Saturday, January 30, 2016

Crêpes with Lemon Sugar


Well, it's definitely winter. I'm back on my citrus kick (not that I was ever really off it, but I bought something in the neighborhood of 10 lemons this week, all of which had a specific purpose). I've been dying to make crêpes ever since I got a couple of sturdy, super-nonstick pans for Christmas, and so these crêpes were born. When I was in Paris (sigh...), there was a crêpe stand down the block from me, and it took everything I had not to grab a crêpe every day (and even when I allowed myself to get one for lunch while I was out, it was generally a Nutella one - a questionable meal). The crêpe stands in Paris are fantastic - just large enough for a big, round griddle and a few toddler-sized jars of Nutella. The crêpe-makers expertly pour just the right amount of batter onto the griddle and sweep it into a paper-thin circle using a tool that looks very much like a squeegee. I don't know how they do it, but every. single. time. they manage to flip this giant, papery crêpe without a single tear. They then spread Nutella (or other fillings, but honestly if Nutella isn't one of them, what's the point?) over the crêpe and fold it into quarters, forming a nice, neat package that they slide into a paper cone. The crêpe and filling are piping hot and almost burn your hands through the cone, but it's so worth it.


One time, out of curiosity, I ordered a crêpe au sucre. Note that this is different from a crêpe sucrée. The former is a sugar crêpe, while the latter, literally translated, means "sugary crêpe". Properly translated, this is a sweet crêpe (as opposed to the savory crêpe, or crêpe salée, which literally means "salty crêpe". French is weird). A sugar crêpe just didn't seem to have the necessary sophistication to be sold in Paris, even on the streets*. Of course, once I took a bite, I understood. There really weren't any bells and whistles, but the sugar started to melt under the heat of the griddle and it was fantastic. This recipe is a riff on that wonderful crêpe. I couldn't resist adding some lemon!














* Then again, this is the city that sells waffles on the street, so I should know better than to question them.

Lemon Sugar Crêpes
Yield: 20 5.5-inch crêpes and a wonderfully excessive amount of lemon sugar (1 pint)1
Lemon sugar adapted from Martha Stewart, crêpes adapted from From Julia Child's Kitchen

Ingredients
For the lemon sugar:
3 large lemons
2 cups granulated sugar
For the crêpes:
3 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup water
1/4 tsp salt (I used table salt)
3 tbsp melted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
Melted butter or peanut oil, as needed for brushing the pan

  1. Make the lemon sugar: Zest the lemons and mix the zest with the sugar on a large baking sheet. Work the zest into the sugar with your fingers to help release the fragrant oils in the zest2. Allow to dry on the baking sheet for an hour or two (I did this overnight and just broke up any clumps in the morning). Place in a sealed container and store in the refrigerator (where it will last for quite some time). I did this a few days ahead and I think it helped really infuse the sugar with the lemony flavor.
  2. Make the crepes: Place eggs in a blender and pulse to combine yolks and whites. Add all ingredients except flour and pulse again to combine. Add flour and blend until very smooth (if you don't have a blender, you can do this with a whisk and some elbow grease). Place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
  3. Once the batter has rested, remove from the fridge and stir to recombine. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat (I used an 8-inch skillet) until a drop of water sizzles on contact.
  4. If your pan is not nonstick or if you are uncertain about whether the crêpes will stick, brush the pan with a light coating of melted butter or peanut oil3.
  5. Pour a small amount of batter in the center of the pan (I've also seen that some people have success tilting the pan and pooling the batter on one side first), and immediately swirl to coat the pan evenly with batter. Your first one (...five...ten...) will likely look terrible. They will still taste delicious!
  6. Once the bottom is evenly browned, use your thinnest, most flexible spatula to flip the crêpe. Sprinkle one half with a light dusting of lemon sugar. Once the bottom has brown spots all over, fold the non-sugared half on top of the sugared half, then fold in half again to form a triangle. Transfer to a wire rack and enjoy as soon as you can pick up the crêpe without burning yourself!
Notes:

  1. If you can't think of what to do with this much lemon sugar (stir it into tea, roll cookies in it, caramelize it just to see what happens, etc.), you can just put a few tbsp of sugar in a bowl and add lemon zest until it tastes good to you.
  2. Alternatively, you can pulse the zest and sugar in a food processor. I wanted a less homogenous sugar, but the food processor method probably releases the zest flavor better.
  3. You may not need to oil the pan after the first crêpe - just use the first few as testers.
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Friday, January 22, 2016

Lemony Garlic & Herb Bread

My aunt and uncle got me a gift card to a local olive oil and vinegar store (which has cooking classes!) for Christmas, and as usual, my aunt put together a beautiful little gift basket to go with it (thanks, Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Tom!). The basket had some fun spices in it, plus a little jar of chopped roasted garlic. I'd been meaning to play around with adding flavors to my go-to no-knead bread recipe, and this garlic seemed perfect for it. I added some lemon zest and dried parsley, and it was delicious!

Check out that crumb!


This bread, plus last post's chicken noodle soup, will make a lovely lunch for this week as I write, and write, and write to finish my proposal and paper...

Lemony Garlic & Herb Bread
Yield: Two one-pound loaves
Adapted from The Italian Dish

Ingredients
1.5 cups lukewarm water (100-110 degrees F)
1 tbsp active dry yeast OR 2.25 tsp (one standard 0.25-oz packet) instant yeast
2.25 tsp kosher or other coarse salt
1.25 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat (or regular whole wheat) flour
1 cup bread flour1
0.75-1 tsp dried, chopped roasted garlic2
1 tsp dried parsley
Zest of half a lemon (about 0.5 tsp)

  1. If using active dry yeast, mix yeast and water in a 2.5-quart (or larger) container and let sit 10 minutes until foamy. A container with a lid is preferable, but you can also use a metal or glass bowl (something plastic wrap will stick to). If using instant yeast, combine yeast, water, and salt in the container or bowl, no need to proof the yeast.
  2. Dump in the flour, garlic, parsley, and lemon zest and stir to combine until there are no pockets of flour. The dough will look like a shaggy, wet mess.
  3. Mostly cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap, and let sit until doubled, about 2 hours3. From this point, you can use the dough or refrigerate it for later. I prefer to refrigerate it because it makes the dough easier to work with.
  4. Shape each half of the dough into a ball (or just make one loaf at a time) and let rest on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or cutting board for 30-40 minutes. During the last 20 minutes, preheat a pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven at 450 degrees F (if using a baking sheet, you may only want to do 10 minutes or so).
  5. Once the dough has rested, dust with flour and slash with a sharp knife. You can do a cross for a boule, parallel slashes, or any other pattern you want. This is so the gas can escape as the bread cooks, but it also makes it look super fancy.
  6. Slide the bread, leaving it on the parchment, onto the stone or baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the crust is deep brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.
  7. Allow to cool on a baking sheet before slicing and enjoying with soup, olive oil and sea salt, or just plain. Or, you know, rip off a piece the moment it's cool enough to touch.
Notes:

  1. You can use just all purpose flour here, or half all purpose and half bread flour. I found the dough is sturdier and easier to handle with some bread and/or whole wheat flour, but I've made it loads of times with only all purpose flour and it's come out just fine.
  2. Using a whole teaspoon will give you a pretty garlicky bread. If you're not as crazy about garlic, use the lower amount or even 0.5 tsp. I haven't tried this using fresh roasted garlic, but I suspect it would still be great. You'd just have to play with the amounts a bit, likely.
  3. Letting the dough rise for longer is fine. In fact, it develops more flavor the longer it sits. The main thing is to keep it mostly covered to prevent it from developing too hard of a skin on top.
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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Chicken Noodle Soup

I am back, after an exceptionally long and entirely unplanned hiatus! The last few months have been busy and, at times, stressful, so I suppose something had to fall by the wayside. I certainly didn't stop cooking during that time, though, and I missed sharing recipes. Today's is a classic: chicken noodle soup. While I've always liked chicken noodle soup in principle, I've had a lot of bland and/or over-salted versions that left me none too enthusiastic about the dish. As usual, I had to look no further than smitten kitchen to find a recipe that did the trick. Simply browning the chicken and onions before making the stock makes all the difference in the world, and cuts the simmering time for the stock to just 20 minutes. In case you are skeptical of how big of a difference this can make (as I was), check out my stock just five minutes after dumping in the water:



Magic. After the full 20 minutes, you get a beautiful, rich brown stock:



Add in some veggies and egg noodles, and you've got yourself a nice meal. Just the thing I need while I attempt to get over the cold that has left me sounding like a wounded elephant for the past week (I think I sound almost normal today...).




Chicken Noodle Soup
Yield: 4 servings
Adapted just a bit from smitten kitchen

Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
3 lb. bone-in chicken thighs (I removed the skins and kept them for stock)
2 quarts water
1 bay leaf
3 small or 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tsp table salt, plus more to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, stems reserved
1 large carrot, diced1
1 medium parsnip, diced, or another carrot
1 large celery stalk, diced
3-4 oz egg noodles2

  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, adding the onion once the oil shimmers. Brown without stirring for 3-4 minutes, then make little wells in the onions and add the chicken pieces, ensuring that they make contact with the pot. This can be done in batches, if necessary. Brown the chicken on both sides, 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add water, bay leaf, garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley stems and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate until cool enough to handle. Strain the stock and return to pot, discarding solids3.
  3. Add vegetables to the pot and simmer until firm-tender, 5-7 minutes. Add noodles and cook according to package directions (usually they give a range, and if you're planning on reheating the soup for lunches, I'd recommend cooking them al dente so they don't get too mushy in the microwave).
  4. Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the soup just to warm through. The recipe does not call for all of the chicken to be used in the soup, but I wanted a hearty and sustaining soup and found the full amount to be just perfect. If you don't use all of the chicken, use it in salad or shred for tacos or sandwiches (or pick at it while you're cooking, which is what I'd have done).
  5. Garnish with parsley and enjoy!
Notes:
  1. The recipe calls for 1/3-inch dice, which is what I did, but the size doesn't much matter as long as they're uniform. If you want a chunkier soup, cut the veggies bigger and extend their cooking time a bit.
  2. The recipe calls for 3 oz of egg noodles. I thought this was too little and added an extra ounce or so, fully acknowledging to myself that they were going to absorb more broth and make a rather chunky soup. They did just that (of course), but I found the resulting soup delightful because it actually kept me full. The choice is yours!
  3. I really wanted to try to salvage the onions here, both because I love onion and because it feels so wasteful to throw them out. However, they were really mushy and sort of inextricably tied in with the garlic, parsley stems, and bay leaf, so this wasn't really possible. Do make sure you press on the solids with a spatula to get out all the broth trapped in there!


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