Saturday, October 17, 2015

Crispy Peach Crisp

After making a recipe for peach cobbler that turned out just awful -- soggy topping, overcooked, jammy filling -- and learning that my nephew had experienced the same problem, I set out on a quest to make a crispy peach crisp, and to make it with frozen peach slices, since those are available year round. What I've come up with is the recipe below. There seem to be a few key elements to making it crisp.
1) Macerate the peaches first by putting some sugar on them and letting that draw out some of the juice. You add some, but not all, of the juice back in later.
2) Bake the topping separately. In fact, you can bake a batch of topping and store it for a couple of days, probably longer. Which leads to
3) Put the topping on after you cook the peaches, and only on the portions you are using, so it doesn't sit around getting soggy.
I also wanted to make this less sweet than is often the case. If you like really sweet desserts, add more sugar to the filling. But try it this way first -- it tastes more like real peaches and less like peach preserves!
Cooking time is based on using 4-inch ramekins. It might actually be less if you spread the peaches in a thinner layer in a bigger pan, so if you do that, keep an eye on them.

For two 4-inch ramekins, which is two generous servings, I used a 1-pound package of frozen peaches.
The night before (if not using frozen peaches, you could macerate them an hour or so before):
Put the frozen peaches in a bowl with 1 or 2 Tablespoons of sugar, cover and store overnight in the fridge, to thaw and macerate.

Topping (this can also be made ahead):
If you have a silicone baking sheet liner or parchment paper, use that with a sheet pan or cookie sheet; if you don't have one, butter the baking pan.
1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup, packed, dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 Tablespoons butter, cut in pieces
Mix the dry ingredients together and then use your clean fingers to squish in the butter. You actually want there to be some bigger lumps, like the size of a blueberry, and smaller grains.
Spread in one layer on the prepared pan. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, stirring about halfway through. Let cool. Break up any large pieces. If not using immediately, store in airtight container.

Peach filling:
Pour the peach juice that has accumulated into another container.
To 1/4 cup of that juice, add 2 T sugar, 3 tsp. lemon juice (fresh), 1/4 tsp ginger (fresh), 1/8 tsp cinnamon, 1 T cornstarch and mix well. (If you like your desserts sweeter, add more sugar.)
Gently stir this concoction into the peaches. Divide between two ramekins.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. If not using the ramekins, watch for the filling to be hot and bubbly and getting thick. 
Remove from oven and and topping.
(You could be really decadent and add ice cream or whipped cream.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Spicy Cashew Chicken

(this is almost a General Tso's chicken with cashews added! so it would still be good if you don't have cashews on hand)
I adapted this from a recipe for "Slow-Cooker Cashew Chicken" that a friend shared on Facebook.  I make mine in a cast-iron Dutch oven, because you have to get a pan dirty anyway to brown the chicken before it goes into the crockpot, and in the Dutch oven it only takes an hour to finish, instead of 3 to 4 in the slow cooker on low. Your choice, but I'd rather eat sooner and only clean one pan.

Parts list:
  • 2 lbs. chicken: I prefer bone-in thighs for the flavor, but you can use boneless, skinless thighs or even boneless, skinless breasts to reduce the fat and not have to fish out bones when you are eating. If you buy breasts, you should probably cut them in half.
  • Cooking oil.
  • 3 T cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. black pepper, depending on your taste buds
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (original recipe called for half a cup, which was WAY too much)
  • 3 Tbs. ketchup
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons of sweet chili sauce. Do yourself a favor and buy the real stuff in the international aisle.
  • 4 Tbs. vinegar -- rice wine if you have it, but any kind will do
  • 2 to 4 Tbs. brown sugar. Start with 2, then add more if needed after you taste the sauce.
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. (or more) grated fresh ginger
  • 3 "bams" of cayenne pepper, less if you're timid
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup or so of cashews
Put the cornstarch and pepper in a gallon zip-top bag and shake to mix. Add chicken pieces and shake to coat. Set aside.

Put everything else except the cashews into a medium sized bowl and whisk to combine. Taste it to see if you need more sugar, which may depend on what kind of vinegar you used./

 Put enough oil in the dutch oven to cover the bottom about 1/8 inch deep. Add the coated chicken pices and brown on each side, about 3 minutes each but maybe more or less depending on your pan and your burner.

At this point you can dump everything (except the cashews) into a slow cooker and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours. If you don't mind soggy cashews, you could even add them.
Or you can add the onions and the sauce mixture to the Dutch oven, slap a lid on and pop it in the oven for an hour at 300 degrees, which is what I do.

That still gives you plenty of time to make rice, or whatever you want to serve it with. I like couscous or quinoa, or brown rice.

About 10 minutes before the hour is up, add the cup of cashews. If the sauce seems too thin, you can whisk up a tablespoon or two of cornstarch in a quarter cup of cold water and add it to thicken the sauce. Usually enough of the coating will have fallen off the chicken to take care of things.

This makes 4 to 6 servings, mostly depending on what kind of chicken you used and how many pieces there were to start with, plus how hungry everyone is. it is great leftover.

You could easily add more vegetables to this.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Asperges avec champignons et sauce veloute

(Asparagus with mushrooms and veloute sauce)

This is my salute to  spring in France. It's not the way they serve it in Alsace but close to how they serve it in Paris. 

Cremini mushrooms -- about a cup, sliced
Asparagus -- one bundle, touch stems snapped or cut off
Veal stock (I used the kind in the carton from Kitchen Essentials), room temperature, about 2 cups
Cream, about  a cup although you could use less or even skip, but that's your problem
salt and pepper
shallot, about 1 Tbsp, minced
white wine (optional, but who am I kidding?)
1 saucepan
1 saute pan or frying pan with lid
wire whisk

Saute the shallot and mushrooms in a tablespoon or two of butter over medium heat, adding salt and pepper.  Add a splash of white wine.
Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup flour and whisk vigorously for a minute or so. Add the flour and whisk some more until there are no lumps. Slowly add the veal stock, whisking constantly.  If sauce gets too thick, add more veal stock. Cook on low-medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes.
Lay the asparagus spears on top of the mushrooms and cover with lid. Cook only until just barely tender (al dente) and still bright green, unless you like your asparagus grey, limp and soggy, in which case I feel sorry for you.
Take the veloute sauce off the heat and whisk in the cream. Taste it and add salt and pepper as needed. Don't skimp on the pepper.
Put some asparagus and mushrooms on a plate and pour the sauce over it. You probably will want to grab some bread to get every last drop of sauce.


About Me

My photo
This is me enjoying a limoncello in Rome on the last night of our trip to Italy. Funny thing is, I don't really like limoncello that much, but thought it would be great in a dessert. And wouldn't you know, The Barefoot Contessa just did a great fruit salad with limoncello. So now I can't. Oh, well.