Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook: Chocolate Mousse

When I get chocolate cravings, they hit HARD. I need chocolate right then. The darker the better. None of this wussy Hershey's milk chocolate. I need rich dark chocolate. So my favorite new cookbook for these times is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook. Each recipe is more delicious than the one before. And for someone that has never made chocolate mousse before, my little concoction turned out amazingly well. It managed to satisfy my chocolate cravings for the rest of the week. Highly recommended.

Chocolate Mousse
From The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup hot brewed coffee

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer at medium-high speed, whip the cream to form light peaks.  Set aside in the refrigerator.

Melt the chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.

Meanwhile, whip the eggs with the sugar at medium-high speed for about 10 minutes, until very fluffy and thick.

Stir the coffee into the melted chocolate chips.  The mixture will start to thicken, so work quickly.  Quickly stir in the beaten eggs, and then fold in the whipped cream.  Pour or spoon the mixture into cups or bowls.

Chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Friday, April 18, 2008

Alton Brown: Shortcake

I love when the first local strawberries start making their appearances in the grocery stores.  I know they ship those winter berries in from Peru or something, but it's just not the same.  These local berries, popping up just when it's warming up and sunny...  There's just something perfect about the timing and the sweetness.  And really it's just a good excuse to make a big pile of evil called a strawberry shortcake.

From Alton Brown

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
¾ cup half and half
Melted butter to brush shortcakes
Ice cream or whipped cream

Heat oven 450°F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in butter and shortening. Mix in half-and-half. Drop by large spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown. Cool and eat with berries, ice cream, and/or whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: Toad in the Hole

I have always wanted to try a dish with an amazing name, one that makes you wonder what the real ingredients of the dish are. Something crazy and British. Something like Bubble & Squeak. Or Spotted Dick. Or Toad in the Hole. Well, I decided on Toad in the Hole because I'm kind of a sucker for pork, and the "toad" is actually little pork sausages. It's actually really simple, the dough being a Yorkshire pudding, so I gave it a try. I expected something bland and tasteless (hey, isn't that the stereotype of British food?), but it was surprisingly delicious. The pudding was tender, and the sausages were crisp. Highly recommended.

Toad in the Hole
From Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The New Classics

2 large eggs
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon fat
5 English-style fresh pork sausages, casings removed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Onion Gravy

Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, 1/2 cup water, and mustard; season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the flour. Let stand 20 minutes.  Coat a 13 x 9-inch or 3 1/2-quart baking dish with the oil; heat in the oven 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Pour the batter into the dish. Arrange the sausages on top; sprinkle with rosemary. Bake until puffed, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with gravy.

Onion Gravy

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ cup Madeira wine
1 cup homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring, until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Cover; cook over low heat until brown, about 25 minutes. Add the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in the wine, stock, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Gourmet: Perfect Buttermilk Pancakes

Sometimes you just need something homey and warm. Something fluffy and soft and delicious. Something with a golden crunch on the outside. Something smothered in maple syrup. Something like the perfect pancake.

Perfect Buttermilk Pancakes
From Gourmet magazine, May 2004

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk, well shaken

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, egg, and buttermilk until smooth. Heat a griddle or a large heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface, then brush with oil. Working in batches and using a ¼-cup measure filled halfway, pour batter onto griddle and cook, turning over once, until golden, about 2 minutes per batch.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Book: Fudgy Chocolate Brownies

I was going to try and write something entertaining here, but all I can manage right now is to moan in some sort of half-dead I'm-Seeing-Heaven kind of way.  Take what you will from that.

Fudgy Chocolate Brownies
From The Ghirardelli Chocolate Book

8 ounces 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate baking bar, broken or chopped into 1-inch pieces
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¾ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs
⅔ cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line it with parchment paper, buttered on both sides.

Melt the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler or a heatpoof bowl over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from the heat.

Using a large spoon, beat the sugar and salt into the chocolate mixture. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour and mix until the batter pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes.  Remove the brownies from the pan, and let cool completely before cutting into 2-inch squares.

Makes 16 brownies

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook: Tuna-Noodle Casserole

Know what a hug from your mom tastes like?  Like THIS.  This warm and creamy and comforting-on-a-dark-and-stormy-and-cold-night dish of a security blanket is the culinary equivalent.  And yes, I know some of you out there are thinking, blech, tuna casserole?  Trust me.  This one is delicious.  I promise.

Tuna-Noodle Casserole
Adapted from the 1974 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

6 ounces (3 cups) medium noodles
1 (5-ounce) can tuna, drained
½ cup mayonnaise
1 cup sliced celery
⅓ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped green pepper
¼ cup chopped canned pimento
½ teaspoon salt
1 (10¾-ounce) can condensed cream of celery soup
½ cup milk
4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
Ruffled potato chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cook noodles using package directions; drain. Combine noodles, tuna, mayonnaise, celery, onion, green pepper, pimento, and salt. Blend cream of celery soup and milk together; heat through. Add Cheddar cheese to soup mixture; heat and stir until cheese melts. Add the soup mixture to the noodle mixture. Turn into a 2-quart casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. If desired, top with ruffled potato chips during the last 5 minutes of cooking time.

Makes 6 servings

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook: Stuffed Peppers

Okay, so this isn't exactly an international recipe, but I decided it would fun to go back to my childhood and relive a yummy dinner courtesy of Better Homes and Garden's 1960-something checkered cookbook. My mom used to cook almost exclusively out of this particular book, so most of the comfort food from my youth makes an appearance between its covers. So tonight I made stuffed peppers, a tomatoey-cheesy dish that makes my mouth water.

Stuffed Peppers
Adapted from the 1974 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

4 extra-large or 6 medium green peppers
1 pound ground beef
⅓ cup onion, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
Dash pepper
1 (14½-ounce) can diced tomatoes
½ cup water
½ cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 ounces Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
½ cup tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F. Core peppers. Drop into a pot of boiling water, and simmer for five minutes. Drain and place standing up in a glass dish. Set aside.

Brown ground beef and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes (including liquid), water, rice, and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until rice is tender. Add Cheddar cheese, and stir until melted.

Stuff peppers with beef and rice mixture. Top with tomato sauce. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook: Individual Chocolate Souffles

I'm on a chocolate kick lately it seems.  I tend to get on these obsessive recipe trains of thought, and I don't get off until I can't look at a particular ingredient again for a while.  Needless to say, that day is not today.  I figured if I was going to do something chocolate, why not do something difficult and chocolate?  Something you don't see everyday?  Something that has a very high risk of falling and deflating?  Something that I don't care deflates as long as it tastes good.  I have my priorities straight.

Individual Chocolate Souffles
From The Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook

2 ounces 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons plus two teaspoons milk
1 large egg yolk
2 large egg whites

Heat oven to 350°F. Brush two 1½-cup or four ½-cup ovenproof ramekins with butter; dust bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.

In double boiler over hot water, melt chocolate with milk and 1 tablespoon sugar. Cool for 5 minutes. Whisk egg yolk into chocolate mixture. In large bowl with electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form; add remaining 2 teaspoons granulated sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. With rubber spatula, fold one-fourth of egg whites into chocolate mixture, then fold in remaining egg whites. Divide between prepared ramekins. (Souffl├ęs may be prepared ahead up to this point and refrigerated for up to 2 hours. Bake straight from refrigerator, adding 3 minutes to baking time.)

Bake 20 minutes for large ramekins and 15 minutes for small ramekins. Remove from oven; dust tops of souffl├ęs with powdered sugar.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Pillsbury: Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff Pie

I normally don't buy those checkout line recipe booklets.  It's just a way to push processed food on harried mothers.  And I think the world needs less processed food.  But lately I've felt like a harried mother.  So I'm adjusting my view point for one evening.  To make this fabulously sloppy pile of meat and cheese.  If you really need something beefy and cheesy, and you really don't care that there is basically no redeeming nutritional value, this is your dish.  And I know that makes it sound kinda bad, but I swear it's kinda good, in the worst kind of way.

Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff Pie
From Pillsbury

1 box refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
½ cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (2.3-ounce) package beefy mushroom soup mix
⅛ teaspoon pepper
½ cup water
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup sour cream

  • Prepare pie crust as directed on package for two-crust pie using 9-inch glass pie pan.  Heat oven to 375°F.
  • In large skillet, cook ground beef, mushrooms, onion and garlic over medium heat until beef is thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain.  Stir in soup mix, pepper and water. Add cream cheese; cook and stir until cream cheese is melted and mixture is hot. Remove from heat. Stir in sour cream. Pour into crust-lined pan. Top with second crust; seal edges and flute. Cut slits in several places in top crust.
  • Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until crust is deep golden brown.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.  Cut into wedges to serve.
  • Makes 6 servings