Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rosemary Garlic Chicken Quarters

This is another of those slow cooker meals that needs a little attention before it goes in the pot. That little bit of attention really pays off in terms of flavor. When you brown meats and poultry before simmering it in the slow cooker, there is a depth of flavor that develops as well as a more visually appealing presentation. Simply pat the meat dry with paper towels before seasoning, then heat a heavy stainless steel or cast iron skillet with the oil added over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes until the oil is shimmering. The meat should sizzle as soon as it hits the pan. Don't crowd the pan or the meat will steam. Don't turn the meat until the bottom is well-browned and it releases on its own.

6-8 servings

3 large carrots, whole, plus 3 more large carrots sliced on the diagonal
5 lb chicken leg quarters
2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp pimenton (sweet smoked paprika)
2 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
12 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
3 tbs olive oil, divided
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 lb baby Yukon gold potatoes, halved
OPTIONAL:  1/4 cup Marsala

Place 3 whole carrots on the bottom of the slow cooker.

Remove skin and excess fat from the chicken. Stir together the rosemary, paprika, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper, then rub it all over the chicken.

Saute garlic in 2 tbs oil for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Cook the chicken pieces a few at a time, about 3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer to the slow cooker on top of the whole carrots. Add broth and garlic to the pan drippings and cook 1 minute, scraping up loose particles on bottom of skillet. If you wish, add the Marsala during this step. Pour over chicken in slow cooker.

Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.

Toss potatoes and sliced carrots with remaining oil, salt, and pepper and add to the slow cooker. Cover and cook for 2 more hours.

Transfer chicken and vegetables to a serving platter. Pour juices through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; skim fat from juices and serve immediately with the chicken and vegetables.
I eat a lot of chicken prepared in a lot of different ways. This chicken is right up there with my Sunday roast chicken and my "Bud's" Mediterranean style chicken. The flavorings came together perfectly; the chicken was moist; the potatoes were creamy inside. In all, a perfect dish that I'll be making again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Braised Country-style Pork Ribs

I adore short ribs and order them whenever I find them on the menu. I've eaten them with polenta, with mashed potatoes, with risotto. I've had Asian style, Italian style, wine infused, and have mostly enjoyed what my favorite restaurants have to offer. I've made them at home in the slow cooker as well as in the Dutch oven. You might say I haven't met a short rib I haven't liked. So when I caught an episode of Food Network TV which featured a less expensive cut of meat, country style pork ribs, in a similar preparation, I decided at once to try them.

Of course, I made a number of small tweaks here and there to suit my taste. Here's the recipe I used.

Serves 4 - 6
4 1/2 - 5 lbs bone in country-style pork ribs (sometimes called pork loin spareribs)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tbs olive oil
1 carrot, minced
1 rib celery, minced
1 large onion, chopped finely
4 tbs sun dried tomato paste (look for it in a tube in the Italian food section of your grocery)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 - 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
3 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pat the ribs dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbs of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat and brown the ribs on all sides, working in batches. Remove the ribs as they brown and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tbs oil to the Dutch oven and reduce the heat to medium. Add the carrot, celery, and onion, as well as some salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes to remove the raw flavor.

Pour in the cider vinegar and the red wine to deglaze the pan. Scrape up the bits of fond, then add the red pepper flakes and the bay leaves. Return the ribs to the Dutch oven and add enough chicken stock to reach halfway up the sides of the ribs. Bring the pan to a boil, then cover and place in the oven.

Braise the meat for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the cover and cook for another 1/2 hour to allow the liquid to reduce a bit and the pork to brown.

Serve over mashed potatoes or polenta.
The smells from this dish will make you move up your dinner hour. I could barely wait to eat the smell was so tantalizing. These ribs are truly fall-off-the-bone tender, yet they are moist and can be cut with a fork. The ribs are large, so one or two will satisfy most appetites. Served over mashed potatoes with a bit of the reduced cooking liquid spooned over the top, this is a dish that's comforting and satisfying. The flavors are deep and delicious and I'm quite certain the leftovers will make delicious sandwiches.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Triple Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake

If I needed proof that you eat with your eyes first, the cover shot of Southern Living magazine with this gorgeous pound cake gave it to me in spades.


2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup 60% cacoa morsels

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate
3 tbs butter
1 tbs corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tbs buttermilk (and up to 1 tbs more)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract


1. Prepare Cake: Preheat oven to 325°. Whisk together flour and next 3 ingredients. Beat 1 1/2 cups butter in a medium bowl at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yolk disappears. Combine 1 1/4 cups buttermilk and next 2 ingredients. Add flour mixture to egg mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition. Fold in bittersweet chocolate morsels. Pour batter into a well-greased (with shortening) and floured 12-cup Bundt pan. Sharply tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles.
2. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 20 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on rack.
3. Prepare Chocolate Glaze: Combine semisweet chocolate morsels, 3 Tbsp. butter, and 1 Tbsp. corn syrup in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave at MEDIUM (50% power) 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until morsels begin to melt, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Stir in 1/2 tsp. vanilla.
4. Prepare Buttermilk Glaze: Whisk together powdered sugar, 1 Tbsp. buttermilk, and 1/4 tsp. vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Add up to 1 Tbsp. buttermilk, if desired. 

Drizzle glazes, one at a time, over warm cake. Makes 10-12 servings.
This is one of those OMG desserts. I love pound cake, mostly because it is so dense. This cake, while still a bit warm, reminds me of lava cake. A small slice is all you want--and a good thing since it is a whopping 20 WW points (roughly 800 calories) a slice. The glazes take no time at all to make and the trickiest part of the cake is making certain to generously grease the bundt pan with shortening, then flour as generously. The first cake (above) came out after I ran a knife around the edge and worried it out. The second cake (below) was much harder to get out and almost ended up on the floor. I'm due to buy a new bundt pan which I'm hoping will resolve the problem, but do be sure to grease and flour and let the cake cool thoroughly.

I made this cake for company and had half a slice. I'm grateful that I'm lactose intolerant because otherwise I'd probably have finished the rest instead of sending it home with them.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Empanadas (Beef Turnovers)

Every culture has its variation of stuffed dough/pastry. Empanadas are discs of pastry packed with meat or other fillings. They can be appetizer or main dish. Most often, I bake them (for health purposes), but as I was making these for a party, I decided to go full throttle and fry them (as they are intended to be). You can certainly make your own pastry, but Goya and a few other companies make perfectly delicious, frozen, ready-made discos. I've adjusted this recipe for personal taste and quantity.

Makes 20 large empanadas

1 tbs olive oil
1 1/4 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
12-16 pimento stuffed green olives, sliced thinly
4 tbs. sofrito (Goya makes this product)
1 packet Sazon with coriander and annatto
4 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 pkgs discos (I use Goya)

corn oil for frying

Heat 1 tbs olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes. Add onions and cook until soft, 5 minutes more. Stir in tomato sauce, olives, sofrito, sazon, garlic, and oregano.  Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until mixture thickens, about 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, using a rolling pin, roll out discos until they're 1/2 inch larger in diameter. Spoon a heaping  tbs or so of meat mixture into middle. Moisten around edge of disc with water, and pinch to seal closed or close with a fork by pressing tines all around the edge (my preferred method). You want these to stay closed while frying. You don't want to overfill these or they'll burst when frying. In reality, there's a lot more pastry to filling.

Fill a deep saucepan (or deep frying) with oil to a depth of 2 1/2 inches. Heat oil to 350 degrees and cook empanadas in batches until crisp and golden on both sides (frying 2 minutes on each side works for me).

Transfer to paper towels to drain. You can eat immediately or cool and reheat in a hot (400 degree) oven for approximately 10 minutes).
I absolutely adore the taste of these, but I'm hot happy with the ratio of pastry to filling. I'd prefer the size to be half of what it is using the ready-made discos. I guess the only solution is to make my own pastry in the future. While these taste wonderful baked, nothing beats the taste fried. I have a fantastic deLonghi deep fryer (it was a gift because I almost never fry) which has now been used a total of 3 times that made frying a snap. These were a hit at the party, so you may want to give them a try.