No one can eat 50 eggs

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But we’re going to try.   The eggs have been boiled, dyed, hidden and found.   It’s a pretty convoluted way to get to egg salad but so worth it. Every year, as I’m peeling what seems like 50 eggs to make egg salad, I have a vision of Paul Newman lying prostrate on a picnic table with a swollen belly and a huge smile on his face.  If you haven’t seen Cool Hand Luke, you should stop what you’re doing right this minute and download it now.  It is one of the greatest movies of all time.   Surprisingly, it’s full of a lot of really useful parenting tips.  As a mother of two boys, the following lines yelled from the bottom of the stairs at bed time have been invaluable.

” Any man not in his bunk at eight spends the night in the box.  Any man playing grab-ass or fighting in the building spends a night in the box.  Any man with dirty pants on sitting on the bunks spends a night in the box.  Any man don’t bring back his empty pop bottle spends a night in the box.”

Except pop-bottle is replaced with dirty clothes, but you get the idea.  If we’re still at an impasse, a well-timed, “What we have here is a failure to communicate” will usually convince everyone to step back in line.

Here is my recipe for egg salad. As with all holiday sandwiches that come together in the form of a leftover, it’s best served on the whitest, softest and most unhealthy bread you can find.  In the South, it’s Bunny Bread and in the North it used to be Wonder Bread.   Unfortunately, all I had today was wheat bread.  Next year, I will have to remember to ask the Easter Bunny to leave a loaf of bread in my basket.  Enjoy!

-Andra

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Egg Salad

12 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

1/2 cup mayo

2-3 T of Dijon mustard

1 t of celery seed

1 stalk of celery

t T chopped fresh dill

Cayenne pepper to taste

Salt and freshly ground pepper, taste

Place eggs in a large bowl and with a potato masher, mash the eggs leaving them somewhat chunky.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined.

Double the Pleasure

We reached a new milestone this week.  As I’ve mentioned over and over and over again, I roast a chicken about once a week and have always roasted one for the four of us.  Until recently, one was enough, but there were never leftovers.  (Other than the carcass, but that’s for stock, not careless gnawing while watching “The Walking Dead”.)

To avoid resenting my girls for their growing appetites, last night I roasted two chickens.  For very little additional effort, we were all able to have our preference of white or dark meat without any guilt and everyone had thinly sliced chicken sandwiches for lunch (a first).  I can’t believe it took me as long as it did, but I will be a double roaster for the foreseeable future.

I could talk about roast chicken all day; trial and error have given me fairly strong opinions on whether to season the cavity (definitely), using garlic and herbs (meh), roasting the chicken on beds of vegetables (yes, if you have them) and whether or not to use any butter or olive oil when roasting chicken.  I’ve tried several popular recipes:  Julia Child’s, Ina Garten’s, Tyler Florence’s, The Lee Brothers, Cook’s Illustrated and my favorite, Thomas Keller’s.  If you have five minutes to watch this clip of Thomas Keller making roast chicken, you never need to read another recipe.

With two young kids, my priority has been to minimize prep time without sacrificing any flavor.  Sautéed vegetables stuffed in the cavity of the chicken before roasting (Julia Child’s method) may taste delicious, but I don’t think the payoff is worth the  effort (or the additional dirty pan) required on a weeknight.  And although I love the simplicity of Thomas Keller’s roast chicken, I add a pierced, cut lemon in the cavity before roasting.  I usually serve thick slices of the chicken over spinach with a lemon vinaigrette and the lemon cooking inside the chicken, releasing it’s juices ensures that there is some subtle lemon flavor in each of the components on our plates.  If I have fresh thyme, I’ll usually add a few sprigs of it to the cavity with the lemon, but if I don’t, I skip it entirely instead of using dried.

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As far as using fat to roast chicken, I’m a situational user.  If I’m roasting the chicken on top of a bed of potatoes, I’ll use a little bit of olive oil, but no more than a tablespoon per chicken.  The olive oil helps crisp the potatoes and makes a nice basting liquid for everything at the end.  But if I’m roasting the chicken without a bed of vegetables I skip the fat entirely, as the chicken will release enough for basting.  (And butter just adds  unnecessary richness.)

Last night I roasted fingerling potatoes and asparagus on a separate sheet pan to serve with the chicken, so I didn’t use any olive oil on the chicken, just a little on the vegetables with salt and pepper.

Lucky for me, I have two sick kids, so I’ll be using those carcasses for chicken soup tomorrow.  Does that mean I was able to quadruple the fun?

Catherine

Perfect Roast Chicken – My Way

2 3-3-1/2 lb chickens

2 lemons, pierced all over (about 15 times with the tip of a sharp knife) and cut in half

1 Tbsp olive oil

Kosher salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 375°.  Season cavity with salt and pepper and then truss chicken with twine.  Stuff two lemon halves in each cavity and then rub olive oil over the outside of the chicken.  Season liberally with kosher salt and pepper.   Roast on a bed of potatoes for about 45 minutes before testing internal temp with a meat thermometer.  As soon as internal temp reaches 145°, remove chicken from oven to rest (the temp will continue to rise about 10° while resting).  Carve into large slices and serve over spinach with lemon vinaigrette.

May I bring a dessert?

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The polite response to a dinner invitation in someone’s home.  In my case the question isn’t “May I bring a dessert?”, it’s “Can I bring a dessert?”.   The first time I dropped a dessert, I called it an accident. After the second time, I had to admit a trend.

The first accident happened at my husband’s boss’ house.  I was a little zealous cutting into a chocolate cheesecake and my hand went through the middle of the cake, tipping over the cake-stand it sat on sending the cake into a white parsons chair in my hostess’s kitchen.  Quickly, I manhandled the cake-stand and cake  before it landed in the chair and made a beeline to my car where I dropped the whole mess onto the floor mat. I calmly walked back to the party and tried to pretend that I had meant to wear chocolate cake that evening.   (The hostess didn’t blink an eye when I told her, with a completely straight face, that I destroyed the cake and put it in my car.  Emily Post take note.)

The second time I dropped a dessert, I made a pound cake and as I pulled it out of the car I lost my grip on the cake carrier and the whole thing tumbled out of my hands.  I watched as the cake flew out of the cake carrier, flipped in the air and then, miraculously,  landed right side up onto the asphalt, completely unharmed.  After a quick look around the parking lot to make sure no one had seen what I had done, I invoked the 5-second rule and delivered my cake.  The moral of the story is if you are transporting a dessert, it should be sturdy as well as delicious.  This pound cake is both and as if that wasn’t enough, it’s a cinch to make.

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It’s called a Two Step Pound cake.  My mom gave me this recipe after she found it in a Southern Living.  It has all of the hallmarks of a great recipe.  Very few, simply prepared, real ingredients.   If you Google Southern Living pound cake, you might guess that you will get more than a few dozen results.  Pound cake preparation is a religion and everyone is sure they have the method to produce the perfect cake.  Southern Living probably publishes a pound cake recipe at least 3 times a year with specific instructions about steps, ingredients, tools and secrets to produce the perfect pound cake.   Beat the sugar and butter together.  No, beat the butter first then add the sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time.  No, add them all at once.  This two-step pound cake could not be simpler to make and is by far one of the best I’ve ever had.  In fact, Southern Living even voted this one of the best recipes of 2010.  You essentially layer all of the ingredients in the mixing bowl, mix it and then put it in the pan.  We can all do that, I don’t care who you are.

On it’s own, this cake is light with a buttery sugary crust and is the star of the show. It’s also really good with a little whipped cream and berries, or a drizzle of lemon glaze or even ganache.  This is my father’s favorite birthday cake, it’s brought in big dollars at bake sales and is a sweet addition to a brunch buffet.  I will also admit that we have been known to devour this cake just as it came out of the oven, standing over the kitchen sink.  This is a perfect basic recipe to have on hand for all occasions.  Dropping the cake is optional. -Andra

P.S.  Mom, Dad…I promise, I’ve never dropped a dessert I brought to your house.

Two-Step Pound Cake  (a non stick bunt ban or tube pan really is essential)

4 cups of all-purpose flour

3 cups of granulated sugar

2 cups of room temperature butter

3/4 cups of room temperature milk

6 large eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons of vanilla

Preheat oven to 325°. Place flour, sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla (in that order) in 4-qt. bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer. Beat at low-speed 1 minute, stopping to scrape down sides. Beat at medium speed 2 minutes.

Pour into a greased and floured 10-inch (16-cup) tube pan, and smooth. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

Bologn-Easy

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I love Bolognese sauce and have made the authentic version a couple of times; I’ve used the requisite combination of beef, pork and veal and chopped, sautéed, reduced, braised and simmered the sauce over the course of a few hours to achieve silky, meaty perfection.  But, despite what my parents think, I’m NOT convinced everything needs to be done the long, hard, character-building way.  Driving home on Saturday from errands at 2 pm in the freezing snow, I decided to make a quick version of Bolognese.  What’s Italian for Sacré bleu?

To speed up the prep and cooking time, I used a mini-food processor to very finely chop the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. It resembled confetti when it hit the hot oil and butter mixture and cooked faster than it would have if I had finely chopped the vegetables by hand.

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I didn’t skip the traditional steps of reducing the wine and the milk separately, but I did speed those up a little by adding a little less of each than a “real Bolognese” recipe would call for and using my widest pot (and probably a higher heat setting) to speed up the reduction process.  I think the wine and milk reduction steps are to tenderize the meat, so they seemed too critical to skip entirely.

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I also used only ground beef, because I was in too much of a hurry to defrost pork and our veal locker is shamefully empty right now.

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After simmering for only about 40 minutes, it tasted just as good as one of those several hour-long Bolognese ordeals.  In fact, it was better, because we were eating hot bowls of pasta Bolognese within my two-hour deadline.  It was a delicious lesson that did nothing at all for my character.

– Catherine

Bologn-Easy Sauce

1/2 large onion (or one whole small onion, roughly chopped)

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 lb lean ground beef

1/2 cup wine (white or red)

1/2 cup milk (not important if whole or otherwise)

3 Tbsp tomato paste

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper

Kosher salt

Combine butter and olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Finely chop carrots, celery, onion, and garlic in mini-food processor (or chop by hand).  Sauté in butter and oil mixture until vegetables begin to soften.  Move softened vegetables to the perimeter of the pot and add the beef, nutmeg and about 1/2 tsp salt.  Stir well, breaking up beef with a wooden spoon. Cover and allow beef to simmer until no pink remains. Add  the wine and stir until no liquid remains.  Repeat with the milk.   Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and the remaining seasonings.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, for a minimum of 40 minutes. Serve over tagliatelle with grated parmesan.  **Save some of the pasta cooking water to thin out the sauce before serving or storing if necessary.

Happy Pi Day!

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Oh happy day!  A day devoted to eating pie.  I had another post written about today but it started to sound irrational and went on for what seemed infinity.  Instead of that post, I will leave you with this incredibly easy and more incredibly delicious recipe for a fudge pie.  You might have the ingredients in your pantry and fridge right now and could be eating pie in as little as 3.14 hours.

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We also had a quiche which may not technically be a pie but it is round and round works with Pi.  Happy Pi day everyone!

-Andra

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Fudge Pie 

4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate

2 sticks of unsalted butter

4 eggs

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons of vanilla

Deep dish pie shell

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate and let cool.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs.  Add the  flour, sugar, salt and vanilla to the beaten eggs.  Add the butter and chocolate mixture and stir until all of the ingredients have been incorporated.

Pour into the pieshell (no need to pre-bake) and bake for 45 minutes.   The middle may still be jiggly but it is done.  Let cool for an hour and then serve.  This is even better when made the day before.  Serve with whipped cream or Bluebell homestyle vanilla ice-cream.

 

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