Archive | February, 2012

Seemingly fancy yet totally lowbrow ice cream dessert

25 Feb

After Christmas, some of my most favorite people on earth came to mom’s house for excellent and delicious spaghetti dinner (see how to make that here) and my aunt Paula, mom’s youngest sister, came over with this little ditty for dessert. I didn’t think I would bother saving room since I usually stuff my face with spaghetti sauce but there was no way I could resist.

This needs to sit in the freezer about an hour, so be sure to plan for that.

You will need: A package of plain, old fashioned ice cream sandwiches.

1 jar of chocolate fudge sauce

1 jar of caramel sauce


1 Package of Cool Whip.

Here’s what you do:

Line a pan with the ice cream sandwiches. (obviously you unwrap them.) And then smear Cool Whip on top

Then, add the fudge, caramel and peanuts. You will need to warm the sauces slightly to make them easier to spread but don’t overheat it or you’ll melt the whole lot.
Add some more peanutst to the top layer and bit of chocolate sauce, then stick it in the freezer for a an hour or so.
Slice it like ice cream cake.
It’s like frozen Snickers. Nice work, Paula.

On knives and bad luck

14 Feb


My mom says all you really need when you’re buying kitchen gear is One Good Sharp Knife. The rest is just bells and whistles. I’ve never actually bought one for myself, though I now own two.

Giving and/or receiving a knife is bad luck, or so the story goes. If a love gives you one, your relationship is about to end. If a friend does, it severs the ties.

I am totally superstitious. I can’t help myself, I think it’s my Catholic upbringing and the Italians in my family. I don’t walk under ladders, I don’t break mirrors (fingers crossed).

So when I got the newest one for Christmas from Andrew’s mother, I mailed her a penny in a thank-you note. The knife is beautiful: An 8-inch Wusthof Classic Icon knife, with a heavy handle and a beveled edge. It’s so sharp it slices through tomatoes and doesn’t mush them, and could easily cut off my fingertip if I lost concentration julienneing vegetables. Anyhoo, if you give a penny, then technically you bought it, and it’s not a gift and no bad luck.

It may sound nuts but I wasn’t taking any chances. The last time I got a knife as a gift it was about a decade a go, a generous surprise from a guy. That knife is 10-inches, also a Wusthof, also fantastic. I was thrilled, I was amazed, I was totally enamored of both guy and kitchen tool. But good grief the entire demise of our relationship can be traced back that damn gift.

So beware of kitchen curses. Just sayin’.

Chicken lasagna: A colossal pain, but worth it in the end

12 Feb

So it seems like whenever friends have a baby, I make them my mom’s chicken lasagna. I’m sorry for everyone who lives not within drop-off distance. I think the reason is two-fold. One, lasagna is easy to cook and freezes nicely and feeds you for many days so it seems like a smart thing to give to sleep-deprived new families, and two, it’s a giant pain in the ass to make so I need a good excuse.

But just because it’s a pain does not mean you shouldn’t try it when you have time. It’s delicious! It’s lighter than traditional lasagna and the bell pepper sauce is a nice difference. I’ve found if you do some things ahead of time, like make the bell pepper sauce the night before or cook the chicken, it will seem like less work.

For one pan of lasagna, you will need:

Bell pepper sauce:

2 large cans of whole, peeled tomatoes

1 regular can of crushed tomatoes

1 large onion

1 bunch flat parsley, chopped

2 large red peppers, or 4 small

2 large yellow peppers, or 4 small

4 cloves garlic

Chicken sauce:

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 stick butter

4 cups chicken broth (maybe more, buy two large containers if you’re not making your own)

3 cloves garlic

2 cups or so of flour

Plus mozzarella cheese, about 1 pound, shredded

1 pound of lasagna noodles

First, put the oven on to 350 degrees and cook the chicken breast on a cookie sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper. It’s boring but that’s not the point. They need about 35 minutes to cook fully. Take them out and let them cool.

Bell pepper sauce:

Julienne the peppers, chop the parsley and mince the garlic.

In a large sauce pan on medium heat, sautee the peppers and onion and garlic with olive oil and throw in some chopped parsley. The peppers will reduce down significantly, and there may be some water in the pot. If so, drain the peppers then go to the next step.

Smush the whole peeled in your hands and add them to the sauce.

Put the small can of tomato puree in there as well and let it simmer for at least a half hour.

While it’s cooking, put salted water on to cook the lasagna. When it’s cooked, douse it in cold water to stop the cooking process and coat it with olive oil to stop it from sticking together. Set aside.

The cream sauce:

It’s not really a cream sauce. Rather, it’s a rue that you thin with chicken broth and added cooked chicken breast.  So to make the rue you need butter, garlic and flour. (A traditional rue is just butter and flour but we want garlic to flavor the sauce.)

Melt the butter on low with the garlic. Then you want to add flour until the mixture is dry, like a dough almost.

Looks something like this:

Once you make the rue you can keep and use it to thicken other things, just FYI. So now check your bell pepper sauce, if it’s thickened and cohesive, turn it off but you can keep cooking it until you’re ready to assemble the lasagna.

Dice the chicken. The smaller the chicken the better it works.

Now you’re going to thin out the rue, which you do by adding chicken broth and whisking whisking whisking. This process is labor intensive, and requires concentration.You have to do it on low heat. Whisk and then let it bubble and then whisk some more. Keep whisking until it has the consistency of Alfredo sauce.

For example, this is too thick still:

This is about what it’s supposed to look like:

So then, add the diced chicken to this sauce.

Now you’re ready to assemble. Line the pan with lasagna noodles, then the chicken sauce, then mozarella cheese and the bell pepper sauce. Repeat as much as you can. Be sure to finish it with a layer of cheese! Stick it in the freezer, bake it for 45 minutes at 350, or give it to friends.

(Kind of) Spanish tortilla

4 Feb

When we had a dinner that involved oven-browned potatoes, the next morning was almost always one of two things for breakfast: potatoes and rice with eggs, or a tortilla. So. damn. good. Later when I went to Spain I learned my mom’s version differs from the traditional type of Spanish tortilla, but it’s still delicious nonetheless. So back off, purists.

If you have a cast-iron skillet your life is made considerably easier for many reasons, but especially because you don’t have to worry about flipping the thing, which I’ve done successfully on a number of occasions and am available for consult if necessary. But really, this works best.

Note the leftovers, as well. If you’re going to make this, cook the potatoes before hand. Cut them small and roast them with olive oil and salt and pepper and garlic or whatever you like. Be sure to save at least a cup for the tortilla.

So, you’ll need

1 1/2 cups of roasted potato

12 eggs

1 medium onion or 1/2 a big yellow onion.

olive oil

salt and pepper

1/4 cup milk

oven on to 350 for finishing

Ok here we go:

On a medium heat, dice the onion and saute with olive oil until translucent and fragrant.

Further dice your potatoes so they are small bits, and coat the bottom of the pan. Let them warm for about 3 minutes.

In a large bowl, crack the eggs, and add  the milk, beat till they look like scrambled egg batter, then pour over the potato and the onion. Salt and pepper it.

Turn the pan down to low and let it cook.

You’ll let it cook until the egg is firm, but there will still be runny egg on the top. When the bottom is firm and there’s just a thin layer of runny egg, you finish in the oven for about five to 10 minutes, while you either make the fruit salad I made, or a green salad with arugula, hearts of palm, and avocado and vinegar and oil.

Let it sit. This should be eaten at room temperature, or even chilled. The eggs will be spongy.

For the fruit salad, I used clementines, blueberries and raspberry.