Friday, April 29, 2011

(Browned butter) chocolate chip cookies

This is my go-to recipe for a good chocolate chip cookie - soft and chewy in the middle, buttery and crispy on the edges. This time, however, I decided to tweak it a little and try browned butter.  The resulting flavor and appearance came out noticeably different! A deep caramel flavor permeated the cookie, the texture was akin to a chewy snickerdoodle and ridges formed all over the top surface.

Note: The browned butter was fairly hot when I mixed it with the sugars, causing the sugars to melt (perhaps too much!) and the overall dough to be more wet. I had trouble incorporating the butter and quickly melting sugars by hand so I ended up using a hand mixer. I'd definitely let the butter cool more next time.

Browned butter chocolate chip cookies
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 3 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups dark chocolate chips 
  1. Preheat oven to 325F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. To brown the butter, first heat a skillet or small pot on medium heat.  It's best to use stainless steel cookware for this since it's hard to see the butter color in nonstick cookware.  Add the butter and stir frequently until melted.
  3. Continue cooking the butter.  It will start to develop a white foam which will then settle.  Keep stirring the butter and look for brown specks forming at the bottom of the pan.  The butter should start developing a nutty aroma.  Remove butter from heat and pour into a heatproof bowl to prevent the butter from overcooking.  Allow butter to cool as you prepare the other ingredients.
  4. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  5. In a large bowl, combine both sugars and add the browned butter.  Stir thoroughly until well blended.
  6. Add the vanilla, egg and egg yolk to the large bowl and beat until mixed and fluffy.  Stir in the dry ingredients, one third at a time and stir until just blended.  Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.
  7. Drop cookie dough 1.5 tablespoons (OXO medium cookie scoop) at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets, about 3 inches apart from one another.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes in the preheated oven until edges are lightly golden.  Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  
Whenever making cookies, I like to flash freeze half my batch of cookie dough.  To do this, line a 9x13 baking tray with parchment or wax paper.  Drop cookie dough 1.5 tablespoons at a time onto the baking tray, fitting them as close as you can without them touching.  Place tray into the freezer for 15 minutes or until dough is hard enough to cleanly pick up.  Store cookie dough in a ziploc freezer bag or a tupperware.  When you want to bake them, simply add 1-2 minutes to the baking time.  A supply of frozen cookie dough comes in handy to satisfy sudden cookie cravings and last minute dessert ideas.  I confess that sometimes I'll just take a ball of cookie dough and nosh on it straight from the freezer! :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Basil cucumber egg salad sandwich

With an abundance of hard-boiled eggs from the Easter weekend, an easy solution was to make egg salad and make lunch for the week.  The cucumber and celery added a satisfying crunch and the basil added an herby freshness.  I didn't have mayo on hand so ended up improvising with honey mustard, which was not as creamy but certainly a sweet, healthier alternative.  This was great on rye bread and would be good on any other hearty bread too (squaw, pumpernickel, whole wheat, etc.).

Basil Cucumber Egg Salad
4 servings/sandwiches
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded
3 stalks celery
handful of fresh basil, chopped 
1 tsp paprika
 salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup honey mustard
  1. Dice the eggs, cucumber and celery and place in a large bowl.  Add basil, paprika, salt and pepper to taste and mix.
  2. Add honey mustard and stir thoroughly.  Add more honey mustard or mayo if you prefer your egg salad more creamy.  Toast some bread of your choice, rinse some veggies and make yourself a sandwich!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chicken enchiladas

With leftover chicken, corn and tortillas, all I needed was a quick stop at Trader Joe's to get everything else for these delicious enchiladas.  What a great way to use up leftovers and also have enough for a second meal!  It's easy to substitute ingredients in this recipe, making it ideal for cleaning out the fridge.

4-6 servings

2 cups leftover meat of your choice (shredded chicken, ground beef, etc.)
1 can corn
1 can black beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can diced green chilies
2 tsp chili pepper
12 flour tortillas
1 16oz jar salsa of your choice (I used TJ's Chipotle Salsa and it gave it a good level of spiciness)
2 cups shredded  cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend
1 can sliced olives
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.  Stir-fry the meat, corn, black beans, tomatoes, green chili and chili pepper in a saucepan over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.  Remove filling from heat and let cool slightly.
  2. In a 9x13 baking pan, spread 1/3 of the salsa into the bottom of the pan.  Spoon 1/3 cup of the filling evenly down the center of a tortilla.  Roll tortilla tightly around the filling and place seam side down in the baking pan.  Pour remaining salsa evenly over the top of the enchiladas.  Spread cheese and olives evenly over the top of the salsa.
  3. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.  Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cheddar & green chili scones

We were signed up to bring Sunday School breakfast again this week and I was set on making something sweet and something salty. I made a batch of the blueberry cream scones and decided to try another one of Smitten Kitchen's recipes for cheese scones. I didn't have jalapeƱos so I used half a can of chopped green chilis. These turned out great and the best part of all was the crispy cheese skirts! Now I want to bake up cheese crisps and crunch on them all day...

JalapeƱo-Cheddar Scones
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chinese braised beef and eggs

Shao bing jia rou (aka sesame pancake with braised beef shank) is a standard offering for Taiwanese breakfast. Fragrant toasted sesame bread filled with flavorful beef, scallions, cilantro and's a nice filling way to start the day! We decided to make this for our Sunday School class this week. We braised the beef a few days ahead and also used the braising liquid to make soy sauce eggs.  As with many Chinese dishes, this one had no specific recipe beyond the list of ingredients provided by my mom. Below is my best guess at the details. :P 

Sesame pancake sandwich (Shao bing jia rou)
6 servings/sandwiches

1 6-count package sesame pancakes (available at a Chinese supermarket)
1 lb sliced Chinese braised beef (recipe below)
1 green onion, sliced into strips
a few sprigs of cilantro
1/4 cup braised beef sauce (see below), hoisin or plum sauce
  1. Toast pancake in the toaster.  Carefully slice pancake in half longitudinally, leaving one length intact.
  2. Spread desired amount of sauce inside the pancake and place 2-3 slices of beef (may vary depending on size/thickness of slices).  Add green onion and cilantro to your liking.  Repeat with remaining pancakes.
Chinese braised beef (Lu niu rou)
3lbs beef shank
2 cups water
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine
10 star anise
2 Tbsp szechuan peppercorns (optional)
1 stick cinnamon
5 slices ginger
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Place beef shank into boiling water and let cook for 5 minutes.  Remove beef and discard water.
  2. Place the water, soy sauce, rice wine and spices into a large stock pot on high heat.  After the liquid boils, place beef into the pot and let it boil for 5 minutes.  Reduce to medium-low heat and simmer the beef for about 3 hours, turning the beef over every 30 minutes so that each side of the beef gets its turn sitting in the braising liquid.  
  3. Remove beef from the liquid and let it cool.  Refrigerate overnight and then slice the beef against the grain into thin slices.
  4. The remaining braising liquid can be used to braise eggs, chicken, tofu, seaweed, etc.  After you're all done braising to your heart's content, simmer the leftover liquid on low heat until it reduces into a nice thick sauce, perfect for the beef or on plain white rice.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Roasted vegetables

One of my favorite, simple ways to prepare veggies is oven-roasting them. Cut up cauliflower and broccoli (and any other veggies of choice) and toss them in some olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika. Roast in a single layer at 400F for 30-40 minutes. The high heat caramelizes the veggies and brings out this great nutty flavor!