Crisp Toffee Bars

I am a huge fan of a skillet-baked dessert. Irresistible. These blondie-esque, nutty cookies were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The edges were fabulously crumbly too. In the original recipe, the edges are removed prior to serving… What on Earth?! 😉

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. I weighed all of the dry ingredients, included both of the add-ins, increased the skillet size, and reduced the baking time. The article cited that the original recipe for these buttery, basic toffee bars belongs to Maida Heatter, the great American dessert maven of the 20th century. It was adapted for a cast-iron skillet by Charlotte Druckman, who wrote a book on cast-iron baking in 2016. Wonderful.

Yield: 2 dozen bars

  • 2 sticks/225 grams unsalted butter, cold but not frozen, plus 1 T more for buttering the pan
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup/210 grams soft-packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups/240 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup/100 grams unsalted slivered almonds, toasted
  • 6 ounces/170 grams chocolate chips or small chunks
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Place a rack in the middle and place a 12-inch cast-iron skillet on it.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on low-speed for about a minute, until softened. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle.
  3. With the mixer running at low-speed, add salt and vanilla.
  4. Add the brown sugar, then turn the speed up to medium and beat until mixture is the color of peanut butter and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl again.
  5. With the mixer running at low-speed, shake in flour, beating just until dough holds together. Mix in nuts or chocolate just until combined.
  6. Remove the hot skillet from the oven and place 1 T of butter in it. As butter melts, swirl it over the bottom and sides of the pan until evenly coated.
  7. Dump dough into skillet and press it out to evenly fill the skillet. You can use your fingers (being careful to avoid touching the hot pan), a potato masher or the bottom of a measuring cup. Press dough down firmly to make a compact, even layer.
  8. Transfer to oven and bake for 25 to 40 minutes, until the top is walnut brown. You may be tempted to take it out when the edges have begun to darken, but let it continue to cook so the entire surface can take on that color. There may be bubbles visible on top of the dough; that’s a good sign.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan. If necessary, run an offset spatula or butter knife around the sides of the pan to loosen. Cut into bars, squares or diamonds. (I cut them after they had completely cooled.)
  10. Let the bars cool completely before removing from pan. Store in airtight container; they keep well for up to 1 week.

Note: This recipe can be adapted to bake in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

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Flattened Chicken Thighs With Roasted Lemon Slices

My buddy is always teasing me because I never roast a whole chicken. She makes a beautiful roasted “lemon chicken” weekly for her family. Well, I don’t need to roast an entire chicken when there are dishes like this! Besides, we only want the thigh meat in my house. 🙂

This recipe was described as an “easy, super fragrant weeknight version of classic chicken under a brick,” using chicken thighs instead of a butterflied whole bird. I took it a step further by using boneless, skinless chicken thighs (my favorite), reducing the cooking time even further. (and reducing the fat!)

This dish was truly flavor-packed from the loaded garlic-herb-lemon marinade. I marinated the chicken overnight. After pan-searing under a weight, the chicken is finished by oven roasting it over lemon slices- my kind of “lemon chicken!” 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Mozza at Home by Nancy Silverton via The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. We ate it with roasted potatoes, broccoli and acorn squash. Absolutely delicious.

I’m sharing my special chicken at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #159 co-hosted by Zeba @Food for the Soul and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook. Enjoy!

Yield: 6 to 10 servings

For the Marinade:

  • 2 lemons, rinsed
  • ¼ cup fresh thyme or oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 10 to 12 medium or large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the Chicken:

  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons canola oil, enough to coat the bottom of the skillet
  • 2 lemons, rinsed (I used the lemons from the marinade)
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • fresh thyme or oregano sprigs and sage leaves, for garnish
  1. Make the marinade: Use a vegetable peeler to shave 9 large strips of peel from the lemons, taking care to cut into only the brightest yellow outer layer. Put strips in a large bowl or ziplock bag and add thyme or oregano, sage, parsley, garlic, red chile flakes and olive oil.
  2. Prepare the chicken: Put the thighs in the bag or bowl with the marinade. Turn the thighs gently to coat with the marinade. Seal the bag or cover bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. (I place the ziplock bag in a glass baking dish in case it leaks.)
  3. When ready to cook, remove thighs from marinade and place them on a baking sheet. (Reserve garlic cloves and lemon peel from the marinade; discard the liquid.)
  4. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over the chicken, then turn over and sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon salt.
  5. Transfer the chicken thighs, “skin side” down, to a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Put it over medium-high heat, cover with parchment paper, and weigh down the chicken with the bottom of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. (Or, use a lighter skillet weighed down with a large full can, a brick or another heavy object.)
  6. Once chicken is sizzling loudly, reduce heat to medium and cook without moving for about 5 minutes, until brown and crisp. To check for doneness, gently lift the corner of a chicken thigh with a metal spatula. The meat will come away cleanly from the bottom of the pan when it is done. If it is still stuck, do not pull but let it cook a little longer.
  7. When thighs are done, remove the weight and lift the chicken out of the pan. Transfer the thighs, browned side up, to a plate. Pour off most of the fat from the skillet, if necessary.
  8. Meanwhile, heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  9. Cut lemons in half and squeeze gently to remove some of the juice. Cut crosswise into 1/8-inch slices and lay on paper towels to absorb more juice.
  10. Place a layer of lemon slices in the skillet. Return all the browned chicken to the skillet on top of the lemons, browned side up. Tuck reserved lemon peel and garlic cloves down between the pieces. Tuck the remaining fresh sage leaves between the pieces as well.
  11. Transfer skillet to oven for 7 to 10 minutes. To test, remove a thigh, pierce it on the flesh side with a knife, and check that the juices are clear, or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
  12. Remove pan from oven and let thighs rest in the pan 5 to 10 minutes.
  13. Garnish with thyme or oregano sprigs and fresh sage around the thighs and serve from the pan at the table, with roasted lemon slices and garlic cloves.

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Skillet Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic & Balsamic Vinegar

A friend had recommended this recipe and I knew I was going to save it for my Thanksgiving dinner menu. I always select Brussels sprouts as one of the vegetables to serve because my mom, mother-in-law, and I love them.

It was nice to have such a simple, and relatively healthy, side dish as part of the feast as well. One side dish should be void of cheese and/or cream! 😉 I also served roasted rainbow carrots. Two clean and fresh side dishes.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. I doubled the recipe, using an entire stalk, and was only able to roast half in the skillet; I roasted the remainder on a rimmed baking sheet. I also decreased the balsamic vinegar.

  • 1 Brussels sprout stalk (about a 2 pints or 2 pounds)
  • 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, to coat bottom of pan
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, to taste
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Trim Brussels sprouts off the stalk, and slice each large sprout in half top to bottom.
  3. Heat half of the oil in cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers; put sprouts cut side down in one layer in pan. Put in garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook, undisturbed, until sprouts begin to brown on bottom, and transfer to oven.
  5. Roast, shaking pan every 5 minutes, until sprouts are quite brown and tender, about 10 to 20 minutes. Coat remaining sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet in oven with the skillet.
  6. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Combine all roasted sprouts in the skillet.
  7. Stir in balsamic vinegar, and serve hot or warm.

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Southern Cornbread Dressing

Okay… back to my belated Thanksgiving feast posts…

I struggle selecting a “stuffing” for our Thanksgiving Menu. This version was simple and perfect. I loved that it was a traditional Southern recipe and that it incorporated an unsweetened cast iron skillet cornbread.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Kim Severson. I used medium grind cornmeal. The cornbread is made the night before so that it can harden slightly. I let the cubed white bread sit out overnight as well. We ate it without incorporating meat, but this base recipe could easily be modified to include sausage or even nuts and/or apples. The author suggested eating leftovers mixed with shredded leftover turkey as well.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10

For the Cornbread:

  • 4 tablespoons/56 grams butter or bacon drippings
  • 2 cups/340 grams yellow cornmeal, medium grind (use the freshest, best quality you can find)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups/473 milliliters buttermilk, preferably full fat (I used low-fat)

For the Dressing:

  • 3 cups soft white bread, crusts removed and torn or cut into 1-inch pieces (do not pack)
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick), plus more for the pan
  • 2 cups chopped sweet onions
  • 1 ½ cups chopped celery (4 or 5 stalks)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 to 5 cups rich chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade

Optional Additions:

  • 3/4 pound pork sausage (such as spicy Italian sausage, fresh andouille or spicy Southern-style sausage)
  • 2 1/2 cups of toasted pecans, chopped
  • chopped apples
  1. Make the cornbread: Heat oven to 450 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Put butter in an 11-inch skillet. Cast-iron is best here, but any ovenproof skillet will do. Heat butter in oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until butter has melted and is just starting to brown.
  3. While butter melts, whisk together cornmeal, salt and baking powder.
  4. In another small bowl, lightly beat eggs, then add buttermilk and stir until mixture is combined.
  5. Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients and stir well.
  6. Remove hot pan from oven, pour butter into batter and stir until batter looks uniform.
  7. Pour batter back into the pan and bake for 20 minutes or until the top has begun to just brown.
  8. Remove cornbread and let it cool on a rack.
  9. Tear or cut it into large pieces and place in a large bowl. Let it sit out overnight to dry out slightly.
  10. Prepare the dressing: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cornbread and white bread in a large bowl, tossing to mix, and breaking cornbread into smaller pieces.
  11. Melt butter in a large skillet, and add onions, celery and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté until vegetables have softened, about 6 minutes.
  12. Add vegetables to bread mixture and combine.
  13. Lightly beat eggs and add to bowl.
  14. Sprinkle in herbs, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper and toss together.
  15. Add 4 cups broth and stir well.
  16. Using your hands, work the mixture to get a very lumpy, thick, batter-like consistency.
  17. Add another cup of stock if needed. The mixture should be very wet and pourable but without standing liquid.
  18. Butter a 2-quart ovenproof dish. (such as an 8-by-11-inch baking dish. A deeper vessel could take longer to bake; a more shallow dish less time.)
  19. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake until dressing puffs slightly and has browned well around the edges, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  20. If you have drippings from a roasted turkey, spoon some over the top about 30 minutes into the baking time.

Notes:

  • To Add Sausage: Brown 3/4 pound pork sausage in a pan, crumbling it into small pieces as it cooks. Add to the bread mixture along with the vegetables.
  • To Include Nuts: Add 2 1/2 cups of toasted pecans, chopped, to the vegetable and bread mixture.

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