Thursday, June 19, 2014

Quick Bites - June 2014 - Part 1

I've had a few people contact me to find out if I'm still cooking, as there haven't been many food posts of late. Perhaps this photo will answer the question.


As David will attest, I continue to see just how much of a mess I can make while cooking and baking. Hey, I'm a girl that just loves a challenge.

And while I've been posting various dishes and desserts on my Facebook page, I haven't been as diligent here on the blog. To put things to right, here are some of the recipes that I've given a whirl in the last bunch of months.

Honey Fried Chicken and  Amish Potato Salad  -- This chicken recipe uses a cornstarch batter and the chicken is fried twice. Instead of fried chicken that has a thick crust, the cornstarch lets the fried skin be the star. Once the frying process is complete, the chicken is drizzled in a honey/hot sauce glaze. We loved this! 

As far as the potato salad? I would definitely rank this one as a hit. Using sour cream instead of mayo added a great tang. Because we like more crunch in this type of dish, I would do a bigger dice on the celery next time. I only used about half of the dressing, but if you like your potato salad looser, then pour it all on. 

Ginger Soy Vegetable Lo Mein - this is a recipe from Mmm, Taste This that I tagged to my Facebook timeline. Gave it a whirl and it was awesome on a number of fronts. To start, the taste was great. Between the spices and various Asian sauces, it all came together for multiple flavor levels. Another thing I loved about this dish is that it comes together so quickly. Because this is essentially a stir-fry, as long as you have all the prep done before you heat the oil in the pan, you can have this on the table in about 30 minutes or less. And let's talk about versatility. While I used carrots, broccoli, and onions, you can use pretty much any veg hanging out in the fridge looking for a home. Have some shrimp or chicken you want to use? Throw it in; it will taste fabulous. This is another recipe where the end result is way better than take-out.

I wanted to do something different with potatoes to serve with the leftover chicken and gravy. So I made these roasted smashed potatoes with sherry vinegar. Easy to do -- I took two large potatoes, quartered them, and popped them into salted water. Let them cook for about 15 minutes. After draining them, I put the taters on a wire rack to dry out for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I oiled a sheet pan. The potatoes were then transferred to the sheet pan, and using the bottom of a measuring cup, I smashed each of the quarters. Each bit was then basted with some sherry vinegar, the I put the pan in a pre-heated, 500-degree oven for about 20 minutes. When they were out of the oven, the potatoes were given another quick baste with the vinegar and sprinkled with black pepper.

They tasted awesome! The bottom of the potatoes are crunchy, but the inside is still moist and fluffy. And the vinegar gave the whole shooting match a lovely kick. Will definitely make these again and want to try using malt vinegar too.

Egg yolk ravioli with brown butter bacon sauce  - Overall it turned out pretty good, but the next time...and there will be a next time...some minor tweaks need to be made. I had hoped the yolks would be a bit runnier, which means cutting back on the cooking time. I'm guessing by about 30 seconds, but it's a fine line between making sure the pasta is cooked enough without over cooking the egg. I also need to work on making sure I get ALL the air out of the raviolis. I clearly didn't on two of them, so some of the ricotta leaked out. Also be forewarned that if you decide to make this dish, your kitchen will resemble a cooking war zone by the time you're done. But it's definitely worth the effort 

Baked Ziti  -  I had all the ingredients -- sausage, rigatoni (no ziti to be found), mozzarella, parm, homemade sauce -- but no ricotta. In prior weeks, ricotta was readily available in most of the grocery stores in town. The week I wanted it, not a single store had any in stock. What's a cook to do? Make your own.

Thanks to guidance I received from some Facebook friends, especially Papi Thomas, I managed to whip up enough ricotta to make the dish come together as I had hoped.

Duck Confit, roasted garlic smashed potatoes and steamed broccoli - I've always wanted to try making the confit, and while it does require a bit of a time commitment, it's pretty easy to do. Not surprisingly, the duck meat was uber tender after simmering away in its own rendered fat for a couple of hours. And the potatoes? While not the lowest calorie side dish, they were certainly tasty. The cream and butter may have had something to do with it. Would definitely do this dish again, just not on a regular basis for fear of clogged arteries 

Lasagne Bolognese - This recipe intrigued me for a variety of reasons. First, it has lots of steps, which are recipes I love the most. Next the Bolognese sauce was different from ones I've made in the past. This one has less tomato sauce. There was also the Bechamel element, which isn't usually found in a lasagne like this. And finally, I was curious how homemade lasagne noodles would taste versus the packaged kind I've used in the past.

So how did it turn out? Overall, it tasted great. Rich and meaty. The Bechamel added a lovely creaminess that I think is needed as the Bolognese sauce is so dense and quite frankly not very sauce-like. I was surprised by the lasagne noodles in that their texture is so much lighter than the packaged variety. And while they take some time to make, I think they are definitely worth doing.

I'll be posting more Quick Bites in just another day or two. In the meantime, happy cooking!

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