Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cowboy Sourdough Biscuits

Number One asked if he could use some of my latest sourdough starter, Horatio, to make sourdough biscuits. The cowboy way. After some debate, I agreed. He really wasn't happy at all about the whole wheat in the starter. He said he was out of practice, hasn't made sourdough biscuits in years. They used to make sourdough biscuits every day for lunch (or breakfast) and eat them with venison steaks.

He doesn't measure anything, so I suppose this is more of a "technique" than a "recipe." But I'll tell you how he did it.

He poured some flour (probably less than 1/2 cup) into a shallow dish.

He dumped in some sourdough starter (quite a bit).

He sprinkled some baking powder and baking soda on the starter,
then kneaded everything together.

He poured some oil in an 8x8" pan,
then formed loose biscuits (blobs) with his hands.
He placed the biscuits in the oiled pan,
turning and flipping them to coat both sides with oil.

He made as many biscuits as there was dough (not very many today),
and put the pan in the oven,
warm from baking a batch of Grace's sourdough bread,
to rise.

He let them rise in the oven a bit, then turned the oven on to 350 degrees.
I don't know how long he baked them for, but honestly it could have been just a bit less.

The biscuits are delicious (if just a bit overdone on the bottom), and the recipe seems fairly fool-proof. Yummy biscuits! Quick and easy too! If you have some extra sourdough starter around, this "recipe" is worth a shot.

The Great Sourdough Experiment, Day Two

I started this experiment yesterday, when I substituted Virgil for water in MaryJane's Sourdough Starter recipe. This morning, at feeding time, I discovered this:

I think I'll name him Horatio.

MaryJane says you're supposed to feed the starter for 6 days straight, and use it on the 7th day. Well, we jump started our recipe with Virgil. This starter has already grown so much and Number One says it "smells ready," we're using it on Day 2!!

Number One is trying it out this morning on some Cowboy Sourdough Biscuits. He's not too happy that I made the sourdough starter with whole wheat flour, but I told him that's how MaryJane said to do it. He said he's going to get his own sourdough jug and make his own sourdough starter, so there, he said.

I will keep you posted on all that of course. One of these days, Number One will become a "Bad Girl" yet. Mark my words. (negotiations have begun, don't tell anyone I told you).

For now, this sourdough starter is looking promising. Even if it is whole wheat. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Great Sourdough Experiment

I fed Virgil again last night, so I'd be ready to make another batch of Grace's Sourdough Bread. This morning, I mixed up the bread, but realized something. Virgil is about to outgrow his jar! I was sure I couldn't feed him again in the same jar, so I decided I needed to use another cup or so before I put him back in the fridge.

I was all set to peruse Grace's scrumptious recipes for muffins or bread or whatever-caught-my-eye. Then Number One suggested something.

Number One suggested I use Virgil as a base, a starter if you will, for another, different sourdough starter. MaryJane's traditional sourdough starter...intriguing, I know. The recipe below is from MaryJane's Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook.

I substituted Virgil where MaryJane calls for water. Number One's theory is since Virgil is already alive and working, MaryJane's starter will be that much better and faster, and may just yield a more traditional sourdough flavor. We shall see...

I hope regular whole wheat flour will suffice--I didn't have access to organic or "bread" flour of the whole wheat variety. I haven't decided if I will add water to the starter during the first 6 days or more Virgil. I do have until tomorrow to think about it.

MaryJane's Sourdough Starter
2 cups organic whole-wheat bread flour, plus 2 cups for adding
1 1/2 cups purified water (aka Virgil), plus 1 1/2 cups for adding

Place flour and water in a clean glass jar or bowl and stir with a wooden spoon. Cover with a cloth and keep it handy on your kitchen counter. Each day, mix in an additional 1/4 cup water and 1/3 cup whole wheat flour. This needs to be done for six days. On the seventh day, the starter will be ready. It should have bubbles and smell pleasantly sour, like stout beer.

Keeping Your Starter Alive
You must refresh your starter every seven days. Remove one cup of starter to use in a sourdough recipe, then replenish the remaining starter by adding 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup flour. It will then need to grow for at least 12 hours before you borrow from it again. If you can't use your starter every 7 days, get a friend hooked on sourdough by giving them one cup of your starter.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Poulet au Porto [Roast Chicken Steeped with Port Wine, Cream and Mushrooms]

This recipe is from Mastering The Art of French Cooking, by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child, originally published in 1963. I am fortunate to have an original edition, although to tell the truth, this is the first recipe I've attempted.

When our friend Jean-Claude was staying at the ranch for a month, I was tempted to try a Tart Tatin, an apple tart, but it never came to pass. Since we are committed to visiting Jean-Claude in Paris (and at his country house in the South of France) in summer 2010, and I do own this lovely cookbook, I decided I would start some French cooking. Plus, I was flipping through this cookbook the other day and came across this recipe which sounded surprisingly easy, but elegant and delicious as well.

So we'll see.

I went to the liquor store last Wednesday, looking for cognac. But I couldn't see paying $15.00 for a pint of Courvoisier just to light it on fire. I consulted with two knowledgeable staff members, who confirmed that brandy would be a good substitution, and would flame on command. And, they sold me a half-pint of brandy to satisfy my 1/4 cup requirements without having a bunch of brandy left over. I love it when people know their stuff! Thanks, liquor store staff!


Oh. My. Heavens. This chicken is FABULOUS. It is my absolute new favorite. The Best Chicken Ever. I can't even tell you how amazing and delicious and subtle and wonderful this sauce is. I could, I mean I did, eat it with a spoon. I LOVE IT. The whole family loved it, and the flaming brandy just pushed the recipe over the top, and really impressed the boys. I'm not even sure why you flame the chicken, but the end result is simply incredible. The four of us ate the entire chicken, mushroom sauce and all.

I know exactly what I am ordering when we get to Paris next year, if I can figure out how to say it without sounding like an American (or a Mexican, with my Spanish degree)!!!

There are a lot of steps, but they're not too difficult. Just take your time, pay attention, and you'll do fine. Don't forget you need to roast the chicken first, so allow time for that. With roasting the chicken (and intervening in sibling disputes), the whole deal probably took 2-1/2 hours start to finish. Keep that in mind. But do try this, you will fall in love.

Poulet au Porto
[Roast Chicken Steeped with Port Wine, Cream and Mushrooms]

For 4 people

Chicken, cream and mushrooms occur again and again, as it is one of the great combinations. This perfectly delicious recipe is not difficult, but it cannot be prepared ahead of time or the chicken will lose its fresh and juicy quality. The chicken is roasted, then carved, flamed in cognac, and allowed to steep for several minutes with cream, mushrooms, and port wine. It is the kind of dish to do when you are entertaining a few good, food-loving friends whom you can receive in your kitchen.

Vegetable Suggestions:
Nothing should interfere with these special flavors. It would be best to serve only potatoes sauteed in butter, or a perfectly seasoned risotto. Peas, or asparagus tips, or braised onions could be added if you feel the necessity for more vegetables.

Wine Suggestions:
Serve very good, chilled, white Burgandy such as a Meurault or Montrachet, or an excellent, chateau-bottled white Graves.

A 3-pound, ready-to-cook, roasting or frying chicken
Roast the chicken as described here.

1 pound fresh mushrooms

Meanwhile, trim and wash the mushrooms. Quarter them if large, leave them whole if small.

A 2 1/2-quart enameled or stainless steel saucepan
1/4 cup water

1/2 tablespoon butter

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Bring the water to a boil in the saucepan with the butter, lemon and salt. Toss in the mushrooms, cover, and boil slowly for 8 minutes. Pour out and reserve the cooking liquid.

1 cup whipping cream
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch blended with 1 tablespoon of the cream

Salt and pepper
Pour the cream and the cornstarch mixture into the mushrooms. Simmer for 2 minutes. Correct seasoning, and set aside.

When the chicken is done, remove it to a carving board and let it rest at room temperature while completing the sauce.

1/2 tablespoon minced shallot or green onions

1/3 cup medium-dry port
The mushroom cooking liquid
The mushrooms in cream
Salt and pepper

Drops of lemon juice
Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the roasting pan. Stir in the shallots or onions and cook slowly for 1 minute. Add the port and the mushroom juice, and boil down rapidly, scraping up coagulated roasting juices, until liquid has been reduced to about 1/4 cup. Add the mushrooms and cream and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, allowing the liquid to thicken slightly. Correct seasoning and add lemon juice to taste. (I didn't add any more lemon juice).

A fireproof casserole or chafing dish (I used a cast iron pan)
1 tablespoon butter

1/8 teaspoon salt
Smear the inside of the casserole or chafing dish with butter. Rapidly carve the chicken into serving pieces. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and arrange in the casserole or chafing dish.

1/4 cup cognac (I used brandy)
Set casserole over moderate heat or an alcohol flame until you hear the chicken begin to sizzle. Then pour the cognac over it. Avert your face, and ignite the cognac with a lighted match. Shake the casserole slowly until the flames have subsided. Then pour in the mushroom mixture, tilting the casserole and basting the chicken. Cover and steep for 5 minutes without allowing the sauce to boil. Serve.

Poulet Rôti [Roast Chicken]

This is a Julia Child recipe, from the book Mastering The Art of French Cooking, by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child. It is the base recipe I will be using to prepare a chicken for Poulet au Porto, Roast Chicken Steeped with Port Wine, Cream and Mushrooms.

Okay, it's reality check time. I'm sure this is a great roasting recipe, if you are equipped for it. If your kitchen is not in the process of being moved, and you can't find your kitchen twine and don't just blow off the whole "trussing" thing. Anyway. It worked, but I couldn't do all the darn flipping and turning, I just couldn't, and honestly I'm not much of an attentive baster either. So with that in mind, I will tell you that the chicken did turn out, but the skin wasn't crispy. Not a huge deal, but next time, I believe I might roast the chicken on the grill, and then proceed with my newly beloved Poulet au Porto.

Maybe if you don't have screaming kids who were served ice cream sandwiches after school instead of the usual tacos, this roast chicken will be easier for you to accomplish. I'm not saying this is a bad recipe, the chicken turned out fabulous, just not pretty. I'm just not convinced Julia would have been impressed with my results. But I figured since I was going to light it on fire anyway, it wouldn't matter that much.

Poulet Rôti
[Roast Chicken]

For 4 people

Estimated roasting time for a 3-pound chicken: 1 hour and 10 to 20 minutes

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

A 3-pound, ready-to-cook roasting or frying chicken
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons softened butter

Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with the salt, and smear in half the butter. Truss the chicken. (oops). Dry it thoroughly, and rub the skin with the rest of the butter.

A shallow roasting pan just large enough to hold the chicken easily
To flavor the sauce: a small sliced carrot and onion

For basting: a small saucepan containing 2 tablespoons melted butter; 1 tablespoon good cooking oil; a basting brush

Place the chicken breast up in the roasting pan. Strew the vegetables around it, and set it on a rack in the middle of the preheated oven. Allow the chicken to brown lightly for 15 minutes, turning it on the left side after 5 minutes, (this is the reason your chicken should be trussed), on the right side for the last 5 minutes, and basting it with the butter and oil after each turn. Baste rapidly, so the oven does not cool off.

Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Leave the chicken on its side, and baste every 8 to 10 minutes (sorry, just didn't happen), using the fat in the roasting pan when the butter and oil are exhausted. Regulate oven eat so chicken is making cooking noises, but fat is not burning.

Halfway through estimated roasting time, salt the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and turn it on its other side. Continue basting.

Fifteen minutes before end of estimated roasting time, salt again with 1/4 teaspoon salt and turn the chicken breast up. Continue basting.

Indications that the chicken is almost done are: a sudden rain of sputters in the oven, a swelling of the breast and slight puff of the skin, the drumstick is tender when pressed and can be moved in its socket. To check further, prick the thickest part of the drumstick with a fork. Its juices should run clear yellow. As a final check, lift the chicken and drain the juices from its vent. If the last drops are clear yellow, the chicken is definitely done. If not, roast another 5 minutes, and test again.

**Note from Min: You can also tell if the chicken is done with a meat thermometer that registers about 170 degrees when inserted in the thickest part of the thigh!!**

When done, discard the trussing strings and set the chicken on a hot platter. It should sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before being carved, so its juices will retreat back into the tissues.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wine-Baked Chicken with Marjoram

I was getting ready to make Poulet au Porto, a Julia Child dish I've been planning, but my whole chicken wasn't quite thawed yet. I didn't feel comfortable thawing a whole chicken in the microwave, but chicken thighs are another story! I wanted something similar to Chicken in Red Wine Vinegar or Zesty Braised Chicken with Lemon and know, some sort of Chicken with a Fabulous Sauce.

While the chicken thighs were thawing in the microwave and Number One was inviting CG to dinner, I happened upon this recipe, from the Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2007. I had everything but heavy cream, so I decided to substitute evaporated milk. Why not. And I used dried marjoram instead of chopped. The recipe calls for chicken legs, but we had thighs. I used about 12 thighs I believe, and after serving 5 people we have leftovers!

The recipe is fairly easy to accomplish, and extremely delicious, with crispy-skinned chicken and a delicately flavored sauce. If you are looking for chicken with a fabulous sauce, I dare say you've come to the right place!

Wine-Baked Chicken with Marjoram--Marcia Kiesel
Active: 20 minutes Total: 1 hour 35 minutes 4 servings
Wine: Fruity, low-oak Chardonnay

The creamy, rich sauce for this crisp-skinned chicken is deliciously balanced by pungent marjoram.

2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf (I used two)
6 whole chicken legs (you will want more than this: I used about 12 thighs)
2 cups dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
2 tablespoons chopped marjoram (I used about 1 tablespoon dried), plus 1 tablespoon marjoram leaves, for garnish (I didn't have these)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spread the sliced shallots and bay leaf in a 14-by-12-inch baking dish or roasting pan. Arrange the chicken in the pan, skin side up, and pour the dry white wine over the chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and bake in the upper third of the oven for about 50 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and the chicken is cooked through. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

2. Transfer the chicken legs to a heatproof platter. Discard the bay leaf. Pour the pan juices into a small saucepan and boil over high heat until reduced to 2 cups, about 10 minutes. Add the heavy cream to the pan juices and boil until reduced by one-third, about 5 minutes. Pour the sauce into a large glass measuring cup and let stand for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, reheat the chicken in the oven, about 5 minutes.

4. Whisk the butter into the sauce, 1 tablespoon at a time, until thoroughly blended. Season the sauce with salt and stir in the chopped marjoram. Spoon the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with the marjoram leaves and serve right away.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

H-Bomb's Popovers

Last year for Christmas, I finally remembered to give H-Bomb the cookbook I'd had stashed in the cupboard for several years: Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers & Up. He's now in Kindergarten, and I know that he could have handled these recipes two years ago, but two years ago, Sawed Off was still an infant. I was tired.

Now that I have more energy, and Sawed Off will turn three soon, I am excited to welcome both of my boys into the kitchen. This morning, H-Bomb came up to me with his cookbook, proclaiming that he wanted to "make something" today. We thumbed through the recipes, and he decided on Bagel Faces and Homemade Lemon-Lime Soda Pop. However, when he discovered we would have to go to the store first for ingredients, he changed his mind and chose to make the Popovers for breakfast. (we'll make bagel faces and lemon-lime soda very soon!)

The Pretend Soup cookbook is designed primarily for children, with picture-guided recipes (along with a regular recipe for the adult helpers). The measurements are simple, and the pictures are easy to follow. As with anything new, let your child take the lead while gently encouraging them, and don't worry about a mess. Of course be cautious with the oven, etc.

For this recipe, I cracked the eggs (my eyes were half-open) and measured things. H-Bomb did everything else, from buttering the muffin tin and dumping in ingredients to scooping in the popover dough. I slid them in and out of the oven. When it's not a school morning and there isn't any sort of rush, I will let him crack the eggs and measure, while I sit back and enjoy my coffee. Soon he will be a pro.

H-Bomb was so proud and excited about his popovers, he wants to invite everyone he knows over for breakfast to share this special treat. He ate his with strawberry jam, no butter. These little things would be a treat anytime, from breakfast to dinner and beyond.

Yield: 1 dozen

about 2 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
extra butter, jam, or maple syrup for the popovers

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, and melt butter.

2. Brush the insides of 12 muffin cups with melted butter.

3. Break eggs into the mixing bowl.

4. Add milk and beat well with a whisk.

5. Add flour and salt and whisk until reasonably blended--it doesn't have to be perfect.

6. Use a 1/4-cup measure with a handle to pour batter into each muffin cup They should be one-half to two-thirds full.

7. Bake 30 minutes without opening the oven.

8. Remove the muffins from the pan and prick with a fork to let the steam escape. Spread with butter and/or jam, and eat! (They also taste great dipped in maple syrup. They're not bad plain, either).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chicken Stew with Biscuits

The original recipe is from Barefoot Contessa Family Style. I'll admit right off the bat that I did not follow the recipe in the book to the letter, I simply didn't have time. I took some shortcuts, and I'm sure they didn't affect the outcome one bit because this is GOOD. I'll tell you how I made it, if you want to know exactly how Ina did it, I guess you can buy the book!

This is exactly what it sounds like, chicken stew, topped with beautifully golden, parsley-flecked biscuits. Delicious, attractive, comfort food that's not too difficult (if you do it my way!). The fresh parsley is a must, it really adds flavor to both the stew and the biscuits. I'm sure the only reason that H-Bomb "didn't like it" was that he has a cold. But I told him chicken makes you better...I hope that's true, because I think all of us are coming down with the same darn cold.

Chicken Stew with BiscuitsItalic
Serves 8

"...This is essentially the filling for a chicken pot pie topped with homemade biscuits; you can substitute any pot pie filling..." (Hmmm. Or maybe I'll make a pot pie with this filling!)

For the Stew:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
2 tablespoons butter
5 cups chicken stock
2 chicken bouillon cubes
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 cups medium-diced carrots (4 carrots)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 10-ounce package frozen peas (2 cups)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn (Ina calls for whole pearl onions, but I think it would have been too oniony. I'm happy I used corn instead)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley

For the Biscuits:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in medium frying pan over medium heat. Saute chicken until cooked through. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions and carrots over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and the heavy cream. Add the diced chicken, peas, onions or corn, and parsley. Mix well.

Place the stew in a 10 x 13 x 2-inch oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan lined with parchment or waxed paper. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Add the half and half and combine on low speed. Mix in the parsley.

Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and, with a rolling pin, roll out to 3/8 inch thick. Cut out twelve circles with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter. (Number One made the biscuits for me; he ended up with 13).

Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top of the filling. Brush them with egg wash, and return the dish to the oven. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbly.

*To make in advance, refrigerate the chicken stew and biscuits separately. Bake the stew for 25 minutes, then place the biscuits on top, and bake for another 30 minutes, until done.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Potato Leek Soup

This is an excellent soup. I haven't made it in a long while, which is why there isn't a picture...yet. An old friend of mine just had 10 pounds of leeks given to her, and since this recipe uses 6 leeks, I thought it would be good to pass on. I'll keep my eye out for more! I love leeks.

It is from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, and is so comforting and warm. I wish I had enough leeks to make this right now! This soup will get you through the winter. Make some!

Potato Leek Soup
Serves 8 to 10

2 dried bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried and crushed rosemary
4 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 celery stalks, strings removed, cut in 1/4-inch dice
6 leeks, white parts, thinly sliced and well washed (follow the link for a quick how-to)
4 shallots, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 quarts homemade chicken stock or low-sodium canned broth
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Tie the bay leaves, rosemary, parsley and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni. Set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium stockpot. Add the celery, leeks, shallots and garlic, cook on low heat until very soft, about 45 minutes, stirring only occasionally. Do not brown. Add the potatoes, chicken stock, and reserved bouquet garni. Cover, and bring to a boil; reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender, about 40 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and discard.

3. Working in batches, pass only half of the soup through a food mill fitted with a medium disk, (or process carefully in batches in a food processor), into a large saucepan. Add the remaining chunky soup. (I like my potato soup smooth and creamy, so I mill/process all the soup). Place the saucepan on medium-low heat to warm the soup. Slowly stir in milk and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips

I wanted to make some cookies today, to break up the monotony and hard work of moving the contents of our house into the bunkhouse next door. I just couldn't decide what kind. Something hearty, with oats, but not with raisins. I wanted chocolate. I sort of wanted something like Cowboy Cookies, yet different.

I used the "Choose-a-Chip" variation of Oatmeal Cookies from my trusty Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, added the "optional" spices, plus coconut when I discovered the last of my walnuts were past their prime. The result is scrumptious and satisfying. Enjoy.

*For traditional oatmeal cookies, omit the chocolate chips and nuts and add 1 cup raisins or currants.

Oatmeal Cookies
Prep: 25 minutes
Bake: 10 minutes per batch
Makes about 54 cookies

3/4 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (BH&G says "optional" but I disagree)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (ditto)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans or coconut

1. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour. Stir in the rolled oats. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts or coconut.

2. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. (My dough was quite crumbly, so I pressed it into balls instead). Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sourdough Flapjacks

So once again, I got Virgil (my new sourdough starter) out of the fridge and put him to work. I am starting to get the hang of this! I fed him, let him sit on the counter for 8 hours, and last night I mixed up a batch of MaryJane's Sourdough Flapjacks. The recipe is from MaryJane's Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook. (some day I promise I will try MaryJane's starter, but for now, I'm using my Virgil). The flapjack mix has to sit for 12 hours, so they are the ultimate make-ahead breakfast, and they are easy! MaryJane serves hers with homemade Elderberry Syrup, but for us in the midst of winter, plain old maple will have to do!

These flapjacks are delicious! You really do have to make sure they are cooked golden brown, or they will turn out just a bit chewy. But honestly, they were so good that I forgot to take a picture, and then they were gone. Never fear, we will be making these again soon, and I will add a picture then! Make some!

Sourdough Flapjacks
yield: 8 flapjacks

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup organic flour
1/2 cup water

Mix starter, flour and water. Let stand overnight (about 12 hours), covered with a cloth in a warm place.

Stir mixture well and carefully ladle onto a lightly greased griddle. Flip flapjacks after bubbles form and tops have lost their sheen.

Serve with Elderberry Syrup. Or maple =).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

MaryJane's Sourdough Bread

Since I made Virgil, my sourdough starter, the other day, I've been looking for recipes. I made Grace's sourdough bread, which was delicious but just not sourdoughy enough. We like a really strong sourdough flavor around here I guess.

This recipe comes from MaryJane's Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook by MaryJane Butters. MaryJane is an inspiration to me, an innovative and crafty farmgirl whom I feel is a kindred spirit for too many reasons to list here.

Last summer, Number One attempted to make MaryJane's sourdough starter, but it gets pretty hot in these parts and the darn stuff molded right in the jar. I might try again later, but for now, we've got Virgil.

I decided to try MaryJane's sourdough bread recipe, even though Virgil is a different starter, and see what happens. Is sourdough starter sourdough starter? I have no idea at all. I'm just hoping this recipe is closer to the "true" sourdough bread that I've been wanting to make. I know that it takes less time than Grace's for rising and whatnot. But less time makes it more difficult to fit into my schedule, at least until I get the hang of things.

I fed Virgil, per Grace's instructions, but he sat on the counter longer than 8 hours because I didn't decide to make MaryJane's bread until after Virgil had been fed. I'm hoping it won't matter. I'm such a novice here.

MaryJane's Sourdough Bread
Yield: one large round loaf or two baguettes

1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups purified water
2 teaspoons sea salt
3 to 4 cups organic flour*
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

Place starter, water, and sea salt in a large glass bowl and whisk for 1 minute. Stir in enough of the flour to make a firm dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, working in flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

*(it took me 5 cups of flour before I was comfortable putting the sticky dough on my flour-covered table. I don't know if this had anything to do with the difference in starter? I ended up using about 7 cups flour total! Is this a lot? I have no idea...but kneading bread for 10 minutes is somewhat meditative...10 minutes is a l o n g time...)

Shape into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl, turning dough once to coat the top with oil. Cover with a damp tea towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 4 to 6 hours, until doubled in bulk.

Punch down and shape into one large round loaf or two baguettes. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, and cover again with a damp tea towel. Let rise again for 1 to 2 hours, or until nearly doubled in bulk. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of your oven.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Make slits on the top of each loaf. Beat together the egg yolk and milk, and brush on the tops. Place baking sheet on center rack of oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 450 degrees F and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until crust is a rich golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the top.

This bread is delicious~still not what I would call a "true" sourdough flavor, but I've heard that might need time to develop in the starter itself. A lovely bread, crusty and beautified by the egg and milk time I might make baguettes! Oh this is fun.

P.S. MaryJane's not kidding when she says "one LARGE round loaf..."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Castilian Garlic Soup (Sopa de Ajo Castellana)

This is an excellent soup we've made once or twice before. It is quite simple, and uses up any old baguettes you may happen to have lying around. It is from My Kitchen in Spain, by Janet Mendel, a cookbook I don't use nearly enough. The soup is comforting and boldly flavorful, and an example of authentic Spanish cooking. Let me know what you think of it!

Each bowl has a poached egg in it, and the bread soaks up all the delicious broth and adds a nice texture. So yummy and filling! (I just add the eggs to the soup pot as described below, then put one into each soup bowl as I'm serving).

Castilian Garlic Soup
Sopa de Ajo Castellana

Serves 4

While gazpacho is familiar everywhere, its cohort, garlic soup, is hardly known outside of Spain. Like gazpacho, garlic soup and its variations are made with bread, olive oil and garlic, which then are embellished with vegetables and other seasonings.

Although every region has its rendition of garlic soup, the Castilian one is the best known. I first tasted it at a famous old Madrid restaurant where it was the first course of a gargantuan meal that included roast suckling pig. Huge in flavor and simple to prepare, this rustic recipe may become one of your favorites.

8 ounces baguette, sliced 1/2-inch thick (18 to 20 slices)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 ounces ham or bacon, diced (about 1/3 cup) (optional)
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon pimenton (Spanish paprika; regular paprika can be substituted)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
6 cups broth or water
4 eggs

Toast the bread and set aside.

In a large cazuela or soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the ham and garlic and saute until the garlic begins to take on color, about 4 minutes. Stir in the pimenton and cumin and immediately add the broth. Add salt to taste.

Add the toasted bread to the cazuela. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

With the soup bubbling, break each egg into a saucer and slide it onto the top of the soup. Cover and let the eggs poach until the whites are set and yolks still liquid, about 4 minutes. Serve the soup from the same cazuela.

Alternative serving method: Divide the soup among four individual soup bowls. Add one egg to each, pierce the yolk with a needle, then microwave each for 2 minutes on high, or until the whites are set and yolks still liquid.
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