted garlic as an appetizer? I miss that.

The beef is unremarkable.  It’s pot roast.  Sure, the rosemary and oregano made it smell nicer and taste a little herbier, but it’s still just pot roast except without the potatoes and carrots and such.  It could have used those, especially after the triumph that was panic carrots.  In the beef’s defense, this would have been better if I would have served it like they do in the picture in the magazine and online: on rolls with red onion and horseradish-mayo (aka horsey sauce).  I served it on the celery root puree instead.

About that puree…At first it seemed like normal mashed potatoes, but there was a little something extra there.  It was something kind of bitter and earthy, but subtly so.  It was something that definitely tasted like celery.  I enjoyed it.  It also had whole milk and butter in it, a cup and 6 tablespoons respectively.  That can’t hurt.  Well, it can hurt later on when you look at the recipe again and then remember how much of it you ate.  That can hurt.  In fact, it makes me think that celery root is super duper bitter.  Everyday Food doesn’t normally go quite that heavy on butter and milk, even for a holiday recipe.  I think it’s worth giving a try if you’re tired of plain mashed potatoes or if you don’t think you’re getting enough whole milk and butter in your diet.

Buttermilk-cornmeal drop biscuits with honey butter

December 2011, pg. 87

Buttermilk Cornmeal Biscuits

Buttermilk-cornmeal drop biscuits with honey butter recipe 

These biscuits were going to be a perfect addition to our leftover chicken and gravy.  No honey butter for us.  I’m sure it would have been a nice addition to the biscuits if we ate them for breakfast or brunch.  I only help out with the sweeter recipes, and we don’t get as much exercise this time of year, so I reduce sugar when possible.

The biscuits were very easy and quick to make.  It is a perfect addition to a meal if you don’t have a lot of time or don’t feel like thinking too much.  The only problem I had with making the dough was it was very thin, like a batter.  I’m going to take complete blame for the dough/batter because I did use the powdered buttermilk again.  Last month when I made the black pepper buttermilk biscuits the dough was very wet.  Next time I use powdered buttermilk to make a dough, I’m going to add the water slowly and not just use the amount of water the powdered buttermilk container calls for.  So my finished product was a thin biscuit.

Looking far from perfect, the biscuits tasted great!  I really like cornbread, my husband not as much.  However, he had very positive comments regarding the texture of the biscuits from the cornmeal and I completely agree with him.  The honey provided a perfect amount of sweetness to the biscuit.

Biscuits with chicken and Gravy

Pat and I both had the leftover biscuits for breakfast without butter, honey butter, or jam.  They are sweet enough by themselves, but I’m sure if you wanted to add a spread, the honey butter would be delicious.