Sunday, October 30, 2016

Chicken Forestière

Oh, people, this dish is just a fancy way to say "Chicken with Mushrooms" (and cream).  Forestière means "of the forest" or "in the forest manner." Or in a more vernacular manner, "This has got mushrooms in it."

And there is no one I would rather trust with chicken and mushrooms than food writer and journalist Diana Henry.

From her traditional English pea soup to a Japanese-inspired chicken and her warm duck salad, Henry has been a hit on this here blog. In part because of her commitment to a wide range of flavors and the other part because of her gentle peroration on the foods she loves, I just cannot get enough of her work. Lucky for me, she has a plethora of cookbooks. 

This recipe comes from her cookbook, A Bird in Hand, a book entirely devoted to the bird. Because we eat so much chicken (according to this website, the US meat and poultry industry processed 38.4 billion pounds of chicken in 2015), it seems only fitting that we turn to a book that celebrates poultry in its homeliest and most comforting to its most elaborate and celebratory. And what's lovely about this book is that you can find a bit of both throughout.

Henry's own essay on how the book came about is delightful, for she details her early affection for chicken, and she nudges us to celebrate this meat that so many others scoff at as being tasteless or cheap. She argues that chicken is flavorful and abundant and worth every penny (or pence). But she also encourages us toward organic, free range chicken that is sustainably raised and away from factory-farmed birds. She says that we can coax a lot of flavor out of a chicken, and all we need is a little inspiration and maybe a little bit of time.

Enter Chicken Forestière. Hearty and earthy, this braise of chicken thighs and mushrooms is a classic blustery day dinner. Some Forestière recipes call for cognac and others eschew any vegetable; Henry relies on the readily available (and cost-encouraging) Madeira or sherry and includes carrots (I swapped out some of those carrots for potatoes, for I am not a fan of cooked carrots, as I have admitted ad nauseum on this blog. A moral failing, yes; but the fact remains). 

I am going to admit it right here and now: I more than doubled the amount of mushrooms in the sauce. I love mushrooms (always have), and she calls for 2 cups. I call for 5. (I updated the amount below in the recipe.) I don't know your life, and if you feel as if your "Forestière" needs a little less "forest," well, you do your thing.  But I am telling you, I've got mushrooms. Plenty of mushrooms. Oodles and oodles of mushrooms.

It seems there are as many ways to cook Chicken Forestière as there are chicken recipes in Henry's book. But I am glad to play around with her recipe and make it my own.  You should, too.

So, go ahead and be creative: add more onions, chop up wild mushrooms instead of button mushrooms, shower the dish in cognac, reduce the cream, substitute milk. But be sure to crack big chunks of pepper over the top and chop up plenty of mushrooms (of any kind) to make this dish truly an earthy Forestière.

This here dish has got mushrooms, indeed.

Chicken Forestière

Adapted from Diana Henry's A Bird in Hand: Chicken recipes for every day and every mood

4-6 Servings

1/4 ounce dried wild mushrooms
salt and pepper 
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, halved and cut into thing crescent moon-shaped slices
1/3 cup Madiera or dry sherry
3 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into batons
3 ounces potatoes, peeled and cut into batons
3/4 cup chicken stock
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
5 cups quartered button or crimini mushrooms
1 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl, and pour in about 1/3 cup boiling water. Soak for 20 minutes.

2.  Meanwhile, season the chicken thighs with last and pepper, and heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Brown the chicken thighs on both sides (don't turn them early or their skin will tear). When the chicken is well browned, remove it from the pan and set aside. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp chicken fat from the pan into a separate bowl (do not discard). 

3.  Heat the fat remaining in the pan, and sauté the onions until golden and soft, about 15-20 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the Madeira or sherry.

4.  Add the carrots, potatoes, stock, and the wild mushrooms with their soaking liquid. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

5. Return the chicken to the pan along with any juices, placing it skin-side up. Cover and cook gently for 20 minutes.

6.  Stir the cornstarch in with the water. Remove the lid, stir in the cream and cornstarch mixture, return to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes with the lid off.

7.  In a separate pan, heat 1 Tbsp of the reserved chicken fat and quickly sauté the mushrooms until they are golden brown. The mixture should be dry, so cook until the liquid in the mushroom has evaporated. Season and toss in with the chicken, stirring to gently combine everything. The "sauce" should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

8.  Taste for seasoning. Scatter with parsley and serve from the pan.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Fig, Goat Cheese and Honey Salad from Honey & Co.

Okay, people.  This salad hardly needs a recipe. The title of the salad pretty much says it all. But I am still handing this one over to you because of what Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich (chefs and cookbook writers extraordinaire) do to the goat cheese.

They mix it with heavy cream.  

Yes, more dairy.

And in doing so, they get to create these little clouds of cheesiness goodness that when added to the sweet figs, the acidic lemon, the crisp lettuce, the crunchy pistachios, and the thick honey--well, this salad becomes much, much more than the sum of its parts.  My mouth is watering now as I type this.

Perfect for a crisp autumn day, this salad makes a satisfying lunch or a sweet starter to a great meal.

These figs are part of the plethora of fruit that one of the parents at my school has been bringing to the faculty lounge. From pears to plums, from apples to figs, we are luxuriating in the plenty of the orchards in the East Bay. And I am happy to snap up these little taste bombs and plop them in a salad.

Especially if this salad comes from Packer and Srulovich, for they have not yet steered my wrong, especially in the good-for-you greens department.

So whisk together your cream or milk (which is what I used) with your goat cheese, toast up those pistachios, slice up those plump figs. People, I am telling you, this salad is just that good. 

I promise.

Fig, Goat Cheese and Honey Salad

3-4 as a light starter

2 heads of Little Gem lettuce
4 ounces goat cheese
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
8 large figs, quartered
2 sprigs fresh mint, picked
1/4 cup roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp honey

1. Separate and wash the lettuce leaves in cold water. Tear the lettuce leaves and then dry on a few sheets of paper towels or in a salad spinner.

2. Crumble the goat cheese into a bowl. Whisk with the lemon zest and milk or cream until completely smooth.

3. In a separate bowl or jar, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice.  

4. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a large serving platter or individual salad plates. Scatter with the fig wedges and the mint leaves. Top with copped pistachios and dollops of the creamy goat cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice. Finish by dribbling the honey over the salad.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema

Black bean soup doesn't get the accolades it deserves. This unassuming little soup does what it needs to do--warm the bones on a fall afternoon--and then you go about your business. Little fanfare. Lots of flavor.

Black bean soup can take as long as you would like: with dried black beans, this is a two-day affair. However, with canned black beans, you can have a quick cook. Further, black bean soup is naturally vegan (although, I wouldn't blame you if you threw some bacon in with the sofrito; truly I wouldn't!). Finally, you can spice it up any way you like it (did someone say fire-roasted tomatoes, ancho chile powder).

Yet, for this particular recipe, I went with simple, traditional, and Cuban. No chiles beyond the requisite jalapeno. No fire-roasted tomatoes. Just beans, sofrito, stock, oregano, and lime crema.

Recently, I received ¡Cuba!: Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen in the mail, and what a gorgeous little cookbook. Packed with inspirational photography, this book is the outcome of three people's love affair with Cuba. Photographer Dan Goldberg and Art Director Andrea Kuhn teamed up with Food Writer Jody Eddy to bring the flavors of the Cuban into your own.  With a caveat. Not all of these come from the Cuban kitchen. Our cookbook acknowledges that some of these recipes--such as the (ever famous) Cubano--are Cuban American creations and others--such as "Guarapo (Sort of...)"--are "takes" on Cuban food. 

This cookbook is packed with mouthwatering recipes, including Shrimp and Scallop Seviche with Shredded Plantain Chips, Ribs with Guava BBQ Sauce, Steamed Cuban Beef Buns, and Savory Goat Stew. The book boasts these lovely essays on "Organoponicas" (the organic farms that have been springing up all over Cuba), "Rations," and the "Barrio Chino de la Habana" (Havana's Chinatown). These essays are as engrossing as the photography and recipes. 

With the borders to Cuba a bit more relaxed, although not fully open to Americans, it's easier and easier to get to Cuba and to Cuban food. But for those of us who don't have a visit to Cuba planned, this cookbook is a plentiful attempt--from food to photography to essays--to recreate the tastes of the largest island in the Caribbean.

Now back to the beans. About two weeks ago, I began feeling under the weather. This is a common occurrence about six weeks into any school year. Just enough time to get settled and just enough time to get exhausted. Thus, this recipe for black bean soup came at the perfect time.

The perfect time to settle in with a homey, satisfying soup and to warm those chilled bones.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema

8-10 Servings

1 lb. dried black beans
1 yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, halved, and seeded
2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded, and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp fried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
freshly ground pepper 
1 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp lime zest

1. Put the beans, the halved onion, the halved pepper, and the bay leaves in a large bowl and cover with water by at least 3 inches. Place the pot in the refrigerator overnight.

2.  Pour the beans and their soaking liquid (including the onion and green pepper) into a large pot. Ensure that the water covers the beans by 1 inch, adding or removing water as necessary. Bring the water to a boil and then simmer until the beans are tender 50-60 minutes. Stir in the salt.

3.  As the bean simmer, make the sofrito. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced onion, bell pepper, and jalapenos and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Stir the sofrito into the beans.

4.  Remove the now mushy halved onion and pepper and the bay leaves from the bean pot and discard the bay leaves. Place the vegetables in a blender and ladle in about 2 cups of the beans. Puree the beans and the vegetables. Stir the pureed back into the beans int he bot.

5.  Add the chicken stock. Bring the soup to a simmer and add the oregano, cumin, and vinegar. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, until beans are soft and falling apart. 

6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the crema, lime juice, and lime zest. Season with salt.

7. Serve the soup with a dollop of the lime crema.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Crème Fraîche Scones from Miette

As promised here are these sweet little scones from Miette.  I have written about my delight in Miette (see here), and so it was a no-brainer when I needed to whip up a vehicle for Strawberry Vanilla Jam. And these did not disappoint.

Shall we explore the history of the scone, you and I?

There's a lot of information out there about the scone. As in a lot, so let's see if I can round some of it up. The scone was originally a Scottish quick bread made with oats and then griddle-fried. The scone distinguishes itself as not utilizing yeast, as one might expect from other tea pastries, such as a tea cakes or sweet buns. Instead, this well-leavened pastry uses baking powder to achieve its heights. However, baking powder is a relatively recent invention, so scones probably soared using buttermilk as a boost.

Now don't get all confused about "high" and "low" or "afternoon" tea. Americans (and their representative tea rooms) like the sound of "high tea" because it sounds all fancy and lovely. However, high tea refers to a full (yet early evening) meal that includes meat and the like. Low or afternoon tea takes place around 4 or 5 p.m. and is generally the delicate sandwiches (with crusts requisitely cut off, right?), scones, and sweet desserts. 

Now, let's get particular.  Devonshire tea, also known as cream tea, is precisely where one should situate these scones from Miette. Served with clotted cream and strawberry preserves, scones absolutely must be cut in half. This is for full effect, people, and I don't dispute it. However, I am not even going to get embroiled in the which-comes-first debate: cream first then preserves (à la the Devon way) or preserves first then cream (à la the Cornwall method). I leave that to the experts. 

Now, let's talk about these little scones. The method is a little unusual. First you press the dough into a pan in order to get a uniform height. Then you cut them into 1-inch squares, pop them out of the pan, and then bake them in the oven. This produces a sheer abundance of delightful scones, that are as pretty to look at as they are delicious to pop in your mouth.

I did heed the warning that there was not enough liquid, so I made some pretty liberal changes below. With the extra liquid these turned out delightfully, and I did as instructed and froze then remaining scones (first I put them on a baking pan in the freezer until frozen; then I put them in a bag). Now I have the perfect scone for my afternoon tea. One with cream on top. The other with strawberry preserves on top. I am not choosing sides. 

Crème Fraîche Scones 

Adapted from Miette
4 Servings

1/3 cup crème fraîche*
1/3 cup heavy cream + extra for brushing
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk (Added)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, diced (added 1/4)
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp baking powder +1 tsp (added 1 tsp)
1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp baking soda
1 1/8 tsp salt

1.   In a small bowl, stir together the crème fraîche, heavy cream, egg, and egg yolk. 

2.  In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, butter, lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low-speed until the mixture resembles cornmeal. 

3.  Add the crème fraîche mixture and mix until the dough is just moistened. It will look under-mixed and crumbly at this point, but it is important to stop as you will finish the mixing when you press the dough into the pan. The less you handle the dough, the flakier your scones will be.

4. In an 8-in square baking pan, firmly press the dough as evenly as possible. Use a rolling-pin to level the top if possible. The dough should be about 1-in thick. Brush the top with cream and sprinkle lightly with sugar.

5. Mark and cut the dough into 1-in squares. Carefully separate the cubes and put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for at least 1 hr, or wrap tightly and freeze up to 1 month.

6. When you're ready to make the scones, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange the frozen dough squares 1 1/2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until the edges are toasted and golden brown, 10-12 min.

*You can purchase crème fraîche or make your own. To make your own, you'll need:

2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp buttermilk

Whisk together the cream and the buttermilk in a container. Cover and set the mixture aside at room temperature for 24 hours. It should become thick and tangy. You can refrigerate what you do not use for up to 2 weeks.