Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew

Once again, it’s been snowing like crazy here on the east coast, and there is nothing more satisfying and delicious after shoveling out your car (for what seems like the bazillionth time this winter) then this Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew from Cook’s Illustrated. I think it’s best when made with kale (pictured here), but a mixture of greens is also great. This is one of those simple, healthy, pretty much foolproof recipes that seems to come out perfect every time (the secret is cooking it in a good, heavy duty dutch oven). If you’re more into soups then stews, just add another cup of chicken broth and 3/4 cup of water when you add the greens. A big bowl of stew, topped with grated Parmesan cheese and served with a toasted piece of crusty garlic bread makes an amazing meal. I also always add a couple of squirts of Sriracha sauce for a little spicy, garlicky kick.

Another great thing about this stew is that it freezes perfectly. Just divide it into serving size portions, freeze, and when you get a craving, just pop it into the microwave for a couple of minutes and it tastes as good as the day it was made.

Please click here for a printable copy of the Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew recipe.

Oven Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings with Deep Fried Flavor

Buffalo Chicken Wings Back in 1976, I was working at The Foundry restaurant in DC and one of the waiters, Michael Murphy, who happened to be from Buffalo, told us of the amazingly simple way they prepared, of all things, chicken wings, up there at a place called the Anchor Bar. We started giving away the Buffalo Chicken Wings during Happy Hour and immediately the place became packed each day at around 4:45 pm with everyone waiting for the wings to come out of the kitchen…and the rest is culinary history. It seems that every bar today has chicken wings on the menu, and for good reason…when they’re made right, they’re incredibly and addictingly (if that’s even a word) good! They’re actually very simple to make…cut 12 wings into three pieces at the joints (discard the wing tips or keep them for preparing stock) and just deep fry the flats and drummettes for 10-12 minutes in 375 degree oil (preferably peanut) until they’re crispy and golden brown, toss them in Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and serve with celery and bleu cheese dressing…that’s it…nothing else is needed. The problem is that it’s really a pain (and a greasy mess) to deep fry at home, so here is the next best thing…bake them in the oven. The secret to getting them to cook perfectly is to first steam them in a steamer basket over boiling water for 10 minutes. Carefully pat them dry and place them on a oven proof rack (or parchment paper) in a sheet pan, sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and place in the refrigerator for about an hour. Then stick the whole deal in a 425 degree oven and bake for about 40 minutes until golden and crispy, turning the wings over halfway through. This cooking technique is from Alton Brown, but in his recipe, he wants you to add butter and garlic to the sauce, which is absolutely unnecessary (and not authentic!). When the wings are done, just toss them in a generous helping (about 1/2 cup) of warmed Frank’s Red Hot Sauce until completely coated and serve with bleu cheese dressing and celery sticks. There you have it…all the crispness, texture and flavor of deep frying with none of the mess.

Incredibly Addictive Caramel Corn with Peanuts

The only problem with this recipe is that, no matter how much you make, it’s not enough. This recipe makes about 8-10 normal servings or 1 incredibly large one. A few tips…stir the sugar with a wooden spoon as the melted sugar crystals won’t stick to wood as readily as metal; if you have trouble cleaning the saucepan, just boil some water in it and the sugar crystals will dissolve; and if you’re thinking about sharing your caramel corn with someone, think again, ’cause, like I said,  there is never enough.

Please click here for the printable recipe.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever!

The Best Chocolate Chip CookiesThis is, without a doubt, the best chocolate chip cookie I (or anyone else) ever tasted! The recipe has been around for awhile…I believe  it was originally printed in The Frog Commissary Cookbook, published in 1985, and named for a restaurant in Philadelphia that was popular in the 1970’s.  It has just the right balance of flavors and textures. I don’t love most oatmeal chocolate chip cookies because it seems the oatmeal flavor is usually overwhelming and the texture is dry, but not with these cookies. They’re crispy on the edges and moist and chocolatey in the center…the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of milk. One of the best things about this recipe is how well the dough freezes. I chill the dough a little and roll it into 1½” diameter logs (like the ones you can buy in the supermarket), wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them. Then, when the urge strikes, I just slice off a few 1″ pieces and pop them right in a 350˚ oven, and you have fresh, hot homemade cookies in about 12 minutes. You can also roll them into 1″ balls, freeze them and stick them right in the oven when you absolutely, positively immediately need a hot, homemade killer chocolate chip cookie.

Please click here for the printable recipe.

Grandma Molly’s Legendary Cole Slaw

Grandma Molly's Cole Slaw We all grew up loving this cole slaw that my grandmother made…of course, she never wrote anything down, so it was up to my mother to perfect it and record it for posterity. The recipe has been passed down and now it’s become an essential ingredient in the perfect Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Sandwich that I wrote about awhile back. Although the cole slaw tastes great as soon as it’s made, the flavor definitely improves over time, so the best thing to do is to make it a day before you want to eat it. The slaw makes a great addition to any meal, but it’s really incredible on a sandwich of that leftover Thanksgiving turkey (or even store bought turkey breast) on a couple of slices of good Jewish rye bread, or even better, on my Sourdough Whole Wheat No Knead Pumpkin Seed Bread.

Please click here for the printable recipe.

One Dish Steamed Vegetables (with easy cleanup!)

This is a simple one dish, easy clean-up technique to steam a serving or two of vegetables. I’m using broccoli here, but it works with anything. Cut the broccoli into bite size pieces, place them into a microwaveable bowl with 1/2 cup of warm water and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Take a knife and poke a few holes in one side of the plastic wrap. This is to let the steam out and, after microwaving, to strain the water through. Microwave on high for about 1½ minutes. Take the bowl out of the microwave (careful…it will be hot) and tilt it over the sink to drain the water out through the poked holes. Then just take off the plastic wrap, drop in a tablespoon of butter, some seasoning (I love a pinch of kosher salt and a shake or two of McCormick Lemon & Pepper seasoning), give it a stir and it’s ready to eat. Fast, simple, tasty and best of all, easy to clean  up!

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies For those of you the regularly follow this blog (and I mean both of you, so pay attention!), you know I usually post my own recipes or my take on other recipes with my tweaks, tips or suggestions added, but I really don’t think you can improve on this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for your basic, delicious chocolate chip cookie.  I made these last night and they were, as the title suggests, pretty close to perfect! The browning of the butter before it’s added to the recipe adds a depth of flavor you don’t find in other chocolate chip cookie recipes, or as CI puts it “A chocolate chip cookie that’s moist and chewy on the inside and crisp at the edges, with deep notes of toffee and butterscotch to balance its sweetness.” I do have one other recipe that I think compares to this for a chocolate chip cookie made with oatmeal (I think it’s actually much better!), but for now, if your jonesing for a killer cookie, try this recipe…you won’t regret it (until you try and fit into your pants the next day).

Whole Wheat Sourdough Pita

I know lately I’ve kind of been dwelling on whole wheat sourdough baking variations, but I’m on a roll (get it?). Anyhow, if you take the Sourdough Whole Wheat Pizza Crust dough recipe and divide it up into 60-70 gram (about 2-2.5 oz) golf ball size portions, flatten them out into 4-6 inch rounds about 1/8 inch thick and throw them in a 500 degree oven (preferably on a preheated baking stone, but a baking sheet works too) for 5-6 minutes (flip them over after about 3 minutes), they will puff up into beautiful, tasty pitas. It’s actually amazing to watch!

Brining…the Secret to Better Flavor and Texture

Cambro 6 qt. Container Perfect for Brining

I always prefer to brine pork or poultry before cooking. The brining process not only breaks down proteins and tenderizes the meat, but also adds moisture (through osmosis), making the meat “juicier” and also less likely to dry out when cooking.

I brine the meat in a clear plastic Cambro container as soon as I get it home from the supermarket. After brining, I wrap the parts in plastic wrap and freeze what I’m not going to use immediately. When I’m ready to use it in a recipe,  I simply defrost it, and since it’s pre-brined, it’s ready to go. Follow the jump for exactly how to do it.

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