Monday, June 29, 2009

Make-Ahead Picnic

Monday: Barbecue Baked Beans; Grandma's Coleslaw; Cherry Brown Butter Bars

I've been on a mission to use up the, let's say, older items in my freezer. We had a 10+ hour power outage last weekend, for one thing (thankfully, we had almost nothing in the refrigerator just then), but I need to clear the space for some fresher items. And so that I can have more room for ice cream!

To that end, I made baked beans on Saturday, using my favorite lentil recipe (Barbecue Baked Lentils). I had a whole bunch of white northern beans I cooked in February, froze, and then basically forgot. So I used them instead of the lentils, and put in a bunch of bacon (8 slices or so) that needed to be used after the power outage. (It had been in the freezer, so it didn't get very warm - I just didn't want to re-freeze it after it had partially defrosted.) I baked the bacon in a 400F oven for about 20 minutes, then drained it, chopped it up, and added it when I mixed the sauce for the beans.

I also had a cabbage (an impulse purchase from the previous week's visit to the farmer's market), so I shredded it up for coleslaw. I used my grandmother's cabbage preparation method: layer the shredded cabbage with a small amount of salt in a colander; let sit in the sink for about an hour; squeeze out all the water. The key is using your hands to individually squeeze small amounts of cabbage. My grandma says this method is similar to partially cooking the cabbage - it gets out some of the "raw" taste and texture.

To the drained cabbage, add:
  • a shredded carrot
  • 1/4 C. vinegar diluted with about a Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 C. mayo
  • pepper to taste (and salt if the salt you added to drain the cabbage isn't enough for your palate)
Finally, because we have some tart cherries, too (ah, the bounty that is the PNW!), I made smitten kitchen's Cherry Brown Butter Bars.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday supper

Sunday: Cider-Braised Chicken with young shallots and carrots; baked potatoes; new peas

We don't always have a Sunday supper - some weeks, I'm surprised we have either the energy or the inclination to eat at all by Sunday night, and neither of us wants to cook - but when we do, I like to make things that require longer cooking times. It doesn't really matter right now, since I'm at home during the day most days, but when I was working full time, a slow meal on Sunday was definitely a luxury.

This week, we had some dark meat left over from the whole chicken we bought the previous Sunday. I have a braised chicken recipe I make pretty often (from Art of Simple Food), but I wanted something a bit more spring-y. Stay with me - I know braising isn't really a "spring" thing. But, here in Seattle, it's still cool enough that having the oven on for a while is no problem.

I adapted a recipe from Molly Stevens' All About Braising, found on (although I would love a copy of this cookbook, I still don't actually have one). It's a fall/winter recipe as written, but I made a few substitutions and lightened it up a bit, and it definitely fit the bill.

While the braising happened, I baked the potatoes, too (next time, with the oven set that low, I really should microwave them for a bit first - they didn't cook quite right). At the very end, as I reduced the gravy, I briefly plunged some shelled peas into a small pot of boiling water. I salted them, put in a generous pat of some frozen sage-garlic butter from last fall, and we were good to go.

Cider Braised Chicken with Fresh Shallots and Carrots
(Adapted from cooking local's adaptation of Molly Stevens’ All About Braising)
Serves 4


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds chicken legs and/or thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large bunch of fresh shallots
  • 2 1/2 cups hard cider (from Rockridge Orchards)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
  • 1 pound young carrots
  • 2-4 C chicken stock (enough to keep the chicken pieces half-submerged throughout cooking - you may need to add more part-way through the cooking time)
  • 2 Tbsp Wondra or other instant flour (optional)
  1. Peel the shallots; if any are particularly large, halve them. Peel the carrots and cut into smallish chunks. Chop the rosemary.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325F.
  3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown them on all sides in the same pan over medium-high heat. (Skin side first, for about 6-8 minutes and maybe 4 minutes on the reverse; you want a nice dark crust.)
  4. Transfer the browned chicken to a plate and set aside.
  5. Add the shallots and saute until lightly browned, stirring often to prevent burning. Add 2 cups of the hard cider and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
  6. Boil and reduce the cider to approximately 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes.
  7. Add the rosemary and the last 1/2 cup of cider and reduce again until there is about 3/4 cup of liquid left in the pan.
  8. Add the carrots and some salt and pepper. Nestle the chicken between the veggies, skin side up. Add chicken stock to come about 1/2 way up the side of the chicken.
  9. Bake for 45-60 minutes until the thickest chicken piece is done and the parsnips are fork tender. The chicken should almost be falling apart.
  10. Remove the chicken and transfer the pan back to the stove. Over medium-high heat, boil the sauce for another minute or two to thicken it slightly. (If you have some Wondra, wisk a little bit of cold chicken stock with about 2 Tbsp Wondra, and add that to the gravy, too.)
  11. Plate the chicken and arrange the carrot-and-shallot gravy over it.

Late Spring Menu (week of June 28)

(Our farmer's market is on Sundays, so that's when the menu starts. I usually have a basic outline when I go to the market, but fill in the details depending on what's there... and sometimes a completely new plan emerges.)

Sunday: Cider-Braised Chicken with young shallots and carrots; baked potatoes; new peas
Monday: Barbecue Baked Beans; Grandma's Coleslaw; Cherry Brown Butter Bars
Tuesday: cook's holiday (which is to say, neither of us are home for dinner on Tuesdays)
Wednesday: Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce; strawberries with cream
Thursday: Spring Minestrone and bread
Friday: Peachy Pork Chops; baked potatoes; green herb salad
Saturday: Fourth of July Potluck

Friday, June 26, 2009


I'm not much of a baker. I'm trying, and I'm definitely improving, but I find it much more difficult than I do cooking, probably because baking rewards precision. I have one or two things I can consistently bake well, though, and one of them - bread - has become a staple of our diet.

The folks who wrote Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day are pretty much my heroes. I make the basic recipe from the book (also featured in this New York Times story) almost weekly. I can't bring myself to eat that much white flour, so our "house loaf" usually is about 1/2 white whole wheat flour. I mostly just make a boule, but I sometimes use the dough to make dinner rolls and even cinnamon buns. It really is just that easy - there's usually a bowl with some dough in it aging in our fridge, and from that point, there's just a short rest (40 min or so) and the cooking time (30 min) to an easy accompaniment to our meal.

And I have to admit - pretty often, the bread is the meal. For breakfast, there's little more lovely than a fresh loaf of bread, some jam and butter, and a hot cup of coffee. And for dinner, I'll sometimes throw a clove of garlic or two (with some olive oil, wrapped in foil) in when I put the bread in - roasted garlic, a little chutney, maybe some cheese: these things together really can make the bread a meal, too.

Plus, it makes the house smell wonderful.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dumpling Soup

When we first discovered the vast selection of frozen dumplings and pot-stickers at our local Asian grocery, Victor and I felt just a teensy bit ripped off. Here we were paying upwards of $4 for a single order of the dumplings in a restaurant, when we could buy an entire bag for less than that. Of course, we'd have to cook them ourselves.

Fortunately, that's no great hardship, and over the years, they have been a staple for those nights when neither of us can muster the energy to cook something from scratch. Plus they're fast, so they don't need to heat the kitchen up too much (perfect for those Minnesota summers).

(Now that we live in Seattle, we mostly buy them at Uwajimaya, but in MN we were big fans of United Noodle.)

Usually, we briefly steam and then pan fry the dumplings (I use the microwave for steaming - just 1 minute at 100%! - but Victor prefers to steam them in the pan with a little water prior to frying). If we start a small batch of rice in the rice maker before getting the dumplings going, we can have dinner on the table in just the time it takes for the rice to cook (about 15 minutes). If we're feeling particularly impatient, we just make more dumplings and forgo the rice. To health things up a bit, we sometimes add spinach or baby bok choi.

Even though it's late June, it's still somewhat cool here in Seattle, and I was craving soup today, so I went for a slightly more complex preparation:

Easy Peasy Dumpling Soup
serves 1
  • 2 C. stock (I used frozen chicken stock)
  • 8 dumplings or potstickers (these are my favorite kind)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 shallot
  • fish sauce
  • dumpling sauce (soy sauce would be fine, too, you'd just need to balance the flavors a bit more)
  • cilantro, stems separated from leaves
  • sugar (palm sugar would be most appropriate, if you happen to have some... I didn't have any today)
  • salt
  • pepper (fresh-ground)
Slice the garlic and shallot thinly. Combine the stock, garlic, shallot, and cilantro stems in a medium pot. Add a small amount of fish sauce and dumpling sauce. Simmer for five minutes. Add dumplings and simmer another two minutes. Add sugar (~ 1 tsp), salt, and pepper to taste. Add cilantro leaves. Slurp!

Some spinach or other leafy green would be good here, too. This recipe is easily expanded to feed more people - just taste towards the end to be sure it's neither too salty nor too sweet.