Tag : pepper
Tag : pepper
When I was a kid, I was not a fan of pork (unless it came in the form of bacon). No matter how well my dad prepared the pork, I just didn’t like it. I would have eaten all the broccoli in the world but fried pork chops just weren’t my thing.
And now, either because I’ve gotten older or learned to cook, they are sooooo my thing.
I mentioned to a chef at work that I wanted to learn how to fry pork chops, and he (vehemently) suggested that I brine them. I brined them the very first time I made pork chops, and I haven’t looked back since. They were that brilliant: cooked all the way through, but still juicy and tender; perfectly salted without being off-putting; flavorful, browned, and crispy, and drowning in a rich, brown gravy.
As you will soon find out (if you haven’t already), I’m a huge fan of cooking with booze. Any kind of pan sauce or gravy and there must be alcohol. For some reason, we always have sherry lying around, perhaps because we buy it and never drink it or cook with it (so why do we buy it in the first place?) The first time I did the pork chops, in order to save some money, I decided to pull out the sherry instead of buying a new bottle of wine or beer.
And I am glad I did. Compared to wine, sherry is super mellow, a little sweet, and still just as deliciously yeast-y. From now on, whenever I make a brown gravy with meat, I’ll be making it with sherry.
Thyme normally makes me think of chicken and cream sauce, but it pairs perfectly with the sherry in this gravy and adds a freshness to the salty pork chops.
Minus the tweaks in measurements and process, this is basically the first pork chop recipe I’ve ever made and I’ve been using the same flavor combinations for probably two years now. It’s just that good (but we all also know that I can’t not experiment, so there will be other pork chop recipes in the future.)
pan-fried boneless pork chops with thyme-sherry gravy
Note: The ratio for a pork brine is 16 parts water to 1 part salt, by volume, and you use enough water to cover all of your pork. You can brine the pork in a large pan, but I find it easier to use ziploc bags (you don’t need as much water, and you can keep them in the refrigerator more easily.) 1 quart of water will cover 1 lb of pork, and 1/16 of one quart is 1/4 cup. For one quart of water, use 1/4 cup of salt. You won’t need any more salt for the rest of the recipe, except possibly the gravy (but probably not.)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 c (2 oz) sea salt
2 Tbsp whole peppercorns
2 Tbsp (1 oz) granulated sugar
1 lb boneless pork chops
ground black pepper*
canola oil or olive oil for frying
*You won’t need any more salt for the cooking because the brine will have added plenty.
2 Tbsp (1 oz) butter or olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 c (2 oz) sherry
1 c chicken or vegetable stock
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (about 4 sprigs)
salt and pepper as needed
brine the pork
The goal with the brine is: dissolve the salt and sugar into the water, but don’t cook the pork prematurely with boiling water.
Place the pork chops into ziploc bags with the fresh thyme sprigs.
In a small saucepan, combine the salt, sugar, peppercorns, and 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Boil until both the salt and the sugar are dissolved. The brine will very likely change color and look a little amber.
Combine the brine with the remaining 2 cups of cold water to bring down the temperature and pour the entire mixture into the bag with the pork and thyme.
Close the bag and let the pork brine for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
If you’re brining the pork more than ~2 hours before cooking, then keep it all in the refrigerator and pull it out about 1~2 hours before you’re ready to fry the pork. Have the pork on the counter for at least an hour before frying to let it come to room temperature.
cook the pork
Remove the pork chops from the brine (the brine can go down the drain or in the trash now), and lay them out between two sheets of paper towels to dry for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a skillet or saute pan (cast iron is best, but any other bare metal is good, too) on medium high and preheat the oven to 350 F*.
*If you’re using thin pork chops or if you pound them out, you won’t need the oven. For the small, thick boneless chops, you’ll need the oven for all of 5 minutes and no longer.
Once the pan is hot, add the vegetable oil and let it heat up for a few minutes, until it shimmers and runs as thin as water. You can test the oil by tilting the pan so that the oil pools around the rim, then sticking the handle of a wooden spoon into the pool of oil. If the oil is hot enough, the oil around the wooden handle will bubble. The oil will also shimmer and ripple on the surface, and if you swirl it around, it’ll be the consistency of water. It might even smoke a bit. You can heat it to the smoking point (unless it’s an unrefined oil, like extra virgin olive oil), or keep it just under the smoking point.
Place the pork chops into the pan: set them down gently, placing first the edge closest to you then the edge farthest from you to avoid splattering yourself with hot oil. You should hear the pork sizzle immediately. Make sure you don’t crowd the pan: it’s better to fry the pork in batches and spend more time on the searing than to try and fit all of the pork into the pan at once to speed up the process. It’s absolutely vital that the pork chops do not touch each other: leave at least 1-2 inches between each piece.
It doesn’t matter if you flip the pork chops multiple times or let them sear for 5 minutes on each side without any movement, as long as you don’t fuss with them too much between flipping. The constant and undisturbed contact between the protein/meat and the surface of the pan is how you get the best brown.
After placing the pork chops into the pan to sear the first side, sprinkle the crushed black pepper on the raw side. Once you flip the pork chops the first time, sprinkle the black pepper over the seared side. Black pepper burns easily, so the less you have floating around the pan, the better.
If you have thin pork chops, use a digital instant-read meat thermometer to test the temperature after the second side has been searing for 5 minutes. You can keep them frying and flipping until the internal temperature reaches 145 F**. If you have thick pork chops, you might need to finish them in the oven: transfer the seared meat to a baking sheet*, then place all of the meat in the oven. Take the temperature after 3-5 minutes. Once it reads 145 F, the meat is done.
**The safe temperature for whole pork is 145 F. For ground pork, where the likelihood of contamination inside the mixture is higher, the safe temperature is 165 F.
If all of your pork chops fit into your skillet at once without crowding each other, then save yourself a dish and just put the whole skillet in the oven.
As soon as the pork chops are out of your skillet, start on your gravy. The gravy only takes about 5 minutes.
make the gravy
Reheat the skillet on medium-low heat and add the butter or olive oil.
When the oil or butter is hot, add the minced garlic and saute for about 1 minute, until you can start to smell the garlic. Don’t let it brown too much or too quickly: the lower heat, the better, as long as the garlic is still able to cook.
Once the garlic is golden and you can smell it, whisk in the flour. The roux should be thick and pasty, but not too doughy. Cook the roux for about 1-2 minutes until it darkens a little bit.
Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the sherry. Whisk to fully combine the sherry and the roux and let the mixture bubble for about 1-2 minutes, until it thickens to a gravy-like consistency.
Whisk in about 1/3 of the stock until fully incorporated and bubbling. Taste the gravy at this point to see if it’s the right consistency (not pasty or floury, but not too thin), and the right flavor. Continue slowly incorporating the rest of the stock and testing for texture and flavor until it’s smooth and thick, but still gravy-like. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the gravy is too thin, let it bubble and thicken a bit. The finished gravy should coat the back of a metal or wooden spoon but not move when you run your finger through the gravy along the back of the spoon.
Once the gravy is finished, whisk in the fresh thyme and serve.
The pork chops and gravy keep for a few days in the refrigerator in an airtight container or plastic bag. Store them separately.
My family isn’t Scandinavian, per se, though it’s clear we wish we were. My paternal grandfather was Irish and born in England, while my paternal grandmother was from Ohio, but also Irish much farther back. On my mom’s side, my grandmother’s family came over from Portugal a long time ago, and I don’t know about my grandfather’s family.
In other words, we’re European-ish. But we’re not Scandinavian. If anything, we’re Irish, but I’ve never made corned beef and cabbage myself and I’ve only successfully made an Irish pot roast once, so this blog isn’t quite ready for a real Irish recipe.
My dad’s family has lived all over the world, from Chicago to Copenhagen. In fact, my dad and some of his siblings went to high school in Copenhagen (and yet the only Danish he remembers is “Vi skal spise snart,” meaning “We’ll eat soon.”)
From my Irish grandfather’s English upbringing and his family’s travels, we’ve adopted a weird variety of family traditions. I don’t know where Birthday Mouse came from, but I do know that our Christmas risalamande is one of the family’s Danish traditions.
We called our grandparents (when they were still with us) farmor and farfar (our cousins called them mormor and morfar), the Swedish words for “(paternal) grandmother” and “(paternal) grandfather.”
Even though we may not have any Scandi in our blood (aside from one aunt through marriage), we have plenty of Scandi in our hearts. And so here are some köttbullar (pronounced “hyutt-boo-ler”), Swedish meatballs. The main flavor in the meatballs is the onion, and though the spices are optional, I refuse to make them without allspice. The general recipe is cooked onions, bread, milk, eggs, pork, and beef, fried in butter. Butter is hit-or-miss with frying, unless you have a good cast iron pan (which I do, and I always use cast iron to make these) that can withstand the wear and tear. When I make the meatballs, I end up not needing any extra fat between the butter for the onions and the fat from the red meat, but if you do need to add more fat for frying the meatballs, you can use vegetable oil, a combination of vegetable oil and butter, or just butter (but watch your pan and your heat if you use butter.)
My version of Magnus Nilsson’s recipe has a tiny Mediterranean flair: I deglaze the pan with white wine (you can also use beer) and make a cream sauce from that.
spiced swedish meatballs (svenska köttbullar) and brown gravy
adapted from The Nordic Cookbook, by Magnus Nilsson
4 Tbsp (2 oz) unsalted butter
1 yellow onion or half of one large white onion
1 tsp ground allspice
4 oz milk or cream
1.5 oz stale bread or unflavored breadcrumbs
8 oz (1/2 lb) ground pork*
8 oz (1/2 lb) ground beef
a hefty pinch of salt
a hefty dash of ground black pepper
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour**
1/4 c white wine or light beer
1 c chicken stock
1 c heavy cream (for the sauce)
Egg noodles for serving
*Be sure that you’re not buying pork sausage or anything with the word “country” in the name: that’s breakfast sausage and is already seasoned (and very, very salty.) If you can’t find plain ground pork, or you can’t grind your own, ask the butcher.
**You only need the flour if you aren’t cooking the noodles. The water that you boil the noodles in will get starchy and you can add some of that to the sauce to thicken. If you are serving the noodles, then skip the flour. If you’re using the flour, add it after removing the last of the meatballs and before adding any liquid: flour for making sauces should go into the pan before the deglazing liquid.
Melt the butter in a cast iron skillet on the stove, on medium heat (you can use a different type of skillet or pot if you want, but I highly recommend bare or enameled cast iron.) While the butter is melting, mince the onion finely (because the onion bits will be in the meatballs.)
Add the onions and ground allspice to the skillet and let cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions brown a little bit and turn translucent, about 5 – 10 minutes. Prepare the rest of your ingredients while onions are cooking.
When the onions are done, turn off the heat but leave the skillet as it is, so you can use it to fry the meatballs.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the milk/cream, bread/crumbs, egg, pork, beef, and a hefty pinch of coarse salt and ground pepper.
Add onions to the mixture and combine with a spoon, whisk, or your hands, until the mixture is mostly uniform and you don’t see any dark red/pink spots left.
Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and let the mixture chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour to let it firm up. With ground meat, it’s best to handle and cook it cold because it holds its shape better. You still need to be careful about internal temperature, for sanitation reasons, and ground meat is generally less sanitary than whole pieces of meat. Make sure your meatball mixture is chilled so the meatballs don’t fall apart in the skillet, but while cooking, make sure they brown thoroughly and cook all the way through.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C, in case you need to finish the meatballs in the oven, and set aside a large ceramic baking dish.
Reheat the skillet that you used for the onions, on medium-high, adding more butter or vegetable oil if the bottom of the pan looks really dry.
Use spoons, your hands, or a cookie scoop (the cookie scoop is the safest and most consistent way to scoop the meatballs) to scoop the mixture. If you need to, roll the scoops of meat between your hands to form spheres.
Add the meatballs to the skillet. You should immediately hear sizzling as soon as you put the first meatball into the skillet, but not as much sizzling as when searing steaks. If you don’t hear the sizzling or you don’t see any bubbles around the edge of the meatball where it touches the pan, increase the heat slightly. If you immediately see smoke or the sizzling is intensely loud, reduce the heat slightly.
Add as many meatballs as you can without crowding the pan (they should be able to sit about 2 inches or 4 centimeters apart), let them brown on the bottom, then flip them to brown one more time on a different side. Each batch will probably take 3-5 minutes to brown on two sides.
You can either continue turning the meatballs to brown more than twice, and cook them through entirely on the stove, or you can transfer them to a baking dish and finish them in the oven for 5 – 10 minutes.
Test a meatball by cutting it in half: if it’s brown inside, that meatball and the others in the same batch are done.
When the meatballs are almost all done, start a pot of water boiling for the noodles. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add a splash of olive oil and about 1/8 c (most of a handful) of salt. Add the noodles and cook according to the directions on the package, but save about half a cup of the pasta water for the sauce before you drain the noodles. As soon as you drain the noodles, pour some olive oil on top and toss the noodles and oil together to keep the noodles from sticking while you finish the sauce.
Once all the meatballs are seared and out of the skillet, reduce the heat of the skillet to medium-low.
There should be plenty of fat in the pan from the meat, but if it looks dry or crusty, add a little more butter.
If you’re using flour for the sauce, instead of pasta water, add the flour to the pan and whisk to coat it completely in the oil. Let the roux cook and darken for a few minutes. (If you’re using pasta water for the sauce, save that for later in the process.)
Add the wine or beer and bring to a boil. While the alcohol is boiling, scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the skillet and whisk them into the alcohol. Let the alcohol boil down for 2-3 minutes until the volume is reduced and the liquid is a bit thicker.
Add the chicken stock (if you have pork bone stock, that will also work), and continue boiling to reduce and thicken the sauce.
Reduce the heat to low and slowly whisk in the cream, about 1/4 c at a time. Once the cream is totally incorporated, increase the heat to let the sauce simmer so that it thickens. If you’re using pasta water, add that to the gravy at this point. Let the sauce simmer at medium-high heat for about 5 – 10 minutes, tasting and seasoning occasionally, until it coats the back of a metal or wooden spoon.
Turn off the heat and add the finished meatballs to the sauce to coat them. Serve over the egg noodles.
Smaklig måltid! (“bon appetit”)
When I was in my last year in college, I bought a full bottle of Jim Bean bourbon for myself, even though I had only had bourbon, whiskey, and scotch once each. I wanted to see if I could make myself develop a taste for it.
2016 holiday cookies: cranberry orange cookies
2015 holiday cookies: vegan snickerdoodles and vegan peanut butter cookies
2014 holiday cookies: cardamom molasses cookies
Fortunately, I could, or else I would have wasted a whole bottle of bourbon (I found some really good recipes for winter bourbon cocktails, all of which have since gotten lost in the sands of the internet.)
This year, I bought as much anise and fennel as I could get my hands on, to see if I could learn to appreciate those flavors. It took more than a year for me to finally be able to tolerate either flavor, but keep the licorice to yourself, please, and if you wouldn’t mind, keep it out of my sight, as well.
In light of my feelings towards anise and fennel, one might wonder why I have an anise star tatted on my back. The answer would be that cardamom pods have a less distinctive look and cardamom is what I really wanted, but I also wanted people to be able to recognize what the tattoo was.
Last December, I started becoming really interested in German and Scandinavian food (I vowed to find bakeries in my area that make kugelhof and stollen and never even made the attempt), and I tried pepper nuts for the first time. I bought a box from Trader Joe’s, snuck them into my bedroom so my parents wouldn’t steal them, poured myself a glass of CabSauv, and took a bite…and I wasn’t into it. Those ones were heavily anise-d and fennel-ed and I was just about completely turned off from the first bite. Cut to eleven months later and I find them at Harris Teeter (my standards are low and I’m not ashamed): I scurry on home, hide away in plain sight in the dining room because at this point who cares if my parents want some, pour myself a glass of Chardonnay that tastes like Gorgonzola (does all Chardonnay taste like Gorgonzola or is it just me?), and take a bite.
Molasses cookies. That’s it.
Of course, I should be using a real German bakery as my standard, but by now I have an idea of what these are meant to be: a little crispy on the outside, coated in powdered sugar, soft on the inside, and just lightly spiced. They’re like snack cookies.
At first I wanted to see if I could do them gluten-free for my uncle and for some coworkers, but that was an utter failure (I may never nail down this gluten-free thing), so after countless frustrating attempts, I decided just to go with the gluten-y recipes, and I found myself – *gasp* – craving fennel and anise.
Never mind that all I could find at the grocery store were anise seeds. I infused those into the butter for the pepper nuts, and for the first time in a year and a half, I finally began to appreciate the spicy star permanently inked onto my shoulderblade (nestled among Italian basil leaves, Persian limes, and a scattering of whole cloves because all of those things make complete sense together.)
On the one hand, there is pepper in these cookies, at least in most recipes. By default, though, there are no nuts. I ended up not putting any nuts in mine at all. The name, however, refers to the way they look: like nuts. Some recipes use almond flour, and some actually put pieces of nuts in the dough, while others use citrus peel. I keep mine simple with no add-ins.
Obviously, they’re vastly similar to my cardamom molasses cookies, but those cookies are heavy on the ginger, cardamom, and sugar, while these are soft, subtle, and, the way I make them, heavy on the anise.
Oh, and they’re coated with powdered sugar. They’re like delightful little bon-bons.
german pfeffernüsse with anise
makes 2 dozen small cookies
adapted from The Perfect Cookie, by America’s Test Kitchen
4 Tbsp (2 oz) unsalted butter
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp anise seeds or ground anise
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/3 c (4 oz) molasses
1/4 c (1.75 oz) dark brown sugar
2 c (8.5 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 c powdered sugar
Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Don’t let it brown or bubble too much.
Once the butter is melted, add the cardamom, anise, fennel, cinnamon, allspice, and black pepper, and whisk until smooth. cook for another couple of seconds, until fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Transfer the butter-spice mix to a large bowl and whisk in the molasses and brown sugar. Add the egg and whisk until smooth.
Using a wooden spoon or electric mixer with paddle attachments (like the whip/beater but with fewer loops), mix the dry ingredients into the wet until it forms a homogenous dough with no lumps of flour remaining. It may be a little bit sticky, but after you chill the dough, it’ll be easy to handle.
Form a rectangle with the dough and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour.
While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cut the dough rectangle in half and keep one half chilled while working with the other.
Cut the other half into 12 equal pieces, roll the pieces into spheres, and place on the baking sheets about 1-2 inches apart. Put the first sheet in the oven while preparing the other half of the cookies.
Repeat the previous step with the other half of the dough, baking each batch for 10 – 12 minutes until the tops are completely dry and the cookies are slightly lighter in color, but still a little soft.
Let the cookies cool on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely (about 15 minutes or more) before tossing in the powdered sugar.
Once fully cooled, add the powdered sugar to a bowl and toss the cookies a few at a time to coat completely.
Auf Wiedersehen und Frohe Weihnachten!
St. Nicholas 😉
I used to be picky about meat. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t particularly like it. I don’t know if I just got bored with what was on offer, or if I hadn’t developed a taste for it yet, but it was a rare meat that made me smile.
They say “distance makes the heart grow fonder,” and that’s exactly what happened.
One week in middle school, my best friend said he didn’t believe I had the will to be a vegetarian, and that it was stupid to try. I showed him…for exactly one week. Then I caved. One meat I did like was Chinese beef, or beef in “Chinese” food. The chow fun did me in, y’all.
I was ashamed but also prideful, “I realized there was no point in being vegetarian. You were still wrong, even though I did give up. So…hah!”
Then in high school, I decided to try again, and really try. For me, it was like a challenge: could I challenge myself to expand my non-meat experiences? By eliminating “cheeseburger” from my options at restaurants, I figured it would make choosing an entree easier, something I still struggle with. I also figured it would be the healthy choice (Present Me is rolling his eyes at Teenaged Me), and that it made sense because I still wasn’t super thrilled about meat as a concept.
The first year was rocky. My family would (perhaps unintentionally, or perhaps cunningly) leave halves of Panera sandwiches that they had bought in the fridge. They would be halves of the very panini that I enjoyed the most…and I, though I probably could, would not restrain myself from sneaking bites of the chicken bacon whatever that belonged to my sister.
I was a bad vegetarian. Once, I wanted to try a friend’s nachos, which had ground beef on them. I wiped the beef off, and shrugged, “meh.” They all looked at me and said, “you’re a really bad vegetarian.”
The summer before that, I had spent a month in Ireland, gorged on bacon and Irish sausage (Irish sausage is a godsend, unless it dark and called “pudding.” That is a not-godsend.)
I was ashamed. So I doubled down and said, “no more of this nonsense!” I went to homeroom a changed dude.
For about two years after that I was a good vegetarian. I was super discerning. I was also a little nag-y, maybe (my college friends can confirm or refute.)
I once went out for Korean barbecue with friends, just because I didn’t want to be the only one not going, and ate all the pickles and condiments. And then I ate dinner when I got home. That was sort of a low, but I didn’t realize it at the time.
Early on in my second year at university, when I was starting to think about studying abroad in Japan, and also just living in Japan in general, a friend convinced me to exchange my vegetarianism for pescetarianism (is there a standard spelling for that yet?!) It didn’t take a lot of convincing. Before she could even get the “sc” out of her mouth, I was all in. “Please, teach me the ways of the fish!” We went out for a sushi dinner that night.
I loved all of it. That’s huge: as much as I disliked meat, I used to like seafood even less. But that night, I was in love. The lust has since plateaued into a balanced and prominent enjoyment of seafood.
I assumed I should get into seafood because Japan, and obviously, and duh. I later discovered I was misguided: Japan loves meat. The second step towards my carnal rebirth was ramen, an unavoidable and unforgettable thing…made with pork bone broth. I caved a little more: “I’ll only eat meat if it’s in ramen. Just that one exception.”
People were, understandably, flummoxed. I survived that way for a good three years, enjoying Los Angeles’s sushi and seafood scene, getting into Korean food (I can have KBBQ now!), and paradoxically eating ramen.
Fate, however, had different plans. Not only did Japan love meat, Japanese public schools loooooooove serving meat for school lunch, and the whole “how do I maintain my pescetarianism (sp?) at school without compromising my relationship with the staff” dance was exhausting. I successfully got them to stop serving me meat at my junior high school, but my elementary school was a more difficult task, and I gave up. I decided to eat the meat, but only at school (or in ramen, or if it comes from the sea, or if I can’t see it…and so on, and so on.) One of my favorite dishes was, morbidly, orange chicken.
One evening, while enjoying my daily hazelnut latte across from the McDonald’s near my apartment, I could feel my willpower leaving my body through the foot area, and I caved one last time. I told everyone I had started eating meat again. Nearly everyone I had ever known was elated.
My heart had grown fond, but my tastebuds and stomach acids had grown lusty.
When I first started officially eating meat again, I had to take it slowly, to ease my stomach back into the process, but I was like a caffeinated baby: ready and raring to go. Once I felt like my stomach could handle the red, I went crazy. I jumped so far off of the no-meat bandwagon, I couldn’t even see the car anymore. I ate so much meat, my mom commented when I moved home, “Well, I guess you really aren’t a vegetarian/pescetarian anymore.”
And if you asked me three years ago what my favorite meat was, I would have said “chicken.” I would still say “chicken,” though steak, cooked right, is pretty damn good, too.
That’s where this bird comes in: beer braised chicken. In my quest to learn cooking techniques (poaching, braising, grilling, roasting, and so on), I found a recipe for braised chicken and immediately fell in love…with the end result, but not so much with the recipe itself. It was inordinately complicated, so over the last fifteen-ish months, I’ve simplified it a lot. It’s a franken-braise, hardly reminiscent of the original recipe at all. I don’t even remember where I found the recipe.
Braising is one of those things that feels complicated because people make it complicated. You can find multiples of dozens of braising recipes and styles and techniques and tips online. It’s enough to make your chicken thigh spin (pun.) Since starting this recipe, I’ve tried a few others (coq au vin, braised pork belly, pot roast, to name a few), and every time, I was overwhelmed by the deluge of braising styles. To make things more palatable, I like to think of braising as Six Simple Steps:
Every recipe is just a variation on this. Some recipes use starch, others don’t. Some use a lot of liquid, others only use a little. Different meats take different lengths of time to braise. Some people boil the hell out of the meat (don’t do that.) Others, smartly, don’t let it get above a simmer. Some people pour off the fat, while others (me. it’s me), love the fat. They embrace the fat. You can make gravy with the braising liquid, or serve it as is, or even serve it soupy.
beer braised chicken
2 lbs chicken breast and/or thigh with skin and bone
~4 Tbsp canola or coconut oil (for searing and sautéing)
kosher or sea salt
crushed black pepper
1 large yellow onion
1/4 lb carrots
3 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour (or other starch, such as corn, potato, or tapioca)
1/2 a bottle of beer (dark beers, lagers, Pilsners, etc., work best, as opposed to IPAs or flavored beers.)
1 c chicken stock
1 long sprig of fresh rosemary (or 1 Tbsp dried rosemary)
Place chicken, skin side up, on a paper towel-lined plate or baking sheet, and cover with paper towels to dry. Let the chicken come to room temperature, sitting out of the fridge for about an hour before you’re ready to sear.
Peel and roughly chop the onion. Chop carrots into thumb-sized chunks and place in a bowl with the onion.
Heat a large, wide sauté pan, braiser, or Dutch oven on medium heat for a few minutes. Add 1-2 Tbsp of the oil and heat.
Make sure the oil covers the entire bottom of the pan/pot. It’s ready when it runs as thin as water or starts to smoke. You can also test the oil by tilting the pan so the oil pools on side, and sticking the end of a wooden spoon into the pool. If it bubbles, it’s ready.
While the pot/pan and oil are heating, peel and mince the garlic cloves and set aside. Measure out and prepare the rest of the ingredients, each ingredient in its own bowl or measuring cup.
Liberally salt and pepper the skin side of the chicken, and when the oil is hot enough, gently place the chicken in the pan, skin side down. Place chicken in one layer with some space in between each piece. Liberally salt and pepper the opposite side.
Flip the chicken after a few minutes, when the skin is nicely bronzed, and continue to sear the opposite side.
Remove chicken, reduce heat to low, and add another 1-2 Tbsp of oil. Set the chicken aside in a bowl, and let the oil heat.
Add the onion and carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes until tender and fragrant, then add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes until you can smell it.
Add the flour and cook for another minute or two, stirring/whisking constantly.
If you’re using dried rosemary instead of fresh, add the chopped, dried rosemary at this point and cook another minute or two.
Pour in the half bottle of beer and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and let the beer reduce by about half.
Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chicken back in, skin side up, and cover the pot/pan.
Braise/simmer for about 45 minutes, making sure the liquid doesn’t boil, until the chicken is cooked all the way through and falls apart easily.
If using fresh rosemary, mince the rosemary and add it to the chicken after about 40 minutes.
Serve the chicken with the gravy, reducing the sauce after you remove the chicken, if necessary.
See ya on the flip side,
past holiday cookies:
ginger turmeric sugar cookies | | basic sugar cookies | | cardamom shortbread | | salted, spiced double chocolate cookies | | chocolate chip cookies | | cardamom molasses cookies | | black tea butter cookies
Christmas is just around the corner, which means cookies galore. I like to do a cookie round-up every December, featuring some new holiday cookie recipes and bringing back some old ones. Perhaps someday I’ll have enough to write a book dedicated to holiday cookies (and by “perhaps,” I mean “certainly.”) It’s the time of year for spicy chocolate, rich ginger and molasses, decorate-able sugar cookies, and exploring all manner of exotic recipes, ancient recipes, and European recipes.
Last year, I went on a spicy cookie binge, introducing salted and spiced double chocolate cookies and cardamom molasses cookies. Over the past year, though, I’ve been trying my hand at some vegan and gluten-free pastries (vegan banana nut muffins, gluten-free brownies, gluten-free muffins), so our special 2015 guests are of the vegan variety.
I spent a month trying to come up with a “healthy” vegan cookie, with whole wheat, oatmeal, apples, and more, so that I could have my cake and gain a six-pack, too. I don’t normally diet, and in fact I hate the word, but I’m thinking it’s time to become more aware of my health and what I’m eating (my tummy will go away but chocolate chip cookies are forever.) Long story short, those cookies were disastrous and disgusting, consistently. They were mushy and soggy, even when I dried out the apple bits in the oven before adding them to the batter, and they tasted less than pleasant. My grandiose idea of The Healthy Vegan Apple Oatmeal Cookie would have to say hello to the trashcan for good. I figured I could try scones instead, but I still wanted some cookies for Saint Nick (I am Saint Nick. I wanted the cookies for my own mouth.) The scones will have to wait until 2016 (but expect a load of vegan and GF scone recipes next year.)
A friend of mine suggested that I do peanut butter cookies. They’re essentially only three ingredients: peanut butter, flour, and sugar. However, as I discovered through a lot of trial and error, three ingredients just doesn’t cut it. Adding some oil and liquid helps.
When thinking of what types of cookies I could make vegan, and what types of cookies I didn’t already have on the blog, the obvious top choice was snickerdoodles, named after me (actually, as you can read in the about me, my parents called me snickerdoodle when I was younger…meaning until last week.)
So here we have it: our 2015 holiday cookies are vegan snickerdoodles and vegan peanut butter!
With the snickerdoodles, I found it’s really important to have a combination of apple sauce, vegetable oil, and maple syrup. No maple syrup and the cookies won’t be very sweet. Too much apple sauce and they taste metallic (apple sauce has ascorbic acid, and the most important ingredient in snickerdoodles is tartaric acid, so in all it’s just too much acid.) The apple sauce helps the texture: it makes the cookies puff up more and end up softer when they cool. Otherwise, you end up with snickerdoodle chips. The maple syrup helps sweeten the cookies and thin out the dough a little bit. If the dough is too dry, the coating doesn’t stick and it’s harder to work with.
makes 2 dozen small (2 teaspoons) or 1 dozen medium (4 tsp)
10 g granulated sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
60 g canola oil*
25 g unsweetened apple sauce
60 g maple syrup*
110 g granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
185 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small shallow bowl, or on a plate, mix the coating ingredients. Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
In a larger mixing bowl, beat the wet ingredients (oil, apple sauce, syrup, sugar, and vanilla), then beat in dry mixture until fully combined. The dough might be dry and crumbly, but it should clump together when you squeeze it.
Form small balls about 2 centimeters across, use a small (2-teaspoon) cookie scoop, or a regular spoon. Lightly press dough spheres into the bowl/plate of cinnamon sugar, to coat one side and form a small disc, then arrange the cookies (sugared side up) on the baking sheet.
Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until the tops are crispy and crackle-y. Remove, cool, and enjoy.
I made the peanut butter cookies a few different ways: as simple as possible (no added liquids), with a little bit of added liquid (soy milk), with a ton of apple sauce for volume, and then with a mix of oil and milk. The last way ended up being the best all around: they thinned out and puffed up, retained the peanut butter taste but weren’t too dense, and were easy to work with. Too much soy milk and the flavor gets diluted. Too little and the cookies are dense. I ended up not even needing apple sauce. You’re welcome to add some, but I found it didn’t make a difference, and because I like to simplify my recipes as much as possible, if I don’t need it, I don’t use it. I also took out the vanilla extract because the flavor comes from the peanut butter and the sweetness from the sugars.
I tried these with factory peanut butter (Skippy) and organic (Justin’s), and they turned out the same either way. The non-factory peanut butter is thicker and less sweet, though there’s plenty of oil in it, but the cookies are still amazing. If you think the dough is too thick or dry, mix in some oil or milk.
NOTE: Because these cookies use canola oil as the fat (as opposed to something that would be solid at room temperature, like butter or coconut oil), they won’t melt down or spread at all. The snickerdoodles do spread because of the apple sauce (and perhaps the syrup), but for the peanut butter cookies, you’ll need to flatten them yourself. You can make them really really flat and thin, or a little bit flat like a hockey puck, or you could even just make vegan peanut butter cookie balls. Every option is equally scrumptious.
vegan peanut butter cookies
160 g peanut butter
80 g granulated sugar
80 g brown sugar
32 g canola oil
32 g soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
95 g all-purpose flour
dash of salt
1 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350 F/ C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat the wet ingredients (peanut butter, sugars, milk, and oil) and in a separate small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.
Beat ingredients together until the dough is fully mixed.
Using a small ice cream scoop (~2 teaspoons or one spoonful), scoop dough onto the baking sheet and press down with a fork.
Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until the cookies start to darken slightly around the edges. Remove and cool.
Happy holidays, y’all
A cold, rainy Sunday morning in December. No alarms going off, no work, and no plans. You roll around in bed, waiting to come to life, and waiting for your comforter to stop being so damned comfortable. Eventually, you get up, rip a massive yawn, brush your teeth, and start some coffee brewing in your moka pot, or drip brewer, or french press, what have you. Whole wheat english muffins with dill mayo and smoked ham, vanilla bean coffee, and black tea butter cookies for breakfast, accompanied by a gander at the news (which turns into reading Buzzfeed articles because really, who wants to ruin their day reading about politics?)
Sounds perfect to me.
I wanted to find/create a recipe for a cookie to go with tea, like a tea cookie. Something small, light, and easy to make, to add some sweetness to the morning joe. I found a recipe for chai tea cookies somewhere and played around with it until I had spiced black tea butter cookies (basically shortbread.) You assemble everything in a food processor, squeeze it together, wrap it, and chill until you’re ready to bake, then you slice them and pop ’em in the oven!
They’re delicate, butter-y, sweet, and spicy, and they go well with a cup of coffee or English breakfast tea.
black tea butter cookies
adapted from Chai Tea Cookies, on The Kitchn
makes one dozen
70 g all-purpose flour
30 g granulated sugar
dash of salt
2 bags of black tea, cut open, or 2 tsp loose black tea (Earl Grey, English Breakfast, etc.)
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
2 ounces (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
Assemble everything in a food processor and pulse until dough forms a large clump.
Dump dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper and squeeze together lightly, so there are no loose or dry bits falling off.
Mold into a log, whatever width you like (I do about 3-4 centimeters), and roll up in the parchment paper, rolling into a cylinder and flattening the ends as you go.
Chill, wrapped in parchment, in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 375 F/190 C, and slice log into 1-centimeter-thick rounds with a serrated or chef’s knife (be careful not to push down too hard, or the dough will squish or crumble.) Arrange the discs on a baking sheet and bake 10 – 15 minutes, until just starting to brown on the edges. Remove, cool, and enjoy.
Enjoy your weekend, y’all
If yesterday’s pecan pie wasn’t enough, here’s another that you can prepare ahead of time and assemble on the day of baking!
I first learned to do apple pie at a workshop in downtown Durham, at Scratch Bakery. I’d been trying to do double-crust apple pie for a few weeks before but it was too much work so I gave up and decided to follow Phoebe Lawless’s method, covering the pie in streusel. The streusel itself is easy and you can really make it any way you want. Streusel is defined as “n., a crumbly topping made from fat, flour, sugar, and nuts/spices, often cinnamon, used as a topping or filling for cakes”, so you can add oats, brown sugar, different types of flours, spices, and so on. I like the streusel combination I used here (flour, sugar, oats, butter, salt, and cinnamon) and I’ll end up using it fairly often, like for the pumpkin streusel muffins.
Coring, peeling, and chopping the apples by hand was a pain the first few times I made the pie, so I bought one of those old-fashioned hand-crank spiralizers: 3-in-one, cores, slices, and peels the apples all at once. And it looks cool, too.
That being said, sometimes the most tedious aspects of cooking or baking can also be the most relaxing. If you have plenty of time, the kitchen to yourself, a bottle of red wine (it has to be red wine because red wine is the best wine), and your favorite Spotify playlist (I like anything acoustic or morning-oriented, even in the evening), then you can just focus on the apples and let everything else fall away. I like doing the repetitive, menial things because I usually have a hard time focusing on one thing or committing to anything, so these kinds of tasks help ground me.
I haven’t tried the recipe with very many different types of apples yet, although I bought some green apples to make today’s pie, then decided it might not be so good with green apples. Someday, I’d like to go through a few iterations of the tart trying out different types of apples. Maybe even different types of black tea.
So much to do! So little money to buy the things to do the things I want to do (*cries publicly*).
And now, after three months of wading through pies and tarts and apple skins and dark rum, one would logically assume that I’ll be taking a break from pie for, like, a full year.
One would be wrong.
Now it’s time to work on some winter crumb tarts and gluten-free recipes. I tried gluten-free pie dough earlier and it was…so-so. It’s kind of a pain to work with because, due to a lack of gluten, it doesn’t hold together so you can’t pick it up, turn it, flip it, etc. You have to roll it out on parchment or wax paper and transfer it gently to the pie pan, then press it in. I was getting frustrated with the dough so I figured I could simplify everything by working on crumb crusts.
Call me in a month to see how they’re turning out.
This apple pie is unbelievable, y’all. The crust is finally flaky and buttery (thank you, Phoebe Lawless, the Pie Pastry Queen), the tea is lightly fragrant and the spices are rich, perfect for the season. The apples soften while the cider thickens, and the crispy streusel just floats around in all of it. It can be a little messy or runny, or it can hold up with integrity. At the workshop, Ms. Lawless mentioned that she likes to change recipes to cram in as many different flavors as possible, and when I saw a recipe for chai spiced apple pie online, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to add one more flavor: buttery pie crust, spiced black tea, apples, and streusel.
apple chai-der pie with streusel topping
makes one 7-inch pie (with 9-in measurements in parentheses)
one 7-inch buttery pie crust, recipe here
45 g all-purpose flour (60 g)
30 g granulated sugar (45 g)
a dash of cinnamon (a dash and a half)
a pinch of salt (a pinch and a half)
1 ounce (2 T) unsalted butter (1.5 ounce/3 T)
250 – 300 g red apples (2 large apples) (350 – 450 g)
70 g granulated sugar (105 g)
20 g all-purpose flour (30 g)
1 tsp cinnamon (1 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp cardamom (3/4 tsp)
1 bag black tea, cut open (1 bag)
1/4 tsp each of ground ginger, black pepper, cloves, nutmeg (1/4 tsp)
a pinch of salt (a pinch and a half)
50 g apple cider (75 g)
Follow the recipe to make a disc of pie crust. The night before, or the morning of, baking, transfer dough from the freezer to the fridge, and when ready to roll out, take out of the fridge and let thaw on counter for 15 – 20 minutes before rolling.
Roll out on a liberally-floured surface, turning and flipping the disc as you go.
Lay dough into pie pan and crimp the edges. This doesn’t need any pre-baking so you can chill/freeze until everything else is ready.
In a small food processor, blend together everything except the butter.
Slowly blend in the butter. If it clumps up, break clumps apart with your hands or a fork.
Chill until ready to use.
Peel, core, and chop the apples (quarter and slice, or chop however you like.)
Mix together sugar, flour, spices, salt, and loose tea in a small bowl.
Combine apples and dry mix in a large bowl, then pour in apple cider and mix.
You can either save the filling for later or fill the pie shell now. Let the filling pile up a few inches above the rim of the pan.
Dump the streusel on top of the unbaked pie.
You can freeze the whole pie assembled and unbaked.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C.
Bake the pie for 50 – 60 minutes until the streusel and crust are browned and the filling is visibly bubbling.
Let cool and enjoy!
Happy Food, y’all!
Call me the Cookie Monster.
Since recovering from my latest nasty cold, I’ve been on a cookie kick. I live in Japan, in an apartment the size of a bed, with one burner and no counter space. I can fit my finger in my toaster oven, and that’s about it. Therefore, cookies are pretty much my go-to thing.
And I just really, really love cookies.
I also really, really love chocolate, but it’s rare for me to find a chocolate cookie or cake that I can appreciate. I love brownies like no other, but when it comes to cakes and cookies, I am taken aback.
But these…these cookies are brilliant. They have such a flavor that I can fully appreciate, a kick to remind me to be myself, and when I eat them, I’m reminded of the assorted boxes of cookies I would discover on the kitchen counter when I was younger. The very same cookies that I would steal away to my room and devour on my own.
Sometimes, you see a flavor combination and you’re like wut. But sometimes you try the flavor combination, and you’re like oh my. This is one. Spicy chocolate is just such a combination. It has intrigue, mystery, and a swift kick in the face. I go crazy with the red and black pepper when I make spicy cookies, for a stronger, more assertive kick.
Taking that one step further, these are salted. In most pastries, salt serves to enhance or deepen flavors by contrasting them, hence the popularity of salted caramel and saltwater taffy. A recipe will usually say to put salt in with the flour mixture, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith, and save the salt for later in the process. If you sprinkle a pinch of salt on these cookies right before you put them in the oven, your taste buds will orgasm. First, you get a whiff of the salty, then you get the sweet and dark chocolate, and finally a red pepper wake-up call. They’re also a great texture: soft and chewy as cookies should be.
However, they burn quickly, so take them out early.
salted, spiced chocolate chocolate cookies
based on recipe by A Thought for Food
makes two dozen small cookies (2 tsp), or one dozen medium cookies (1.5 Tbsp/4 tsp)
Note: You can substitute coconut oil, melted, for butter (1:1 ratio), and they’ll still be amazing, and lighter. I’d recommend cutting back on flour in that case. The dough gets a little stubborn. You can also substitute other “kicks” for the cinnamon and peppers listed below, such as peppermint extract (1 tsp), peppermint liqueur (~3 tsp), ginger, herbs, and so on.
120 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or red pepper
18 g unsweetened cocoa powder
4 oz/8 Tbsp butter, softened and at room temperature
165 g granulated sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c chocolate chips
extra add-ins, such as white chocolate chips, nuts, and so on
1 Tbsp kosher or sea salt, to top
If using a conventional oven, preheat to 350 F/ 180 C. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, baking powder, spices, and cocoa powder.
In a larger bowl, beat the butter until smooth. Slowly beat in the sugar and keep beating until it becomes pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract, mixing for 2-3 minutes.
In small additions, beat the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Stop occasionally to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and scrape off any stubborn dough/batter from the beaters.
Once all the dry mixture is combined into the wet, beat or fold in the chocolate chips and extras, if using.
Using a medium cookie scoop, or two spoons, scoop the dough onto the cookie sheet in spheres approximately 2 inches or 4 centimeters in diameter, and spaced the same distance apart. If using coconut oil, flatten them with your hand. They spread more with butter than coconut oil.
Salt the cookies lightly.
Bake for 10 – 15 minutes (15 if using coconut oil), until they spread, puff up, and become dry on top, making sure they don’t burn. If using a toaster oven, toast for the same time at 740 W.
Remove finished cookies from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. The cookies should be around 3-4 inches wide (~7 – 10 cm.)
When cooled, you can eat them or save them in a sealed container in the refrigerator. They harden a little as they chill, so they’re best enjoyed warm or at room temperature, when they’re a little softer.