Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tiramisu - An Italian Classic!


***The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home, and Baking Obsession.

Well, I am one day late in posting my Daring Bakers results this month.  I know, I know...Shame on me! However, you know what they say...Better late than never!  Because of time restraints this month, I had decided that I might have to skip the Tiramisu recipe.  But, I've always loved this classic Italian dessert, so I decided to make it at the last minute. 

I have to say that this recipe is wonderful!  I found myself licking the zabaglione/pastry cream mixture right out of the bowl!  I used coffee instead of the marsala, because Brad and I are such big coffee lovers. 

I know what you're thinking...WOW...This recipe seems really daunting!  However, you can easily simplify this dish by purchasing mascarpone cheese and lady fingers at the grocery store.  This would certainly cut the total time down drastically.

If you're in the mood for a scrumptious, classic Tiramisu, stop right here...This one is a winner!!***


 RECIPE SOURCE:

Mascarpone Cheese – Vera’s Recipe (Baking Obsession) for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese.
Savoiardi/ Ladyfinger Biscuits – Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home
Tiramisu – Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007

PREPARATION TIME:
Tiramisu is made up of several components which can be made separately and ahead of time and put together the day before serving.

Making tiramisu from scratch requires about 2 to 3 days (including refrigeration) from when you start making the mascarpone to the time the tiramisu is served. So this challenge requires some prior planning.

Please read the instructions as you need to begin making the mascarpone at least a day in advance.

The zabaglione & pastry cream also need 4 hours to an overnight for chilling, as does the main dessert. The flavours mature after an overnight rest, and the dessert can be kept refrigerated for 2-3 days.

Once assembled, the tiramisu can be frozen till you need to serve it, in case you are not serving it immediately.

TIRAMISU
(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings
Ingredients:
For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk
For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

Method:
For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.

In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.

Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.

Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.

Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.

Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.

Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.

Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.

Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.

Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.

To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

MASCARPONE CHEESE
(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

Ingredients:
474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Method:
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.

It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.

Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

LADYFINGERS/ SAVOIARDI BISCUITS
(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

Ingredients:
3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,

Method:
Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.

Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.

Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.

Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.

Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.

Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.

Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes + Banana! - Pioneer Woman


***Ahh...pancakes...one of those quintessential, scrumptiously delicious breakfast foods....But wait a gosh-darn-minute....Who says you can't have pancakes for dinner, anyway?  That's exactly what I made tonight...Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes, to be precise.  I took these over-the-top pancakes one step further by adding some mashed bananas.  WOW...that's all I can say!

It was one of those moments where I didn't have the exact ingredients that I needed.  But hey, sometimes those moments are just what you need for an awesome result!  The recipe calls for 1 full cup of sour cream, and I only had 1/2 cup.  Oh, what ever should I do??  I glanced around the kitchen, and my eyes fell upon the perfect solution...a few perfectly ripe bananas.  I peeled one of those suckers, put him in a bowl, and mashed him all to bits.  After adding the one banana to my 1/2 cup of sour cream, I had just the right amount.  Voila!

These pancakes tasted a lot like banana nut bread.  In fact, a drizzling of chopped pecans over the top would have made these pancakes even better.

While making these pancakes, I couldn't help but sing Jack Johnson's "Banana Pancakes" song to myself...

...Maybe we could sleep in
I'll make you banana pancakes
Pretend like it's the weekend now...

This recipe is certainly going in my regular repertoire...I KNOW you'll love these!!***

Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Ree says this makes 12 4-inch pancakes; I got 6 that were closer to 5 inches

Ingredients:
7 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/ 2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream (I used 1/2 cup sour cream + 1/2 cup mashed banana)
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter
Maple syrup

Directions:
Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-low heat; you want it to slowly get nice and hot.

Stir the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together in the bottom of a medium bowl. Dump the sour cream in on top and stir it together very gently; it’s okay to leave the texture a bit uneven. Whisk the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl and stir them into the sour cream mixture, once again, being careful not to overmix.

Melt about a tablespoon of butter in your skillet or griddle and pour the batter in, a scant 1/4 cup at a time. Cook for about 2 minutes on the first side, or until bubbles appear all over the surface [See Pancakes 101 for this and other tips], flipping them carefully and cooking for about a minute on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve in a stack, topped with a pat of butter and a cascade of maple syrup.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Homemade Krispy Kreme Doughnuts!


***If you've ever had the good fortune to eat a warm Krispy Kreme doughnut right off of the conveyor belt, you know that they are purely heaven-sent.  However, there isn't always a Krispy Kreme right down the street or at your disposal, so this recipe will help satisfy your doughnut craving! 

A co-worker of mine shared this recipe with me last week, and I couldn't wait to try it!  These doughnuts are very easy to make...The hardest part is simply waiting for the dough to rise.  After frying the first few doughnuts, you may want to cut into them just to make sure they're cooked all the way through.  I don't have a candy thermometer, so I had to guess at the right temperature.  The first few were a tiny bit under-cooked in the middle, so they had to go back into the hot tub!

I only made half of this recipe, because I certainly didn't need the full 48 doughnuts hanging out in the kitchen!  While these do taste A LOT like the real thing, no homemade doughnut can replace the original!  Without a doubt, you'll LOVE these!

Bon Appetit!***


Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
Recipe Adapted From:  http://www.recipezaar.com/Krispy-Kreme-Doughnuts-63746

Ingredients:

Doughnuts:
2 cups scalded milk
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons yeast
4 eggs (beaten)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
7 cups sifted flour

Glaze:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cold water

Directions:
Mix together ingredients for glaze.  Set aside.

Melt butter in hot milk, add 1 tsp sugar and salt. Allow to cool.  Pour milk mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.

Beat in yeast, nutmeg, eggs, remaining sugar, and 3 cups flour.

Add rest of flour (dough will be sticky).

With the dough hook attachment, knead for 5 minutes.  Cover bowl with a kitchen towel, and set it in a warm, dry room.  Allow to rise for 1-1 1/2 hours.

Roll out dough to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness, cut into shapes.

Do not re-roll dough, then allow to rise for 30-45 minutes.

Heat oil to 365° and fry 1 - 2 minutes on each side or until brown. Toss in the doughnut holes first, let those cook, and then proceed to cooking the doughnuts.

Let them cool on a paper towel.  This will help get the glaze to stick.

Dip in warm glaze.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Classic French Toast


***French toast is certainly one of those classic breakfast dishes that is always tasty. Believe it or not, I've never, ever made French toast until just recently. I'm not sure why...It's something I've been wanting to make for a while now, so I started off with an easy recipe from The Taste of Home Cookbook last weekend.

This recipe is so incredibly easy to make. Just mix together all of the ingredients in a bowl, dip in the French bread, and throw it onto a buttered skillet...Voila!

I made a classic mistake though...A few slices of my bread soaked for too long and got a little soggy. Trust me, you don't want soggy French toast! So, just use caution when dipping the bread into the egg mixture.

Also, make sure your skillet is nice and buttered. If not, the toast will stick and you'll end up with an egg-y mess!

Powdered sugar, warm maple syrup, and your choice of fresh fruit all make wonderful toppings for this dish. Paula Deen even has a recipe for French Toast stuffed with bananas and walnuts...so, feel free to go crazy with your favorites! I'm definitely going to be giving Paula's recipe a try soon too!

This recipe is just scrumptious! Bon Appetit!***


French Toast
Recipe adapted from The Taste of Home Cookbook; New Revised Edition

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 slices day-old French bread (1 inch thick)

Directions:
In a bowl, beat eggs. Beat in the milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Soak the slices of bread for a few seconds on each side (don't let the bread get soggy!).

Cook on a hot greased griddle until golden brown on both sides and cooked through.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and drizzle with warm maple syrup. Fresh fruit also makes a great addition!

Enjoy!!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chocolate & Frangelico Souffle...Perfect for Valentine's Day!



***HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!! I hope you've enjoyed the Valentine's Day themed heading at the top of the blog. It's a fun little thing that I'm going to start doing for all the holidays. My wonderful hubby is going to design them...it should be fun!

Have you had a wonderful Valentine's Day today? I sure hope so!

It's not often that I re-post recipes here at Sugar & Spice, but some are worthy of a re-visit. I made this amazing souffle 2 years ago on Valentine's Day. It was the first time I'd ventured into souffle-making, and the results were wonderful! There are several steps to this dish, but they are all very EASY!

The perfectly light & airy souffle is sent over the top once you get to the bottom of your ramekin...There, an ooey gooey chocolatey surprise awaits...It's seriously heaven on a plate! I love to bake these in heart-shaped ramekins...so cute and perfect!

Why not make this scrumtiously wonderful dish tonight for Valentine's Day?...Your sweetie will thank you!!!

Bon appetit!***



Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar, plus 1/4 cup
1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur (recommended: Frangelico)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 ounces milk chocolate, chopped, plus 6 ounces chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
Pinch salt
4 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degree F. Butter and sugar 6 (6-ounce) ramekins.

Heat the butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, hazelnut liqueur, and vanilla in a double boiler over medium heat until the butter melts. Remove the butter mixture from the heat, add the chocolate, and let sit until it melts, about 3 minutes. Place the chocolate mixture in a pie dish and place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. Use a spoon to form the chilled mixture into 6 evenly-sized balls about the size of a walnut. Reserve in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, place the flour in a double boiler and slowly whisk in the milk. Add the salt. Heat the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly until thick, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks and continue to whisk constantly. The mixture will thicken to the consistency of mayonnaise in another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat. Stir in the 6 ounces of chocolate and set aside to let the chocolate melt.

Place the egg whites in a large bowl with the cream of tartar. Using a hand mixer, whip the egg whites until soft peaks. Gradually add in the 1/4 cup sugar and continue whipping until firm peaks. Fold the egg whites into the warm chocolate mixture.

Place a ball of the chilled chocolate mixture in each of the ramekins. Spoon the souffle mixture over the chocolate balls and up to the rim of the ramekins. (At this point the souffle can be covered and kept refrigerated for 2 days.)

Place the ramekins in a hot water bath and bake until golden on top and the souffle has risen, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if refrigerated). Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis - http://www.foodnetwork.com/

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Grilled Asparagus with Prosciutto, Torn Croutons, Poached Egg, and Aged Balsamic Vinegar - Ad Hoc at Home



***Well, my obsession with the new Ad Hoc at Home cookbook continues with Thomas Keller's recipe for Grilled Asparagus. This dish is so delightfully fresh and just....different! The flavors of all the elements marry together so beautifully....fresh asparagus, poached eggs, croutons, and best of all...prosciutto...Yummy.

This was my first venture into poaching eggs. After watching Julie Powell's character struggle with poaching eggs in the movie Julie & Julia, I was a little nervous. Chef Keller includes thorough directions for this process, which helped tremendously. His trick of swirling the water in the pan twice worked really well. I will mention that I do not like eggs that are too runny, so I cooked mine for a bit longer than he suggests.

Brad especially liked this dish. I imagine it will taste even better in the spring, when asparagus is in season...and when we can actually grill the asparagus. I baked the asparagus in the oven, after drizzling with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. It worked just fine!

I highly recommend this dish from Ad Hoc...It truly is delicious!

Bon Appetit!***

Grilled Asparagus with Prosciutto, Fried Bread, Poached Egg, and Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Source: Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller; Page 156-157

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
6 large eggs
2 bunches pencil-thin asparagus
Canola Oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
2 cups Torn Croutons (recipe below)
Extra virgin olive oil
Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Fleur de sel

Directions:
To poach the eggs, bring 6 to 8 inches of water to a boil in a large deep saucepan. Prepare an ice bath. Add the vinegar to the boiling water and reduce the heat to a simmer. Crack 1 egg into a small cup or ramekin. Using a wooden spoon, stir the water at the edges of the pan twice in a circular motion to get the water moving, then add the egg to the center of the pan and simmer gently for 1-1/2 minutes, or until the white is set but the yolk is still runny (I cooked mine longer, because I'm not a fan of runny eggs). With a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the egg to the ice bath. Skim and discard any foam that has risen to the top of the water, and cook the remaining eggs one at a time. (The eggs can be poached several hours ahead and stored in ice water in the refrigerator.)

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for cooking over medium heat, or heat a grill pan over medium high heat when you are ready to cook the asparagus. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Hold an asparagus spear and bend it to break off the less tender bottom end. Trim all of the asparagus to the same length. If using medium or large asparagus, peel the stalks with a vegetable peeler. Spread the asparagus out on the parchment-lined pan, generously coat with canola oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the asparagus on the grill, or cook in batches in the grill pan. Cook for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side, flipping with a palette knife or narrow spatula, until tender. Arrange the asparagus on a platter.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a simmer. With a small pair of scissors, trim any uneven edges from the poached eggs. Lower the eggs into the simmering water for about 30 seconds, just to reheat. Remove the eggs with a skimmer or slotted spoon and blot the bottoms with paper towels. Season the eggs with salt and pepper and arrange around the asparagus.

Arrange the prosciutto and croutons on the platter. Drizzle the salad with olive oil and balsamic, and sprinkle with fleur de sel and pepper.

Torn Croutons
Source: Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller; Page 274

Ingredients:
1 loaf country bread
Garlic Oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Directions:
Cut the crusts off the loaf of bread. Tear the bread into irregular pieces no larger than 2 inches. You need about 3 cups of croutons; reserve any remaining bread for another use.

Pour 1/8 inch of the garlic oil into a large saute pan and heat over medium heat until hot. Spread the bread in a single layer in the pan (if your pan is not large enough, these can be cooked in two smaller pans). Add the butter. The oil and butter should be bubbling, but if you hear sizzling, the heat is too high. Adjust the heat as necessary, and stir the croutons often as they cook. Cook until the croutons are crisp and a beatuiful rich golden brown on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Move the croutons to one side of the pan and keep warm until ready to serve. (Do not drain on paper towels; you want the flavors of the oil intermingled with the other ingredients as you eat the croutons in a salad.) Torn croutons should be used the day they are made; you can reheat them in a low oven before serving if necessary.

NOTE: If you don't have any garlic oil on hand, pour 1/8 inch of canola oil into a saute pan, add 5 crushed, peeled garlic cloves, and heat over low heat until the garlic cloves are golden brown, flipping the cloves from time to time. Remove the garlic cloves and use the oil for the croutons.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pioneer Woman's Macaroni & Cheese

***I'm speechless...utterly speechless by the cheesy goodness that overwhelms you while indulging in this wonderfully scrumptious dish. I promise I'm not over-exagerating...LOL...This Mac & Cheese is sinfully yummy. I found it while perusing Pioneer Woman's new cookbook: The Pioneer Woman Cooks. By the way - You totally need this cookbook!!

Once you make this, you'll never, ever go back to the orange stuff in the box. There's just no comparison. I used a combination of Gruyere, Swiss, and Cheddar cheeses. That's just what I had on-hand, and the flavors worked great together....especially the Gruyere cheese, which has GOT to be one of my favorites! As you may have noticed, I also used shell shaped pasta...not the traditional elbow pasta. Again, it was just a matter of what I had in the pantry.

This recipe made a GIANT pot of mac & cheese....It was SO good, that Brad and I had it 3 nights in a row....Haha. Fortunately, it reheats wonderfully. I made the bechamel sauce in my Le Creuset dutch oven, added all the other ingredients, and then baked it all in the same pot...easy peasy! So, you don't necessarily have to end up with a sink full of dishes at the end of the night.

Make this tonight...You'll be in L.O.V.E.!!!

Bon Appetit!***


Macaroni & Cheese
Source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks; thepioneerwoman.com

Ingredients:
4 cups dried macaroni
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2-1/2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons (heaping) dry mustard
1 whole egg, beaten
1 pound cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Optional Spices: Cayenne Pepper, Paprika, Thyme

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook macaroni until very firm. Macaroni should be too firm to eat right out of the pot. Drain.

In a small bowl, beat egg.

In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over medium-low heat. Cook mixture for 5 minutes, whisking constantly. Don't let it burn.

Pour in milk, add mustard, and whisk until smooth. Cook for 5 minutes, until very thick. Reduce heat to low.

Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into the beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the egg. Whisk together until smooth.

Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth.

Add in cheese and stir to melt.

Add both salts and pepper. Taste sauce and add more salt as needed. DO NOT UNDERSALT!

Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.

Pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until bubbly and golden on top.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Frank Stitt's Baked Feta with Focaccia

***It's hard to beat a super simple but delicious appetizer...Frank Stitt has created just that with his "Baked Feta with Focaccia."

Step One: Pour marinara sauce into a gratin dish.
Step Two: Sprinkle feta cheese over the sauce.
Step Three: Bake until bubbly!

Meanwhile, the focaccia is brushed with olive oil and toasted until golden brown. That's it!

Now, Chef Stitt does include his own recipes for both the marinara sauce and focaccia. However, it was one of those nights where I wanted to simplify! I used a good quality store-bought marinara sauce and substituted a fresh baguette for the focaccia.

This turned out marvelously and will definitely be a regular occurence in our household.

Bon Appetit!***

Baked Feta with Focaccia
Source: Frank Stitt's Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef's Love Affair with Italian Food

Ingredients:
2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup crumbled feta
Four 4-by-2-inch rectangles focaccia
1 tbsp. olive oil
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
A few basil leaves

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Spoon the marinara into a medium gratin dish (approximately 8 inches long) or divide it among four individual gratin dishes or ramekins. Scatter the cheese over the center.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling hot, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the focaccia into strips or triangles (large bite-sized pieces) and brush with the olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes.

Sprinkle the sauce with a little cayenne, if desired, and put the gratin dish on a large platter and surround with the focaccia, or put the individual dishes on serving plates and serve the focaccia on the side. Tear the basil leaves over the top. Dig in, or lose out.