Vanilla Bean Macarons

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I planned to make French macarons for Easter after seeing the March cover of Martha Stewart Living; it was covered in beautiful multi-pastel-colored macarons. So springy and festive- and delicious!! After really reading all of the recipes, and the recipes all over the internet, I decided to make vanilla bean macarons. They don’t have the pretty pastel spring colors, but they had the most appealing flavor to me. :) Don’t worry, I plan to make a bunny cake too!

I was a little intimidated to take on the task of making macarons. I chose the recipe from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel because their recipes are so precise- all the guesswork is removed. I closely followed the recipe (it’s only very slightly adapted)… they said it made 14 macarons… it made 14 macarons! Foolproof and fabulous. According to the book, macarons are their biggest seller. They are 2 1/4- inches in diameter; next time I would make them more petite, but I didn’t want to mess with perfection! Great!!

Notes:

  • Macarons (like any meringue) are best made on a dry day. The outside shell is crisp and fragile, the inside chewy.
  • For optimal results, weigh the ingredients.
  • Equipment needed: candy thermometer, a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip, & a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch plain tip. (I only have fluted 1/2-inch pastry tips… so my macarons have a little ripple on the surface! I also used a 1/4-inch plain tip for the filling… it was okay.)
  • It is optimal to make them in a convection oven, on the middle rack, and left undisturbed during cooking. (Baking in a standard oven is possible, but may affect the texture.)
  • Their flavor develops as they stand. This recipe recommends wrapping them in plastic wrap and freezing for 24 hours (or up to 2 weeks); transferred to the refrigerator for 3 hours or so, then returned to room temperature before eating.

Yield: 14 2 1/4-inch macarons

For the Macarons:

  • 212 grams almond meal/flour (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 212 grams powdered sugar
  • 82 grams egg whites
  • 90 grams egg whites (about 5 large eggs in total)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 236 grams granulated sugar, plus a pinch for the egg whites
  • 158 grams (2/3 cup) water
  • 250 grams Vanilla Bean French Buttercream (recipe follows)
  1. Make a template for the macarons: Lay a sheet of parchment paper on the work surface with a long side closest to you. Trace 4 evenly spaced 2 1/4-inch circles alone the top long edge, leaving a 1 inch of space around them. (A compass could be used; I used a biscuit cutter and a fine-tip sharpie.) Trace 3 circles below them, spacing them between the first circles. Continue with another row of 4, followed by another row of 3. Turn the parchment paper over and lay it on a sheet pan. Lift up the corner of the parchment and spray the underside with nonstick spray to keep it from blowing up while the cookies are baking. Repeat for the second sheet pan.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (convection) or 400 degrees (standard).
  3. Place the almond meal in a food processor and pulse to grind it as fine as possible, about 1 minute.
  4. Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl and whisk together.
  5. Mound the almond-flour mixture, then make a 4-inch well in the center, leaving a layer of flour at the bottom. Pour in the 82 grams egg whites and combine with a spatula.
  6. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the mixture, stirring until evenly distributed. Set aside.
  7. Place the remaining 90 grams of egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
  8. Combine the 236 grams granulated sugar and the water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 203 degrees F (110 degrees C). (It will continue to cook.)
  9. While the syrup continues to cook, add the pinch of sugar to the egg whites, turn the mixer to  medium speed, and whip to soft peaks. If the whites reach soft peaks before the syrup reaches 248 degrees F (120 degrees C), reduce the speed to the lowest setting, just to keep them moving.
  10. When the syrup reaches 248 degrees F (120 degrees C), remove the pan from the heat.
  11. Turn the mixture to medium-low speed, and slowly add the syrup, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk; the meringue will deflate.
  12. Increase the speed to  medium and whip for 5 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl will still be warm to the touch, the meringue should have cooled; if not, continue to whip until it is cool.
  13. Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond mixture, then continue adding the whites a little at a time (you may not use them all) until when you fold a portion of the batter over on itself, the “ribbon” slowly moves. The mixture shouldn’t be so stiff that it holds its shape without moving at all, but it shouldn’t be so loose that it dissolves into itself and does not maintain the ribbon; it is better for the mixture to be slightly stiff than too loose. (The consistency is VERY important!!)
  14. Transfer the mixture to the pastry bag with the 1/2-inch tip.
  15. Hold the bag upright 1/2 inch above the center of one of the traced circles and pipe out enough of the mixture to fill in the circle. Lift away the pastry bag and fill the remaining circles on the the first pan.
  16. Lift up the sheet pan and tap the bottom of the pan to spread the batter evenly and smooth any peaks left by the pastry bag. (I tapped it on the counter.)
  17. If using a convection oven, bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. If using a standard oven, place the sheet pan in the oven, immediately lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F, and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp.
  18. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. If using a standard oven, preheat it to 350 degrees again.
  19. Pipe the remaining meringue mixture into the circles on the second sheet pan and bake as directed above. Let cool completely.

For the Vanilla Bean French Buttercream Filling:

  • 38 grams granulated sugar
  • 38 grams granulated sugar (76 grams divided in half!)
  • 63 grams egg yolks (from about 4 large eggs)
  • 75 grams whole milk
  • 250 grams (8.8 oz) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  1. Whisk 38 grams sugar and the yolks together in a medium bowl, set aside.
  2. Combine the milk and the remaining 38 grams in a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  3. When the milk is at just below a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and, whisking constantly, pour it into the egg mixture.
  4. Return the mixture to the pan and place over medium heat.
  5. Whisking constantly, bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 1 minute, lowering the heat if necessary to prevent the mixture from curdling; it should be very thick.
  6. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment, turn the mixer to medium, and whisk for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is completely cool.
  7. Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, to the egg yolk mixture. If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter.
  8. Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hold its shape, it should be refrigerated for a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.
  9. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, add them to the buttercream, and mix on low for about 30 seconds to distribute the seeds evenly.
  10. The buttercream can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month; defrost in the refrigerator overnight before using. Thirty minutes before using, place it in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and allow it to soften. Then mix on low speed to return the buttercream to the proper consistency for piping of spreading.

To Fill the Cookies:

  1. Transfer 250 grams of the buttercream (you will have leftovers… yum!) to the pastry bag with the 3/8-inch tip. (I used a 1/4-inch tip.)
  2. Turn half of the macarons over. Starting at the center, pipe 15 grams (1 T) (eyeball it!) of the buttercream in a spiral pattern on one upside-down macaron, not quite reaching the edges. Top with a second macaron and press gently to spread the buttercream to the edges.
  3. Repeat with the remaining macarons and filling.
  4. Wrap individually in a few layers of plastic wrap and freeze for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks. Before serving, defrost in the refrigerator for 3 hours, then bring to room temperature. Alternatively, they can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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Creamy Poblano & Ancho Chicken Tacos: Mix & Match Fillings

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When these two taco fillings were combined, this dish became a variation of our absolute favorite tacos (link posted below!). It is so boring to always make the same tacos… even if they are your favorite! (My husband disagrees…) These two fillings could be eaten separately or together, but we all chose to combine them. The creamy poblano filling would be a wonderful vegetarian option on its own though! This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit. We each constructed them to our liking at the table with rice and refried beans on the side. It was a wonderful reward after our first long day of spring yard work! :)

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For the Cumin and Ancho Chicken Filling:

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder or chile powder
  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt, to taste
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  1. Toss chicken with ancho chile powder, cumin, and 2 tsp. salt in a large bowl to coat. Cover and chill for 2 hours.
  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with a thin layer of oil. Working in batches, place thighs in skillet in a single layer (do not crowd). Cover and cook until a crust forms, about 5 minutes. Turn; cook, uncovered, until thighs are just cooked through, 3–4 minutes longer. Transfer to a platter; let rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Cut chicken into 1/2-inch cubes. Transfer with any accumulated juices to a medium bowl. Season with salt to taste.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool slightly. Cover; chill. Rewarm before serving.

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For the Creamy Poblano Filling:

  • 2 pounds fresh large poblano chiles
  • 1 white onion, quartered, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack
  • Kosher salt
  1. Preheat broiler, build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to high. If broiling, place chiles on a rimmed baking sheet. If grilling, put chiles directly on grill grate. Roast, turning occasionally, until tender and nicely charred all over, 15–20 minutes.
  2. Transfer chiles to a large bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let steam for 15 minutes. Peel chiles. Halve lengthwise; discard seeds. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips.
  3. Heat a large dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until beginning to char, 6–7 minutes. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add oregano and 1 cup water; simmer until onion is tender and water has evaporated, 5–7 minutes.
  4. Add chiles; cook until flavors meld, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in crème fraîche and cheese. Add water by table-spoonfuls if mixture is too dry. Season to taste with salt.

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One Year Ago:

Johnnycake Bread

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Johnnycakes are thought to be the original pancakes. Last year, I made Johnnycakes for my son to bring on a field trip to a historic one-room schoolhouse, wrapped in his old-fashioned lunch basket with a potato! (his request… I am sure something else was in there but it was not as memorable!) They are delicious cornmeal pancakes served with butter and honey. I love cornmeal pancakes served with syrup as well.

When I read about this bread version of Johnnycakes from Bon Appetit on First Look then Cook, I wanted to make it right away. Her description was wonderful, and we ate it as suggested- warm with butter. My kids and I loved it! A great change of pace for breakfast. It would also be a delicious snack with a cup of tea or a glass of milk.

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for pans (cooking spray can be substituted for the pans)
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk (I used half and half)
  • ¼ cup molasses (light molasses could also be used, or 2 T molasses and 2 T honey)
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple sugar or turbinado sugar
  1. Heat oven to 325°. Lightly oil (I used cooking spray) three 5×2½” loaf pans (or one 8½x4½” loaf pan).
  2. Whisk flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add eggs, milk, molasses, and ¼ cup oil, and whisk to incorporate.
  4. Divide equally between pans. Sprinkle with sugar.
  5. Bake breads until golden and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 minutes for small loaves (on convection) (or approximately 50–55 minutes for one large loaf). Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before turning out.
  6. Serve warm out of the oven, or toasted if at room temperature, with butter.

Do Ahead: Breads can be made 1 day ahead. Store wrapped tightly at room temperature.

One Year Ago:

Mini-Cheesecakes

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I live in fear of overcooking my baked goods… and I usually shorten the baking time stated in a recipe, especially because I bake on convection. I made these mini-cheesecakes twice because the first time I made them they were undercooked! They were still edible (of course!) and tasty, but not perfect enough to give to my friend for her birthday. :) (We have been eating a lot of cheesecake lately… so glad they are “mini” portion-sized!!) It was difficult to tell that they were undercooked until after they were chilled- I had baked them until they were puffed and set.

For the second batch, I increased the baking time and added two pinches of salt. Thank goodness (…for many reasons… could/should we eat another batch?) they were cooked perfectly. :) They are pure and simple. Perfect to give to my cheesecake-purist friend for her birthday!! …and to bring to Fiesta Friday #11 at the Novice Gardener! This recipe was adapted from Carla Hall of The Chew. She baked them in mini-muffin pans (with 1 teaspoon of crust, baked for 10 minutes) with optional toppings which would be great for a party. A fun touch was to serve them inverted- mine with a fork, my husband’s with a spoon. To each his own! :) Nice!

Yield: Makes 8 mini-cheesecakes

  • 4 honey graham crackers
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 T  granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 T milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 pinches of coarse salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (convection)(175 degrees C).
  2. Place graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to crush. Add melted butter and pulse until the butter is evenly distributed.
  3. Place liners (I used parchment paper liners) into muffin tins and press 1 1/2 tablespoons of the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each. Using the bottom of a glass, compact the crumbs to form a crust.
  4. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth.
  5. Blend in milk, and then mix in the egg, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth.
  6. Scoop or pour filling on top of crusts. (I use a cookie scoop.)
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 17 minutes, or until puffed, set, and slightly brown on the edges. Cool to room temperature, then chill in refrigerator until serving.
  8. Serve inverted. Can top with berries or chocolate sauce, if desired.

One Year Ago:

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Mini “M&M” Cookies

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Both of my kids performed in their school talent show last weekend. They were backstage for FIVE hours!! I wanted to pack a special treat for them to have for the show (and to bring to share with their friends). My son requested M&M cookies. I made them using a simple recipe (from the bag!!) and packed them up. I didn’t plan to post them… but we loved them! Such a surprise. :) They were also colorful and cute. Similar recipes called for much more sugar and salt but these were perfect. The kids really enjoyed them. Great!

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12 ounce package “M&M’s” Chocolate Mini Baking Bits
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts, optional (I didn’t use nuts)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. In large bowl cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy; beat in egg and vanilla.
  3. In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt; blend into creamed mixture.
  4. Stir in “M&M’s” Chocolate Mini Baking Bits and nuts, if using.
  5. Drop by tablespoonfuls about 2 inches (50mm) apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. (I used a small cookie scoop.) Bake 10 to 11 minutes (on convection) or until edges are lightly browned and centers are still soft. Do not overbake. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; cool completely on wire racks. Store in tightly covered container.

One Year Ago:

Saffron Pappardelle with Moroccan Spiced Shallot-Butter Sauce

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We have been pappardelle crazy in my household lately– we can’t eat enough of it!! The original recipe had instructions to make saffron tagliatelle but I opted to put saffron threads in my pappardelle cooking water. This shortcut added a surprising amount of flavor – and color- to the noodles. Great! The spiced shallot-butter sauce was spicy and loaded with flavor. This recipe was adapted from Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi. I omitted the mint and made half of the suggested amount of sauce (I wasn’t baking… I couldn’t use 2 sticks of butter!). I am a sauce lover and the noodles were completely coated in delicious sauce; the reduced amount was perfect. A wonderful and quick weeknight meal!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 pound of egg pappardelle or tagliatelle
  • 1 large pinch of saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large shallots, finely chopped in a food processor
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chile flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt, or more, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley (alternatively, 1/4 cup mint and 1/4 cup parsley can be used)
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toast the pine nuts for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant and light brown in color.
  3. Make the Moroccan Spiced Butter: Place the butter and oil in a frying pan and add the shallots. Cook the shallots gently for about 10 minutes, or until they soften and the butter turns slightly brown. Add all of the spices, salt, and pepper. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
  4. Add a large pinch of saffron threads to the salted boiling water. Cook the pasta in the water according to package instructions. Drain and return to the saucepan.
  5. Pour the spiced butter over the pasta and stir well. Sprinkle with parsley and pine nuts and gently incorporate. Serve.

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One Year Ago:

 

Warm Chocolate Puddings

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I dressed up a take-out pizza and salad night with this special dessert. Just as easy as box-mix brownies and much more fabulous! They are more like mini-soufflé cakes than warm puddings. This recipe was adapted from Everyday Food. I used Trader Joe’s 72% cacao Belgian dark chocolate and topped each pudding with salted caramel ice cream. They would have been just as delicious with vanilla bean ice cream- or coffee ice cream- or no ice cream?!? I’m bringing this wonderful dessert to Fiesta Friday #10 at the Novice Gardener this week. Enjoy! :)

  • 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Trader Joe’s 72% cacao Belgian dark chocolate)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Ice cream (any flavor), for serving (optional) (I used salted caramel)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (on convection). Place four 6- to 8-ounce ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet. Set aside.
  2. Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally just until melted, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat; mix in 2 tablespoons sugar, then egg yolks and vanilla. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Still beating, gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar; beat until mixture is stiff and glossy.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, mix about 1/3 egg-white mixture into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture just until combined. Divide among bowls. (Puddings can be prepared in advance up to this point; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate up to 1 day.)
  5. Bake until tops are puffed and cracked but insides are still quite soft (a toothpick inserted in center will come out gooey), 10 to 12 minutes on convection, or longer if puddings were previously refrigerated. IMG_8168
  6. Serve, warm or at room temperature (puddings may sink as they cool), topped with ice cream, if desired.

One Year Ago:

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Rick Bayless’ Red Mole Enchiladas with Shredded Chicken

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This dish was a labor of love. Rick Bayless titled it “Simple” Red Mole, but I took the “Simple” away from my title. :) The method is simple, but there were so many steps required to make this ultra-FABULOUS sauce I couldn’t describe the dish as simple. Every step was completely worth it! Mole is my absolute favorite and this is a wonderful version. When tasting the sauce for seasoning, I could have gobbled up the entire pot! I did simplify the recipe by using shredded rotisserie chicken in the filling. This recipe is from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine by Rick Bayless with Deann Groen Bayless and Jean Marie Brownson. We ate the enchiladas with rice, refried beans, and sautéed kale with spinach and garlic on the side.

Yield: Serves 6 to 9, with about 6 cups of sauce

For the Essential Sweet-and-Spicy Ancho Seasoning Paste:

  • 8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 8 medium (about 4 ounces total) dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • scant 1/4 tsp freshly ground cloves
  • 6 cups chicken stock, divided

To Finish the Dish:

  •  3 T vegetable oil, plus a little more if needed
  • 2 oz (about 1/2 cup) whole raw almonds (with or without skins)
  • 1 medium white onion, sliced 1/8-inch thick, divided
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2-3 ripe plum tomatoes
  • scant 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) roughly chopped Mexican chocolate (I used Trader Joe’s 72% cacao Belgian dark chocolate)
  • 2 slices firm white bread, toasted
  • coarse salt, about 2 1/2 tsp, depending on saltiness of stock
  • granulated sugar, about 1 tablespoon
  • 18 corn tortillas (plus a few extra in case some break)
  • a spoonful or two of sesame seeds, for garnish
  • 3 cups cooked, coarsely shredded chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)
  • rice, for serving, optional
  • refried beans, for serving, optional

Make the Essential Sweet-and-Spicy Ancho Seasoning Paste:

  1. Roast the unpeeled garlic directly on an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet (I used a cast-iron skillet) over medium heat until soft (they’ll blacken in spots), about 10 minutes; cool and peel.
  2. While the garlic is roasting, toast the chiles on another side of the griddle or skillet: 1 or 2 at a time, open them flat and press down firmly on the hot surface with a spatula; in a few seconds, when they crackle, even send up a wisp of smoke, flip them and press down to toast the other side.
  3. In a bowl, cover the chiles with hot water and let rehydrate 30 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure even soaking. Drain and discard the water.
  4. Combine the oregano, black pepper, cumin, and clove in a food processor along with the chiles, garlic, and 2/3 cup of the stock. Process to a smooth puree, scraping and stirring every few seconds. If the mixture won’t go through the blender blades, add a little more liquid. Remove from the food processor and set aside.

Make the Mole:

  1. In a medium-size (4 to 6-quart) pot (I used an enameled cast iron pot), heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil over medium. Add the almonds and cook, stirring regularly, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the almonds to a food processor.
  2. Add half of the sliced onion to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until richly browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Use the slotted spoon to scoop the onions in with the almonds, leaving behind as much oil as possible. (If needed, add a little more oil or lard to the pan, let heat, then continue.)
  3. Add the raisins, stir for a minute as they puff, then use the slotted spoon to scoop them in with the almonds.
  4. Roast the tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until blackened on one side, about 6 minutes, then flip them over and roast the other side.
  5. Once the tomatoes are cool, peel and add to the almond mixture in the food processor, along with the cinnamon, chocolate and toasted bread. Add 1 cup of the stock and blend to a smooth puree, scraping and stirring every few seconds.
  6. Return the pot to medium-high heat, and, if necessary, add a little more oil or lard to coat the bottom lightly. When very hot, add the ancho mixture and cook, stirring almost constantly, until darker and very thick, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the pureed almond mixture and cook, stirring constantly for another few minutes, until very thick once again.
  8. Stir in the remaining 4 1/3 cups stock, partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, over medium-low for 45 minutes. Taste and season with salt and sugar. (The sugar balances the strong flavors.)

Finish the Enchiladas:

  1. Warm a plate for each person in a warming drawer or in the oven on the lowest setting.
  2. Warm the tortillas: I put 6 to 8 tortillas at a time on a microwave safe dish (I have a tortilla warmer) covered with a damp paper towel and lid or plastic wrap. Heat for 1 minute or until warm, soft and pliable.
  3. Toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet, stirring frequently, over medium heat until golden, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. In a medium-size saucepan, combine the chicken with 1 1/2 cups of the mole and warm over medium heat. Bring the remaining mole to a simmer. IMG_8221
  5. To serve: Quickly make the enchiladas by scooping 2 generous tablespoons of chicken onto a tortilla, rolling it up and placing it on a warm dinner plate. Continue making enchiladas, arranging 2 or 3 per plate, then douse them liberally with the hot mole. Strew with the remaining sliced onion and toasted sesame seeds.

Notes:

  1. The finished mole will keep for several days, covered and refrigerated; it also freezes well. Reheat, taste and adjust the seasonings before finishing the dish.
  2. Leftover chicken, pork, shredded roast, turkey, grilled steak, or even roasted squash or sweet potato mixed with grilled onion and/or blanched greens would also be wonderful fillings.
  3. The sauce could be served over poached chicken with rice on the side as an alternative special dinner.

One Year Ago:

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Whole Wheat Potato-Spinach Gnocchi with Kale-Walnut Pesto

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In the past, I have found making gnocchi to be a frustrating experience. I blame my previous difficulty on waterlogged potatoes… In this recipe, the potatoes are baked prior to ricing- no water involved- it worked perfectly!  The gnocchi were tender, soft, and pillowy. This dish was inspired by alamain.net. The recipe for gnocchi was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Grace Parisi. I modified it by adding spinach, using whole wheat flour, and dressing it with pesto. The pesto recipe was adapted from alamain.net. I used Tuscan Kale instead of Rainbow Kale, Grana Padano instead of Parmesan, and walnuts instead of pine nuts. I doubled the gnocchi recipe to freeze a batch for later. Green, healthy, and delicious!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Gnocchi:

  • 4 pounds russet potatoes (about 6) (enough to make 5 cups riced potatoes)
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, or enough to achieve desired dough texture, plus more for dusting
  • 6 oz baby spinach
  • 1 T olive oil
  • Kale-Walnut Pesto (recipe follows)
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork. Alternatively, bake the potatoes in the oven for about 1 hour, until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté the baby spinach in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. Using the potato ricer, squeeze out excess moisture from the spinach. Finely chop the drained spinach in a food processor.
  3. Halve the potatoes. Scoop the flesh into a ricer and rice the potatoes. IMG_8138 Transfer 5 slightly packed cups of riced potatoes to a bowl. Stir in the egg yolks, drained and chopped spinach, and 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Add the 1 to 1 1/2 cups of flour; stir until a stiff dough forms. Knead the dough gently until smooth but slightly sticky, adding more flour if necessary.
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with flour. On a floured surface, cut the dough into 16 pieces, rolling each into a 3/4-inch-thick rope. Cut the ropes into 3/4-inch pieces.
  5. With your thumb, roll each piece against the tines of a fork to make ridges (I dusted the gnocchi, fork, and my thumb with flour before rolling); transfer to the baking sheet.
  6. In a large pot of simmering salted water, cook the gnocchi in batches until they rise to the surface, then simmer for 2 minutes longer. Repeat as necessary. (Do not overcrowd!)
  7. Toss the gnocchi with pesto to cover, sprinkle with the cheese, and serve.

MAKE AHEAD: The uncooked gnocchi pieces can be frozen on the prepared baking sheet, transferred to a resealable plastic bag, and frozen for up to 1 month. Boil without defrosting. (I reserved half of the batch.)

For the Kale-Walnut Pesto

  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 cup Tuscan kale
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Grana Padano
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until paste consistency is reached. Store in an airtight container.

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One Year Ago:

If you like this you may also like:

Bread Machine Brioche

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Why hadn’t I ever thought of this before? What a heavenly breakfast!! My friend asked for help searching for a bread machine brioche recipe- I found this one from Fleichmann’s yeast, via Food.com, all over the blogosphere. My friend tried it first and couldn’t even wait for the bread to cool before digging in- the smell was so amazing. :) I had to make it myself, of course! It was eggy and tender. We smothered it with Strawberry-Vanilla Bean Jam (which we have been rationing since last June!) and enjoyed it as we watched the snow pour down outside…. on the last day of March!! I may add raisins next time- GREAT!

Yield: One 1 1/2 pound loaf

  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine, softened, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup milk (70º to 80ºF) (I used 1% milk)
  • 3 tablespoons water (70º to 80ºF)
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  1. Measure all ingredients into bread machine pan in the order suggested by manufacturer.
  2. Process on sweet or basic/white bread cycle; use light or medium/normal crust color setting.
  3. Remove bread from pan; cool on wire rack.

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One Year Ago:

If you like this you may also like:

Slow-Cooker Thai Red Curry with Chicken

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Red curry is my go-to Thai dish. I order it almost every time we eat at a Thai restaurant. It is spicy with a little bit of sweetness. It’s wonderful!! This version has lovely color from the carrots and red bell pepper as well as a textural contrast from the potatoes. This recipe was adapted from Frontier Natural and The Wanderlust Kitchen. I added more vegetables to the dish, used light coconut milk, and used chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts- just my personal preference. We ate it over an organic quinoa and rice blend with warm naan and green salad. Potatoes, rice, AND naan… my starch-loving husband was thrilled! A slow-cooker meal ready after two after-school piano lessons… I was thrilled! :) GREAT!

I have been looking forward to bringing this dish to Fiesta Friday #9 over at The Novice Gardener- she knows how to throw a wonderful party! :)

For the red curry sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 2 large shallots or ½ a red onion
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder blend (I used Penzey’s Maharajah Curry Powder)
  • 2-3 dried red chilies (I used 2 dried Guajillo chilies), stemmed, crumbled with seeds intact
  • 1 medium red bell pepper
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 2 cups light coconut milk

To complete the dish:

  • 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Basic red curry sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, diced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving, optional
  • 1/4 cup Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1/8 cup Scallions, chopped
  • rice, for serving
  • naan, for serving, if desired

Make the basic red curry sauce:

  1. Heat oil or ghee in a 2-quart sauce pan.
  2. Finely chop garlic, ginger, shallots and bell pepper in a mini-food processor.
  3. Sauté garlic, ginger, diced shallots or onion, and red bell pepper in oil or ghee until tender.
  4. Sprinkle in curry powder, crumbled dried red chilies, lime juice and zest. Stir in coconut milk and puree with an immersion blender or in a food processor until smooth.
  5. Remove from heat and pour into your slow cooker.

Finish the dish:

  1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the grape seed oil in a skillet over very high heat. Once hot, brown half of the chicken pieces for about 30 seconds per side. Transfer browned chicken pieces to the slow cooker, with the curry sauce. Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
  2. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and pan drippings to the slow cooker.
  3. Stir in the turmeric, coriander, fish sauce, and sugar.
  4. Cook on high for 2 hours, or low for 5 hours.
  5. Add the bell pepper, carrots and potatoes. Cook another 30 minutes on high, or for an hour on low. (I cooked it on low for 3 1/2 hours, added the vegetables, and then cooked it on high for 1 hour.) Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  6. Serve over rice with lime wedges for squeezing, if desired. Garnish with cilantro and scallions.

One Year Ago:

Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Thyme

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This was a tasty, lean, and quick main dish that I served with Asparagus Mimosa and roasted gold potatoes on the side. This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I modified the proportions in the sauce and used red wine instead or Marsala wine.

Yield: 6 servings

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 6 boneless pork chops, trimmed of fat
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 /2 cup Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 cup red or Marsala wine
  1. Combine the salt and pepper and dried thyme and rub on the pork chops. Press a sprig of thyme into each chop.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the pork chops, thyme-side down. Sear 5 to 7 minutes per side, or until just browned and the interior is no longer bright pink. Transfer to a warm plate.
  3. Pour off the fat from the skillet, return to the heat, add the stock and wine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the pork chops and serve.

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One Year Ago:

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