Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fried Chicken II

I would love to be able to tell you an amusing little story about how I came up with this fried chicken, or how I came to love fried chicken, or even something funny that happened while making this fried chicken. However, there are no stories. My husband I wanted fried chicken, and decided to try a different recipe from the usual, so this fried chicken was born out of an Alton Brown recipe and an Aaron McCargo, Jr. recipe, with a little twist of my own.

It was a great dish to accompany a night of watching Ballykissangel on our Netflix Roku box before series 2 becomes unavailable for instant watch tomorrow.

Fried Chicken
Inspired by
Alton Brown & Aaron McCargo, Jr.
Serves 2

4-6 pieces chicken (we like legs)
oil, for frying
1/2 TBSP kosher salt
1 TBSP black pepper
1 TBSP paprika (any variety)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
flour, for dredging

Mix together spices. Use about 1/3 to rub on the chicken. Let sit in the fridge for about 2-3 hours.

After chicken is out of the refrigerator, set up a breading station: place the beaten egg in a shallow bowl and mix it with about 1 tsp of the spice mixture. Place the flour in another shallow bowl and mix about 2 TBSP of the spice mixture with that.

Coat the chicken pieces in egg and then dredge in flour till fully coated.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep fryer, dutch oven, or heavy skillet to 350 degrees. Cook the chicken for about 13 minutes. Drain on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Taco Soup

I've noticed that a lot of my posts seem to reference the weather. Well, this post isn't going to be any different. On Friday, it was chilly and rainy outside, so I decided to make a chicken taco soup in my slow cooker and pair it with nice, cheesy quesadillas. It hit the spot. We were both very pleased with the results and wouldn't hesitate to make it again.

Chicken Taco Soup
Serves 4-6

2 chicken breasts, cooked & cut into small chunks
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1-2 cans diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (10 oz) can hot & spicy chili beans
4 cups tomato juice
1 (1.25 oz) packet taco seasoning
Sour cream, for garnish
shredded cheese, for garnish

Add all ingredients to the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.

Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


This bread drove me crazy. For the first batch, I tried making the dough in my bread maker and forgot to add water, so my "dough" ended up looking like cornmeal. The second batch didn't rise. At all. So, I tested my yeast. I bought new bread flour and super fresh eggs. I was determined that a loaf of challah would not defeat me. In the end, the third time was the charm, even though the process ended up taking most of the day. My third attempt came out great. It was golden brown, beautiful, and made absolutely delicious french toast.

Challah Bread
Recipe from
Makes 2 loaves

2 1/2 tsp bread machine or instant yeast
3 3/4 cups bread flour
3/4 cup warm water
2 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar


In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast and 3/4 cup of the flour, then whisk in the warm water until smooth. Let the yeast slurry stand uncovered for 10 to 20 minutes, or until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly.

Whisk the 2 eggs, oil, salt, and sugar into the puffed yeast slurry until the eggs are well incorporated and the salt and sugar have dissolved. With your hands or a wooden spoon, stir in the remaining 3 cups (400 grams/14.7 ounces) flour all at once. When the mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it out onto your work surface and knead it until smooth and soft, no more than 10 minutes. (Soak your mixing bowl in hot water now, to clean it and warm it if you would like to use it for fermenting the dough.) Or, if you like, the dough can be very quickly kneaded in a food processor: Mix the ingredients together in a bowl as directed, cut the rough dough in half, and process one half at a time, then knead the halves together. If the dough is too firm to easily knead, add a tablespoon or two of water to it; if it seems too wet, add a few tablespoons of flour.

The dough should feel smooth and firm and knead easily without sticking to the work surface.

Place the dough in the warm cleaned bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. (Or, the dough can be refrigerated right after kneading, then removed from the refrigerator to finish fermenting up to 24 hours later.) Let the dough ferment until it has at least doubled in bulk, about 2 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen. (If it has been refrigerated, the dough will take an extra 30 to 60 minutes to ferment.)

Line one or two large baking sheets, depending on how many breads you are making, with parchment paper or oil them. Divide the dough into two 1-pound (450-gram) portions for loaves, one 1 1/2-pound (680-gram) portion for a large loaf and three smaller pieces for rolls (the easiest way to do this is to divide the dough into quarters and use three of them for the bread and the other for the rolls), or sixteen 2-ounce (60-gram) portions for rolls. To make a New Year's spiral*, roll each portion into a long, even strand, preferably sheeting it out first.

For each portion:

Wind the dough tightly around on the prepared sheet, without leaving any space between the loops, and be sure that the last loop is bound with a bit of tension. This will force the dough to rise in the center as it is proofing and especially during the oven rise.

Cover the loaves well with plastic wrap. (At this point, the loaves can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.) Let proof until tripled in size, about 1 1/2 hours (or up to 2 1/2 hours if the loaves were refrigerated).

Meanwhile, 30 minutes before baking, arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower third positions if using two baking sheets, or arrange one rack in the upper third position if using one baking sheet, and remove any racks above them. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for glazing the bread.

When the loaves have tripled and do not push back when gently pressed with your finger but remain indented, brush them with the egg glaze. Bake loaves for 25 to 35 minutes, until very well browned. After the first 20 minutes of baking, switch the loaves from front to back so that they brown evenly; if the large loaf is browning too quickly, tent it with foil. When the loaves are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool on a rack.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Baked Ziti

I love baked ziti. In my opinion, it's basically the epitome of comfort food. I also love mascarpone cheese. So, as I was sitting at home watching the rain turn into snow and the wind steadily get stronger, I was inspired to make a baked ziti with mascarpone.

I think I struck gold with this one - it was absolutely delicious and I would make it again in a heartbeat - though, I probably would make a smaller batch because I ended up with enough food to feed an army. It's smooth and creamy, and the flavors combine wonderfully. In fact, we liked it so much that I have decided to submit it to this week's Presto Pasta Nights, sponsored by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast, and hosted this week by one of my favorite blogs, Ben at What's Cooking.

I hope you enjoy it!

Baked Ziti with Mascarpone Cheese
Serves 8-ish

Prep Time - 5-10 min

Cook Time - 40 min

1 lb ziti pasta
1 (26 oz) jar spaghetti sauce
1/4 lb ground beef
1/4 lb Italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 cup sour cream
1-2 cups Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta to al dente. Drain & set aside.

Meanwhile, brown ground beef & Italian sausage with onion & garlic. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Add marinara sauce to the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes. Thin the sauce just a tad with about 1/8 cup water or chicken stock. Season the sauce with garlic & herbs, to taste.

In a large bowl, combine mascarpone cheese, sour cream, and cooked pasta.

Layer the pasta, sauce and cheese in a large greased casserole dish as follows:
  • 1/2 pasta
  • 1/2 sauce
  • 1/2 cheese
  • remaining pasta
  • remaining sauce
  • remaining cheese
Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and top with Parmesan cheese and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pasta e Fagioli

I love a good, hot bowl of soup on a cold day. I bet you do, too. Recently, I had a craving for a nice, hot bowl of pasta e fagioli. If you are also a soup fan, you really should make this one. I think it's technically supposed to be a vegetarian dish, even though most of the recipes I came across called for pancetta or Italian sausage - so, vegetarians, knock yourself out. :)

Pasta e Fagioli
Recipe by Rachael Ray, adapted

Serves 6

Prep Time - 10 min

Cook Time - 20 min

2 TBSP olive oil
1/4 lb Hot Italian Sausage
2 (4 to 6-inch) sprigs rosemary, left intact
1 (4 to 6-inch) sprig thyme with several sprigs on it, left intact
2 bay leaves
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
Coarse salt and pepper
1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1 cup water
4-5 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups small pasta (I used elbows)
Grated Parmesn cheese, to top

Heat a deep pot over medium high heat and add oil and sausage. Once the sausage is almost cooked through, and add herb stems, bay leaf, chopped vegetables, and garlic. Season vegetables with salt and pepper.

Add beans, tomato sauce, water, and stock to pot and raise heat to high. Bring soup to a rapid boil and add pasta.**

Reduce heat to medium and cook soup, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente. Rosemary and thyme leaves will separate from stems as soup cooks.

Remove herb stems and bay leaf from soup and remove pot from the heat. Let sit for a few minutes. Ladle soup into bowls and top with lots of grated cheese.

**If you will be eating this for leftovers, I suggest cooking the noodles in a separate pot and adding them to your individual soup bowls instead of cooking them in the pot. When reheated, the noodles will get way over-cooked and mushy.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Red Velvet Cake

This past weekend, the husband and I had some friends over to play Rock Band. I wanted to make a fabulous dessert for us, and decided on Red Velvet cake. As much as I like the cake, I had never made it before, so I wasn't sure what to look for in a recipe. They all had some small, subtle differences; I didn't know if those differences would make a difference in the taste or quality of the cake. Ultimately, I settled on a recipe I found on FoodNetwork. It did not disappoint - this cake was delicious. In fact, I might go have a piece now.

Red Velvet Cake

Recipe from FoodNetwork, adapted

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cocoa
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 tsp vinegar
1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
Cream cheese icing, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) round layer cake pans.**

Sift flour, baking soda and cocoa together. Beat sugar and eggs together in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl mix together oil, vinegar, food coloring, and vanilla. Add to the bowl of eggs and sugar and beat until combined.

Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the wet mixture by alternating the buttermilk and dry ingredients. Always start with the flour and end with the flour.

Pour batter into pans. Tap them on the table to level out the batter and release air bubbles. Bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted near the middle comes out clean but be careful not to over bake or you'll end up with a dry cake.**

Let layers cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before turning out of pan. Cool completely before frosting.

**I baked the cake in a 9x13 pan for about 35 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 box confectioner's sugar (about 5-6 cups)
2 tsp vanilla

Beat together butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until combined. Add the powdered sugar, about 2 cups at a time, and beat until the frosting reaches your desired consistency.