Saturday, April 30, 2011

Hearty Chicken-Vegetable Soup

A hearty Kissing the Cook welcome to new subscriber Amanda. Thanks for joining us!

Years ago, the very first recipe I put together myself was for a chicken-vegetable-noodle soup. I had the idea of combining a Jewish-style chicken soup, which has the essence of the vegetables cooked into it and is really meant to be served clear (or, of course, with matzo balls), with a more American-style soup, which has the vegetables in the bowl along with the liquid. My reasoning was that if I started with a liquid that stood up on its own as a soup, and then strengthened the flavors further, it had to be a good thing.

Simplistic as my reasoning was (and still is, actually), the plan worked and the soup was delicious. The problem was it was a cumbersome recipe that took far too long to make to be practical. (I confess, with a proper shame, that I also committed the beginner’s sin of cutting up the stock-making chicken for use in the finished soup.) I felt it was now possible for me to rethink that soup, make it more practical, and have it taste even better. I am pleased to offer it to you here today.

If you’ve never made chicken soup from scratch before, I hope this recipe will show you how easy it really is and get you started. Yes, the stock takes a while to cook, but it’s something you mostly leave alone while you’re preparing other recipe elements, checking e-mail, or whatever. Just look in on it once in a while in a very general way and you’ll be fine.

Another very important note about making stock: every published recipe I’ve seen, without exception, forgets to mention one important bit of information.

After the stock has cooled overnight to allow the fats to separate and become easier to skim off, you’re going to find that the stock has the consistency of gelatin. This is not a mistake. It means you’ve made your stock the right way, full of body, flavor and bone-building goodness from the natural collagen in the chicken bones. (Some cooks go so far as to add chicken feet while cooking the stock to add even more collagen!) It’s also where stock differs from broth, which is made by simmering meat without bones and which therefore contains little or no collagen and remains liquid even when cool.

One more stock note: even if you’re not making soup right away, you can also just make the stock and freeze it in batches to use later in any recipe that calls for it. You just don’t get this fresh taste out of a can.

We’ll make our stock, chicken and vegetables separately, then combine them at the end and heat everything through. This recipe makes four hearty portions.

To make the stock:
Put 2 pounds of chicken drumsticks or other inexpensive bone-in part in a large pot with 2 quarts of cold water over medium-high heat. When it’s boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and add 1 sliced carrot, 1 chopped stalk of celery, ½ tsp dried parsley, 1 small bay leaf, 1-1/2 tablespoons of salt, ¼ teaspoon of whole peppercorns, ¾ teaspoon of dried thyme, and two cloves of crushed garlic. (Since we’ll be straining the liquid later, you can even leave the papery skin on the garlic for more flavor.) Cover and let simmer for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. (Depending on the chicken parts you use, there may be some scum rising to the top. That’s ok, just use a spoon to skim it off now and then during the cooking.) When it’s done, use a colander to strain out the solids, add 2 teaspoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, and then chill the liquid in the refrigerator overnight. Skim the fat off the top once everything is cool.
While the stock is cooking, there’s plenty of time to prepare the chicken, vegetables and potatoes, and refrigerate them to add to the finished stock after it has cooked overnight. (It’s also possible to make them the next day after the stock has already cooled, but that adds a lot of time to the process, since you’d no longer be taking advantage of the time spent cooking the stock anyway.) To prepare the potatoes:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is preheating, dice two medium potatoes (leaving the skin on if you like), and toss in a bowl with salt, pepper, and just enough olive oil to coat. Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. (While the potatoes are baking, you can go on to the next step to prepare the onions.) Take the baking  sheet out of the oven, toss the potatoes on again on the sheet to prevent sticking and for even baking (drizzling with a bit more olive oil if necessary), and bake for another 20 minutes. Check for doneness and, when they’re ready, set them aside.
To prepare the onions while the potatoes are in the oven:
Dice a medium onion (about 1-1/2 cups) and sauté with a bit of olive oil in a sauté pan until they are nicely caramelized. (Don’t stop when they’re just translucent and cooked through; keep them in till they’re a nice golden tan as in the picture. The difference that makes in the flavor is amazing.) When they’re ready, set them aside, but keep the pan there: you’ll need it for the remaining vegetables. (And don’t forget to check the potatoes in the oven!)
To prepare the vegetables:
Slice 2 medium carrots and 2 medium stalks of celery into ½” pieces, and toss in a bowl with salt, pepper, and enough olive oil to coat. Using the same pan you used to cook the onions, sauté the carrots and celery until they’re cooked through, then combine with the onions and set aside, but keep the pan there: you’ll need it to brown the chicken for the final soup.
To prepare the chicken:
After the potatoes have finished baking, lower the oven temperature to 350. In the meantime, brown 1 pound of your favorite chicken part(s) in the saute pan. (You’ll need a pound of chicken meat, so if you’re using a part with bones, use a bit more than a pound.) You’ll only want to brown the chicken; don’t cook it through just yet.

Bake the browned chicken on a sprayed baking sheet till it’s cooked through, about 1 hour. When the chicken is done, put it, the potatoes, and the vegetable mixture into sealed containers and store overnight while the stock is cooling.
To serve (and enjoy!) the soup after it has cooled overnight and the fat has been skimmed off:
Tear your cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces. (You can cut the pieces instead, but torn chunks look rustically lovely and remind the person eating your soup that you took the trouble to make it from scratch and they’re supposed to appreciate that.) Add the chunks, along with the potatoes and the vegetable mixture, into the stock. (Remember, that gelatin-texture will become a rich liquid once it’s heated.) Heat it on the stove till everything is heated through (remember, all the elements are already cooked), and serve it as an appetizer or a meal with some good bread.
That’s plenty for now! If you’d like a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of this recipe, just let me know. (If I don’t already have your e-mail address, you'll want to include that.)

Enjoy the soup, and I hope I’ll get to see you here again next week. Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Baked Onion Rings with Bacon Beer Batter

One of my favorite things in the kitchen is to find oven-baked versions of foods that are traditionally fried. Once you get the hang of battering and breading something tasty, then spraying it with oil and baking till it’s crisp, it’s amazing how many reduced-guilt foods you can make. This recipe, for baked onion rings with a bacon-beer batter, is a good example.

As with most food that is breaded and baked, the recipe itself is easy; the steps for coating the food, while simple, need to be done with some care.

In general, breading food (the onion rings, in this case) starts with coating it lightly with flour, dipping it in batter, then pressing it into the breading, all done in a way that a) coats the food and b) doesn’t make a big mess on the counter, your hands, or anywhere else. If you’re doing a few larger food items (such as fish filets), applying the coating is easy, since there’s not much opportunity for your batter to mix with your breading and turn it into a pasty mess that sticks to your hands but not to the food. With onion rings, however, you’re coating a large number of small food items, so batter messing up your dry breadcrumbs can be a real problem. Through trial-and-error (mostly error), I’ve found it’s your hands, not the onion rings, that drop too much batter into the breading. There are a couple of ways to deal with this.

The first is to have the flour and the breading in sealable plastic bags. The other way is having them in bowls, and – here’s the key – using a spoon to move the battered rings into the breading and press them into the breadcrumbs. (For either approach, the batter is in a bowl.) Regardless of which method you use, I’ve found it’s still a good idea to reserve some of your breading mixture at first, and add it to the bag or bowl now and then during the process to help keep the breadcrumbs as close to dry as possible, which is the key to making this work.

This recipe yields 3 to 4 servings. (One onion may not sound like much, but if it’s really a large one you might be surprised at how many rings it makes. The rings on the platter in the photo all came from one large onion.)

Let’s make some tasty onion rings...
Peel the onion, slice it into ¼” thick slices, and separate slices into rings. Discard the smallest inner pieces or store for use in another recipe.

Cook 2 slices of turkey bacon in a pan or microwave oven. When the bacon is done, mince it and set the pieces aside.

Combine 1-1/2 cups each of Panko and plain bread crumbs. (You can also use just plain bread crumbs, but I like the mix of textures you get from combining them with the Panko.) Put half of the mixture in a 1 gallon zip-lock bag or a bowl. Set the other half of the mixture aside, and add it to the zip-lock bag or bowl as needed to keep the breadcrumbs dry while you’re breading the onion rings later. Place 1 cup of all-purpose flour in a bowl or 1-quart zip-lock bag.

Prepare the batter by combining 12 ounces of beer, 2 egg-substitute eggs or beaten regular eggs, and ½ cup of all-purpose flour. Whisk until a well-mixed batter forms. Whisk in additional flour as needed (up to another ½ cup) until the batter is thick enough to stick to the onions. Add the minced bacon to the batter and mix well.

Place the onion rings, a few at a time, in the flour bag or bowl to coat them lightly. Dip them one at a time into the batter, making sure some bacon is included in the batter that’s on the onion ring. Let the excess batter drain off until the onion ring is still coated but not dripping, then place in the ring in the breadcrumb bag or bowl and coat by shaking (if using a bag) or by pressing with a spoon (if using a bowl). If necessary to coat the ring, repeat the batter and breadcrumb steps. Place each coated ring on a baking sheet lined with parchment. (Depending on the size of your baking sheet, you may need two.)

Put the baking sheet(s) with the onion rings in your refrigerator to rest for about 30 minutes. While the rings are resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare the dipping sauce by mixing the following ingredients and refrigerating until ready to serve: 1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise; juice of ½ lemon; 2 teaspoons of brown mustard; ½ tablespoon fresh or prepared horseradish; and ½ teaspoon of paprika. (When serving, sprinkle a little additional paprika on the dip as a garnish.)

After the breaded onion rings have finished resting, spray them with cooking spray and bake for about 25 minutes until the coating is crisp. (Turn the baking sheets half-way and swap their positions for more even baking.) If you’re not sure if they’re done, grab a sample and give it a taste. (Even if you are sure they’re done, grab one for a taste anyway. You deserve it!) Season them with salt to taste and serve hot, with the dipping sauce on the side. And try to finish them the first day; leftovers can be reheated the next day, but when stored and reheated they lose a good bit of their delicious crunch.
So there it is: beer, bacon and onion rings. What’s not to enjoy?

If you prefer a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of this recipe, say the word and I’ll send it along.

See you next week with another easy, fun recipe. Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Southern-Style Ketchup-Free Barbecued Chicken Article

A warm Kissing the Cook greeting to new subscriber Catherine. Welcome!

Several weeks ago, I posted two very special recipes, one for Stuffed Porcupines and one for Pineapple Pudding Pie.  Both were based on recipes from the cooking notebook of my wife’s “Grandma Texas.” As I wrote at the time, this is no ordinary cooking notebook. It’s a decades-old tablet notebook from the Waco School System. (Lillian was from Meridian, a small town just outside of Waco.) The notebook’s lined pages reach across time with wonderful recipes written in pencil by a genuine Texas grandma I never got to meet. If you’re looking for Southern cooking, it’s hard to get more authentic – or more meaningful - than that.

And now we draw again from this cherished source. This week’s Texas treasure: Southern Style Ketchup-Free Barbecued Chicken.

As a Jersey guy who had never heard of ketchup-free barbecue sauce, I admit to being surprised at first. However, after some exhaustive research (ok, I Googled “barbecue sauce” and spent a few minutes reading what came up) I found that many real Southern barbecue sauces are made without ketchup. They’re a bit thinner than the bottled kind, while still managing to keep a great barbecue taste.

A serving note regarding the photo at right: before putting the browned chicken in the baking pan, I covered the bottom of the baking pan with a mixture of onions, carrots and celery, then placed the chicken on top of that and added the sauce as described in the recipe below. In this way the chicken absorbed a bit of the vegetable flavor, and the vegetables absorbed some of the chicken and barbecue sauce flavor. After plating the chicken (in this case, on home-made noodles), I served the onion, carrots and celery as the vegetable side.

This makes three or four servings, depending on the size of your chicken. (Boning a 4-1/2 pound chicken gave me about 2-1/2 pounds of chicken parts, which was about 4 servings.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat some olive oil and butter substitute in a pan. When it’s hot, brown about 2-1/2 pounds of chicken on both sides. (Just brown the chicken; don’t cook it completely, since it’s going to bake some more.) When the chicken is done, set it aside and use some balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan. Reserve the deglazing liquid, and add enough water to it to make ½ cup total.

Put the water-deglazing liquid mixture in a saucepan, and combine with the remaining sauce ingredients: 1/2 cup honey; 1 teaspoon salt; a pinch of red pepper; 1/2 teaspoon black pepper; ¾ teaspoon of dry mustard; 1/2 teaspoon chili powder; 2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar (plus additional for deglazing); 1/4 teaspoon of Tabasco; 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce; 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion; 1 teaspoon of minced garlic; and the juice of ½ lemon. Heat the mixture over medium heat until just boiling, then lower the heat and simmer for five minutes.

When the sauce has finished simmering, put the chicken in a baking dish and pour the sauce over it. Cover and let steam in the oven till the chicken is cooked through, about 1-1/4 hours. Serve it with a vegetable and some rice, potatoes or pasta, and you’re all set for a delicious dinner. (Tastes pretty good as leftovers for lunch the next day, too!)
I hope you enjoy this special dish. As always, if you’d like a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of this or any other Kissing the Cook recipe, just let me know in a comment, e-mail, pony express, etc.

See you next week! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Integrated Bean Soup

Welcome to new subscribers Kristin, Katie and Eva! (And a special thanks to Kristin for including last week's recipe, Low-Fat Strawberry Scones, on the favorites list in her "Delightfully Dowling" blog. I hope to be worthy!)

Normally, the recipes here on Kissing the Cook are tasty, reduced-fat dishes made with as many from-scratch elements as practical. This week’s offering, Integrated Bean Soup, is still tasty and low-fat, with one difference: it uses mostly packaged and canned (but still healthy) ingredients in a specific attempt to be fast to make. Think of it as channeling my inner Sandra Lee.

With so many types of good-tasting, nutrition-packed beans available, limiting a soup to only one is not only unnecessary, it seems downright discriminatory. This is a recipe of inclusion, bringing together black beans, white beans, pink beans and, just because we feel like it, yellow corn. (Note, too, that this isn’t a terribly scientific recipe; if there’s anything else you want to add, have at it!) Add a little bacon (because bacon makes almost everything better), and a bottle of your favorite beer (because beer makes better the few things bacon doesn’t), and a few other simple ingredients, and you’ve got a fast, easy, and delicious soup that’s as good as a topping for rice or noodles as it is served in a bowl with a good bread on the side. (It saves well too; when I make this, I freeze individual portions and bring it to work for lunch for a week.)

This recipe makes five meal-size servings.

Chop 5 – 10 slices of turkey bacon and put into a soup pot with a splash of olive oil. (If you’re using regular bacon instead of the turkey kind, you can omit the olive oil since the regular bacon is higher in fat to begin with.) Cook over medium heat until the bacon starts to give up its fat, about 4 minutes.

Stir in two chopped medium onions. When the onions are translucent, stir in six minced garlic cloves and cook for about another minute.

The preparation is done. Now comes the onslaught of ingredients:

Add all of the following: a 14.5 oz. can of vegetable broth; a 15.5 oz. can of black beans (drained); a 15.5 oz. can of small white beans(drained); a 15.5 oz. can of small pink or red beans (drained); a 15.5 oz. can of sweet corn (drained); 1-1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes (including juice); 2 tablespoons of barbeque sauce; 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce; 1 tablespoon chili powder, and a 12 oz. bottle or can of your favorite beer. (You can go with a high end beer if you like, but a lower-end beer gives this soup a nice rough-around-the-edges quality that I think works well.) Then, just so there’s something fresh in there, add 8 ounces of sliced, fresh mushrooms.

Increase the heat to high. When the soup just starts to boil, lower the heat to a simmer. After about ten minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste and add ½ a bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped. After about another 5 minutes, when the soup has the desired texture, turn off the heat and add about 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice.

I hope you enjoy this easy, delicious soup as much as I do, and in as many ways as you can think of. (As mentioned above, the fact that it’s a fairly thick soup also makes it a very versatile topping for rice (as in the photo at right), pasta, etc.) If you’d like a cookbook style, notebook ready copy of this recipe, just say the word and it shall be so.

See you next week! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Low-Fat Strawberry Scones

Have you ever fallen in love with an ingredient?

I like to have fresh fruit with fat free yogurt for breakfast. A few weeks ago, my supermarket didn’t have the yogurt I usually buy; in fact, the only fat-free yogurt they weren’t out of was Greek yogurt, which I’d heard much about but had never used. So I got that.

If you’ve had Greek yogurt, you undoubtedly remember its wonderfully rich texture and intense flavor, even when it’s the fat-free kind.  And if you haven’t had it, you’re missing something good. One taste and I knew this was more than something to mix with fruit for breakfast. It was a special ingredient, a valuable addition to the arsenal of anyone who pursues the challenging task of low fat baking.

And so we come to low fat strawberry scones: low fat because they’re made with egg substitute, butter substitute, and the fat-free Greek yogurt.

One of the keys to low-fat baking is an understanding that there’s more to using butter-substitutes than simply using them instead of butter. The nuances I’ve learned are discussed in more detail in an earlier post (Impossible Pie Crust), but for now we’ll emphasize keeping it not just cold, but very cold. Cold (as you would keep butter) means refrigerator; very cold (as least as I’m using it for butter substitute) means freezer.  For related reasons, it’s best to make and work with the dough at a brisk pace; the longer you wait, the warmer your ingredients will become.

And what if you can’t find Greek yogurt? A good substitute for that can be made from regular fat free yogurt. Just create a make-shift filter by putting one or two paper towels in a strainer (coffee filters work too), pour your regular yogurt in and let it drain overnight, covered by plastic wrap. The amount of yogurt will reduce by as much as half once it is drained, and you’ll be left with something a good bit thicker and more intensely flavored that the yogurt you started with.

Another item in this recipe that benefits from explanation are the strawberries I use: they’re the frozen kind. It’s a lesson I learned years ago when making a muffin recipe I’d gotten out of a magazine and was appalled that it called for frozen strawberries. Frozen? Not in MY muffins. So fresh strawberries it was. And the muffins were awful, the cake tasting nothing like strawberries. Humbled by the experience, I went back and took out the improvements, making the muffins again but this time with the frozen strawberries called for in the recipe. I learned that frozen are not inferior to fresh, they just “bleed” in a different way that makes them useful for baked items in which you want the fruit flavor to permeate the cake.

One final note: as you’ll see in the photo, yes, I do a Jersey-style application for the glaze. If you want to do a more elegant squirt bottle or drizzle thing, feel free.

This recipe makes about eight 4” triangular scones (these size in the photo), or about sixteen 2-1/2” triangular scones.
While preheating your oven to 375 degrees, combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, ¼ cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a bowl. Mix in 6 tablespoons of butter substitute (chilled in the freezer) and blend by hand or in a mixer until pea-size pieces form.

Make a well in the flour mixture and add ½ cup of very cold fat-free Greek yogurt (chilled in the freezer) and 2 egg substitute eggs. Mix the wet ingredients in the well completely, then combine with the dry ingredients to form a dough.

Dust ½ cup of diced, thawed frozen strawberries with flour, and fold into the dough.

On a floured surface, roll the dough out to about ¾” thick and cut into triangles about 2-1/2” x 2-1/2” x 3”. Place about 1” apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 18-20 minutes, turning the baking sheet half-way. Once the scones have finished baking, let them cool on a rack for 30 minutes.

While the scones are cooling, make the glaze by combining the 1 tablespoon of pureed, thawed frozen strawberries with 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar until it is thick (but spreadable) and smooth.

After the scones have cooled, apply the glaze and wait 30 minutes for the glaze to get firm.
Hope you enjoy them!

For a cookbook-style, notebook-ready copy of this recipe (or any other recipe you see on this site), just let me know you’d like one and I’ll send it along.

See you next week! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)