Thursday, October 31, 2013

FFWD Hurry Up and Wait Roast Chicken

Every time I make roast chicken I wonder why I don't make it more often.  It's quick, easy, and we love it.  There are also so many variations that it never gets old.  This week I was planning on roasting the chicken with potatoes, carrots, and onions, but the day got out of hand.  When we were in Portland we went on several 2-3 hour car trips and Charlotte was absolutely perfect, so we thought the 2.5 hour drive to spend the weekend at the beach would be no problem.  We thought wrong!  I know that all of the experienced parents in the group could have told me this, but simply because something works one week with a baby doesn't mean it'll work the next week.  We ended up stopping 3 or 4 times on the way home, and the whole thing turned into a 5 hour trip.  By the time we got home it was too late to go get the potatoes, so we were left with the onions I already had in the pantry, the carrots Paul had in the garden, and some swiss chard that Paul also had in the garden.  I was going to just roast the carrots and onions with the chicken and cook the chard separately as a side dish, but at the last second my laziness won out and I cleaned and chopped the chard and added it to the pot along with rosemary and the other vegetables.  It worked beautifully!  Paul said it was the best chard he had ever had and he was actually glad we didn't have potatoes.  I guess the moral of the story is that chicken fat can make anything taste good.

I'm still no expert, but I've been practicing carving chickens and thought this one finally looked good enough to present.  This is definitely a recipe I'll pull out again.  The method was easy and produced incredibly moist chicken with perfectly browned skin, and I could imagine making it with any number of vegetables.

Friday, October 25, 2013

FFWD Not-Muenster Cheese Souffle

As much as I love going away on vacation, I almost always love coming home too.  (Italy is an exception.  I've been twice and didn't feel ready to leave either time.)  Especially after our first vacation with a four month old, I was very ready to come home to my own bed.  Despite having a million things to do, I was also very ready to get back into the kitchen.  (Unpacking can wait, right?)  This was a perfect first meal back.  It was delicious and fancy, but didn't take too much time to put together.  I know I should have been brave and tried the muenster (and maybe I will one day), but I'm not very adventurous with cheeses, have never liked muenster, and didn't feel like making a special trip to the store, so I used some Asiago that I had in the fridge.  It was excellent.  I love Dorie's instruction to cut the cheese into small cubes.  I usually grate it, but I think grated cheese can sometimes get lost in the dish.  The cubes created pools of gooey cheese; my favorite.  My only problem with this recipe is that the souffle didn't rise above the dish.  I didn't have the right size individual ramekins, and I think the dish I picked was just too large to get a proper rise.  Oh well.  It still tasted great!

Friday, October 18, 2013

FFWD Caramel-Almond Custard Tart

When this posts we'll be finishing up a whirlwind 4 cities in 8 days trip to visit Paul's family in Oregon.  This will be Charlotte's first plane trip, and her first trip to meet most of Paul's family.  I'm excited, but more than a little bit scared about all of the time spent on planes and cars.  So fingers crossed for us!  Since I don't eat beef I skipped the Boeuf a la mode and made this dessert before we left on vacation, as part of my birthday dinner....I just re-read my post from my birthday last year, and I'm happy to say that things are definitely feeling a million times better.  Pregnancy and having a newborn wasn't always easy, but Charlotte has brought so much happiness that I can easily say that 31 was the best year of my life.  However, my birthday celebration this year was not as exciting as it has been in year's past!  My grandma was in town and we all loved seeing her, but Charlotte is still unpredictable in the evenings (and is starting to go to sleep on the early side) so we all went out to brunch and stayed home for dinner.  Paul made an Italian feast--homemade bread, Caesar salad with homemade croutons, eggplant parmigiana, acorn squash puree, and spinach with garlic--and I was in charge of dessert.  I wanted to make something more exciting, but since my time is limited and I needed to make the tart before we left for vacation I went with the tart.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It was relatively quick to put together and I enjoyed the caramel nut flavor.  It was like a sophisticated, less-gooey pecan pie.  This is definitely one I'd make again if I needed a relatively quick dessert for company. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

TWD Danish Braid

In my office we have a tradition that each person brings in a dessert to share on their own birthday.  You're then supposed to send out a group email announcing your birthday and inviting everyone to come eat the dessert at a set time.  I love making and sharing dessert, but hate announcing my birthday to everyone.  (This makes no sense because I work in a very small, 12 person, office and am friendly with everybody, but I'm a very shy person and it always feels like way too much attention.)  My first year I decided to circumvent the problem by making a banana bread to share.  I just put it out in the morning, skipped the email, and mentioned to people who noticed that it was my birthday.  The banana bread I made was Molly Wizenberg's.  This was probably my most successful year.  I love that bread.  I still make it often.  The next year I made a banana cake with chocolate frosting, and sent the dreaded email inviting everyone to come eat it at 3pm.  Banana cake with chocolate frosting is probably my favorite dessert and people seemed to like it, although not as much as the bread.  The third year I made apple pie.  It was okay, but not my most successful year.

So, as my birthday got closer I was trying to figure out what to make, going back and forth between the options, when I realized I needed to make the Danish Braid the weekend of my birthday (because of our upcoming trip to Portland).  I decided this was a perfect option to bring to the office.  It was way too much for Paul and I to eat ourselves, and because it's a breakfast item I could avoid the mass email.  Since the recipe served 6-8 I doubled it, which allowed me to make 4 of the 5 fillings.  I did an apricot and almond braid and a strawberries and cream braid.  This was a nice weekend project.  On Friday I mixed the dough.  On Saturday I did all of the rolling and folding.  (I remarked to Paul that after making croissants this felt surprisingly easy.)  On Sunday I made the fillings.  They all worked well except for the berry filling.  I followed the instructions exactly, using a 1-quart measuring cup in my microwave, and when I went down to check after 10 minutes the filling had completely boiled over and made a mess of the microwave.  Luckily, Paul managed to clean up the microwave and I still had about a cup of filling left, which ended up being enough.  On Monday morning I woke up early before work to assemble the braids, and give them time to rise and bake.  I was shocked by how big they were!  My office of 12 managed to eat them all, but I still couldn't believe the recipe said it only served 6-8.  It was a lot of pastry.  I think everyone enjoyed these.  I would dial down the sugar on the fillings next time, but hot out of the oven these were pretty incredible - and gorgeous.

Friday, October 4, 2013

FFWD Salad Nicoise

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of canned tuna.  This is probably why I've always liked Salad Nicoise.  (Except for the one time when I was at a work lunch and too nervous to pay close attention to what I was eating and accidentally took a bite with nothing but anchovy.  Wow!  Those little fishes are so strong.  It was all I could do not to spit it out in front of my co-workers and our clients.   I think that was the last time I ate anything with whole anchovies, although I'll occasionally use them cut or smashed into small pieces to flavor things.)  The Salad Nicoise recipe I make is from a Canal House cookbook.  It's very similar to this one and I've always liked the title, "A Nice Nicoise for Next to Nil."  If I remember right, that one does not have eggs, an addition that I definitely enjoyed.  They may become a new permanent addition in our house.  I made this with fresh potatoes, green beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and eggs from our CSA and it was delicious.  A perfect end of summer dinner.  My only complaint is that we ended up eating at 9 again.  I spent the afternoon making X Cookies and watching the Redskins game while Charlotte napped, so the kitchen was a mess and Charlotte was awake and ready to play right about when I wanted to start cooking dinner.  Plus, salads always take longer than I expect them to.  I always think they'll be quick because there's no real cooking involved, but there's so much prep work.  Oh well.  It was a delicious, beautiful, and healthy dinner that I know I'll be making again.