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.