Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Cream Puff "Crack Buns"(Choux au Craquelin) – Chef John Goes Hollywood

These gorgeous cream puff "crack buns” were inspired by the Great British Baking Show, which is not only my favorite cooking show, but currently my favorite thing on television. Maybe it's the accent, or because the contestants are all so nice, and actually try to help each other. Or, it could be the fact that when the time is up, and they try to work for a few more seconds, the hosts just politely scold them, instead of immediate disqualification, which is what would happen on our much more uptight American culinary competitions.

It's probably all of the above, plus the fact I always get so many wonderful ideas for videos, with these Choux au Crackelin being a prime example. Like I said in the video, these would be great filled with all kinds of things, but it's hard to beat vanilla bean pastry cream. I'm pretty proud of the recipe we posted a few years ago, and while I enjoy it straight, traditionally it would have some whipped cream folded in to lighten the mixture.

Speaking of favorite things, Boston cream pie is one of my all-time favorite desserts, and this was basically an individually portioned, probably superior version of that. The only thing that would have made this experience any more enjoyable would have been getting that coveted Paul Hollywood handshake. Maybe one day. In the meantime, I really do hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 6 to 8 Crack Buns:

For the “crack” crust:
3 tablespoons soft butter
1/4 light brown sugar (1 1/2 ounces)
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour (47 grams)
pinch salt

For the choux pastry:
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
pinch salt
1/2 cup flour
2 large room temperature eggs
melted dark chocolate, optional

- Put into 450 F. oven, reduce to 350 F., and bake for 30-40 minutes or until browned and fully puffed.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Feta Roast Chicken – Making Chicken Betta with Feta

I really loved everything about this feta roast chicken, as long as I was eating with my eyes closed, and that’s because despite the juicy texture, and wonderful flavor, I had trouble getting past the grainy-looking appearance of the cooked cheese mixture. The good news is, it was mostly an aesthetic issue, and the mouthfeel wasn’t nearly as dry and grainy as it looked. Having said that, the next time I make this I will probably go with a little higher-end sheep’s milk feta which is much softer, and creamier. Speaking of the feta, you may need to add some salt to the mixture, depending how salty the one you use is.

As usual, your roasting time will depend on the size of your chicken, and the feta under the skin will increase the time needed, so check with a thermometer, and shoot for 155-160 F. in the thickest part of the thigh. Surprisingly, even though the feta was only under the breast, the thighs did actually pick up some of the flavor, which is enhanced even further if you create a simple pan sauce from the drippings.

While your chicken is resting, pour off all, some, or none of the fat from the pan, and squeeze in your lemon. Set over medium heat, and use the juice to deglaze the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. You may need/want to add a splash of broth or water, but once hot, and adjusted for seasoning, it’s ready to spoon over your sliced chicken. For an experiment, I thought this was very successful, if not triumphantly so, and I do hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for one large whole chicken:
1 large whole chicken
kosher salt, as needed
a few fresh rosemary and oregano sprigs
2 teaspoons olive oil for coating chicken
cayenne to taste
For the feta cheese mixture:
4 ounces feta cheese
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
zest from one lemon (save juice for pan sauce)
2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil, or enough to make a smooth paste
salt to taste

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Roasted Lemon Pepper Potatoes – The Side Dish That Doesn’t Play Second Fiddle

If you’ve made and loved our Greek Lemon Chicken, and Fondant Potatoes, then you will absolutely adore these lemon pepper potatoes, since it’s basically the best of those two recipes put together, minus the chicken. The only problem is, whatever main course you decide to go with is in serious danger of being upstaged.

Speaking of chicken, if you happen to be roasting one, besides keeping the bones for stock, be sure to save the rendered fat as well, since that will elevate this dish to even greater heights. Also, feel free to add some garlic here, but if you do, I’d go with whole cloves, since minced garlic may burn onto the bottom of the dish towards the end of the roasting time.

These are incredible eaten hot and fresh, but if for some reason you don’t finish them all, they make the best homefries you’ll ever eat. Just cut them up, and fry in some olive oil until crispy. They’re so good, you’ll be tempted to make them just for that purpose, although that will take way more willpower than I possess. Regardless, I really do hope you give these Lemon Pepper Potatoes a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 8 Portions Lemon Pepper Potatoes:
4 large russet potatoes
salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne to taste
1/4 cup olive oil, or enough to cover bottom of baking dish
fresh oregano springs, optional
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons lemon zest
juice from 1 or 2 lemons
- Roast at 400 F. for 20 minutes, flip and cook another 15 min., then flip again, and continue roasting until very tender and crusty.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Apple Butter – Everything Apple Sauce Wishes It Could Be

Sure this apple butter recipe takes many hours to cook, but the recipe is quite easy (after you slice 5 pounds of apples), and once done, you have what is basically a spreadable apple pie filling, only better. Buttered toast sold separately. And, that’s just the beginning of what you can do with this miraculous mixture.

It’s perfect used as a garnish for cheese plates, especially alongside some nice sharp cheddar, or spread on some cheesy biscuits, which I believe we posted a recipe for last year. Other approved uses include spreading between the layers of a spice cake, filling seasonably appropriate thumbprint cookies, or even as a condiment for pork chops. Sorry, apple sauce.

This is quite a simple procedure using a slow cooker as seen herein, but if you don’t have one you can certainly do it on top of the stove over low heat, as long as you use a nice thick-bottomed pot, and stir often. Another option would be to place the mixture in a large roasting pan, and cook it in a slow oven, stirring occasionally until dark and thick.

No matter what method used to cook this, your house will smell amazing, as in they wish they could make scented candles that smell even close to this good. So, for those reasons and more I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 4 cups of Apple Butter:
5 pounds Granny Smith, cored, sliced
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
splash of water, about 1/2 cup

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Tuscan Fish Stew – Just Like I Barely Remember Having in Italy

I spent a few days in Florence about 30 years ago, and while I don’t remember much, I do recall a few things that surprised me, with this Tuscan Fish Stew being the most delicious. I’d had similar stews before that, but what I found so interesting was how herbs like oregano, sage, and rosemary, which I considered “meat only” seasonings were also used with seafood. The other surprises were the partial nudity on TV and in magazines, but that’s another blog post.

Anyway, it was quite the epiphany, since at the time, being fresh out of culinary school, I thought parsley, dill, and maybe tarragon were the only herbs we cooks were allowed to use for fish. Now that seems ridiculous, but at the time it was pretty heady stuff. Speaking of which, you do need to be careful, since these more resinous herbs can easily overpower a delicate dish.

As I said in the video, any tomato product will work in this, but I really like cherry tomatoes here, since they provide a fragrant freshness you just won’t get with a can or jar. You do need to strain them after blending, but the few extra minutes of work will be well worth the effort.

By the way, I hear that for this to qualify as an official Italian fish stew you need use at least five different types of seafood, which is both insane and adorable, but I thought I’d mention it just in case any old-school Tuscans are coming over. Regardless, I really do hope you give this easy and delicious fish stew a try soon. Enjoy! 


Ingredients for 2 large portions:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 sliced green onions
4 cloves sliced garlic
1 anchovy fillet
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 cups cherry tomatoes, blended with 1 cup of clam juice, or chicken broth
12 ounces halibut or other white fish
1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp or other seafood
salt to taste
2 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian herbs (basil, parsley, oregano, and pinch of rosemary)
crusty bread for soaking up the broth

Saturday, September 1, 2018

My Big Fat Greek Salad and Its Big Fat Unoriginal Name

I had a feeling I wasn’t the first person to think of this cinematic play on words, but like I said in the video, so many other people called this a big fat Greek salad, I figured I wouldn’t get in too much trouble. If I had to guess, it was probably the caterer on the set of the movie who first coined the name, or at least I hope so.

This is such a simple salad that there’s no need for me to share a bunch of tips and tricks, although I will reiterate the most important instruction of all.  Be sure to toss the salad with the vinegar first, before adding the olive oil. If you don’t, it will not taste as good. Which reminds me, giving the amounts here is very difficult, since this really should be made to your tastes, so please use the ingredient list below as a very rough outline.

If you need to make this the day before, I suggest making the dressing separate, and then mixing everything before the event.  I think this should only be dressed about 30 to 60 minutes before service for maximum enjoyment, but that’s just my approach, and some folks prefer an overnight marination. Regardless of how long you let your ingredients “marry,” you’re going to be enjoying one amazing salad, which is why I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 1 Big Fat Greek Salad:
2 large English cucumbers
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup sliced olives
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano, or 1/2 teaspoon of dried
salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne to taste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar, or to taste
1/3 cup olive oil, or to taste
4 to 6 ounces feta cheese