Chicken Breasts Diable {AMFT}

If I’m ever tormented by a devil, I want it to be a French one. With a name like chicken breasts diable, I expected a firy dish with a spicy kick. In fact, I was afraid that I might have to tone it down a bit for the kids.

So I had to laugh when I read the recipe (on page 217 of Around My French Table) and realized that the “fire” in the dish came from Dijon mustard, and only 3 tablespoons for 4 servings, at that. In addition to the chicken breasts and Dijon, the recipe called for butter, olive oil, shallot, garlic, white wine, cream, Worcestershire, salt, and pepper.

This was a simple dish that came together quickly. My chicken breasts were quite thick, and even though I pounded them a bit, they took longer to cook than the recipe called for. After browning the chicken on both sides, I put them in a baking dish and slid them into the oven while I made the sauce in the pan. Then I poured the sauce over the chicken and finished baking it in the oven.

I served the chicken with Garlicky Crumb-coated Broccoli and mashed sweet potatoes.

This was an amazing dish. Spicy (not hot) and very flavorful. Even my Dad, who doesn’t like spicy food, loved it.

Maybe he was French in a previous life.

Advertisements

Swiss Walnut Crescents {ModBak}

For some reason, I had a mental block when it came to making this recipe for the Modern Baker Challenge. I’d decide to make it, then decide I didn’t want to, then change my mind again. On and on it went over the course of several weeks. I must have moved the puff pastry from the freezer to the fridge and back again half a dozen times. I even jumped ahead and made Danish Cheese Pockets while trying to motivate myself to finally get to this recipe.

It wasn’t until I started putting the recipe together that I finally realized why. Even though he calls these “Swiss” pastries and describes both their Swiss German and Viennese heritage, these crescents reminded me of kifli (or “keeflee”), a Hungarian pastry that my aunt makes every year around the holidays.

Now, don’t get me wrong (especially you, Aunt Dar, if you’re reading this); I don’t dislike keeflees. They’re fine. Sweet, nutty, and perfect with a cup of tea. But a few of them go a long way for me. And, like most treats that are only made once a year, no one ever makes only a few of them. No matter whose house you stop by over the holidays, there are plates of them everywhere, and they are offered to you all day long. So, even though I enjoy them well enough, by the middle of December, I would swear I never want to see another keeflee as long as I live.

Nonetheless, this was the next recipe in the Challenge, so I would make it, like it or not. The recipe wasn’t difficult, and the ingredients and method were interesting. I began by making a paste of sorts out of ground walnuts, bread crumbs (I used crumbs from the less-than-stellar maple walnut scones recipe I had recently made), milk, sugar, butter, and spices.

After cooking the nut paste, I spread it out on a plate to cool while I prepared the pastry dough.

For the pastries, I rolled the puff pastry dough out to a large rectangle, then cut it into triangles. I plopped a spoonful of nut filling on the end of each pastry, rolled them up crescent-style, then put them on a baking sheet. I chilled the dough for a few hours, then baked the crescents at 375°F for about half an hour, until the pastry was puffed and golden.

The recipe called for an egg wash before baking the crescents, but I forgot that part. After tasting a few of them and realizing that they really were a lot like keeflees, only better (sorry Aunt Dar), I decided to finish them keeflee-style by shaking them in a bag with powdered sugar.

Like keeflee, these crescents beg to be enjoyed with a cup of tea or coffee. They are sweet, nutty, buttery, and just a tiny bit crunchy. The powdered sugar was great with the puff pastry, although J thought it distracted a bit from the buttery flavor.

In the end, I was glad I overcame my keeflee-block and finally got around to making these crescents. I made a full recipe, and they were gone within a few days. And while I can’t say for sure that I’ll make these again, I may change my mind when keeflee season arrives.

Squash, Sausage, and Apples {Recipe}

One of my family’s favorite dishes, and one that frequently appears on our table this time of year, is some combination of squash, sausage, and apples. It can be acorn, butternut, carnival, or any other kind of winter squash. I use smoked turkey sausage, but, again, you can use any kind you like. As for apples, I often use Granny Smith, but I’ll choose Honeycrisp whenever they are in season.

And just as the ingredients vary from time to time, there are several different ways that I make this dish. Sometimes I peel and cube the squash, parboil it, and then sauté it with the apples and sausage for a quick stovetop, one pan meal.

Tonight, however, I made the squash the way my mom always fixed it: baked and stuffed. I began by baking acorn squash halves, cut side down, in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes.

While the squash was baking, I peeled, cored, and chopped three Honeycrisp apples and cut the sausage on the diagonal. I sautéed the sausage and apples in butter with brown sugar and a bit of nutmeg.

I cooked the mixture for about 5 minutes, until the apples had softened and given up some of their liquid and the sausage had begun to color.

I put a pat of butter in each squash half, then spooned in the apple mixture and topped it with a few grinds of nutmeg and more brown sugar. (Note: I wouldn’t recommend the brown sugar on top. It’s not necessary, as the mixture is plenty sweet, and it tends to burn rather than melt.)

I returned the squash to the oven and cooked it for 25 minutes, until the squash was tender and the apples and sausage had cooked through.

This is a complete meal, which can be served directly in the squash halves or scooped out into a bowl. But don’t count on leftovers — we all polished off our squash halves. Even the extra squash and apples from the pan were gone by the time we were done.

This dish, in one form or another, will make several appearances on our table before the season is over. If you try it, I’m sure it will start showing up on your table, too.

Garlicky Crumb-coated Broccoli {FFwD} {AMFT}

I’m not sure what I was doing back on April 8, 2011. Around that time I was finishing up the last of the savory tarts and pies for the Modern Baker Challenge and getting started on the sweet tarts and pies. And I was Twitterbaking recipes from Bake! with some friends.

What I wasn’t doing was making this recipe with the rest of the French Fridays with Dorie members.

So the other evening while I was making Dorie’s chicken breasts diable and looking for a side to serve with it, I thought I’d play a little catch up and make garlicky crumb-coated broccoli.

This was a very simple recipe. I put the broccoli in the rice steamer to cook while I prepared the crumb coating. I melted butter, and sautéed garlic in it. Then I added bread crumbs and toasted them for a few minutes. Finally, I stirred in lemon oil and parsley, then added the broccoli and tossed it all together.

This was a great side dish, as delicious as it was simple. As for how it went with the chicken breasts diable, well, you’ll have to check back next week.

Apricot & Almond Strudel {ModBak}

This week’s recipe for the Modern Baker Challenge was a quick, easy dessert. It consisted of puff pastry with an almond paste filling and apricots. I decided to make this for dessert the other evening about 10 minutes before dinner went on the table. And I had it in the oven before we sat down to eat.

I rolled out the pastry dough, mixed the almond filling with the Kitchen Aid mixer, and drained a can of apricots. I spread the filling over half of the dough, then topped it with apricots.

I slit the top dough, placed it on the strudel, and pressed it in place. I fluted the edges with the back of a paring knife, and it was ready to bake while we ate dinner.

By the time we were done eating, the strudel was ready to come out of the oven.

I set the strudel on a rack to cool while we cleaned up the dinner dishes; then we cut into it.

We all enjoyed this strudel. The puff pastry was, of course, rich, buttery, and flaky. The almond filling was delicious and paired well with the slightly sweet, slightly tangy apricots.

This was a perfect weeknight dessert. Easy to throw together at the last minute, and absolutely delicious. And, hey, it had fruit in it, so it must have been good for us, too!

Easy as (Peach) Pie

This past weekend, we took a trip to a local orchard. This is something we always do in the Fall, usually several times. It’s as much a part of the change of seasons as falling leaves, sweatshirts, and college football (go  Irish!).

On this trip M surprised me by asking for a half peck of peaches so that she could bake a peach pie. Other than the deep dish peach pie with lattice topping that I made recently for the Modern Baker Challenge, I don’t know that I’ve made a peach pie since M was born. I love peach pie, I just never bake them. But I’m always one to encourage my girls’ baking endeavors, so we bought the peaches, along with some Honeycrisp apples, cider, caramel apples, and fudge.

M wanted to make the pie all on her own, using a recipe from Better Homes & Gardens. She even turned down the offer of a premade crust from the freezer. So I advised her to chill her pastry ingredients and explained how to use a boiling water bath to peel the peaches, then got out of the way.

And, left to her own devices, this is what she came up with:

She came up with the idea for the fruit cut-out on her own and did it freehand.

It was late when she finished baking the pie, so we let it cool overnight and had it for breakfast the next morning.

I was amazed — but not surprised — by how delicious the pie came out. The crust was flaky and perfectly done, and the filling was fruity, spicy, and very flavorful.

It’s good to know M didn’t inherit my pastry gene. After baking about 50 tarts and pies for the Modern Baker Challenge, I’ve finally overcome my mental block with pie crust. M somehow nailed it on her first try.

Cinnamon-crunch Chicken {FFwD}

Chicken, speculoos, crème fraiche, butter, salt, and pepper. That’s the entire ingredients list for this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe. And it’s all you need to make a spectacular, creamy, spicy dish that’s sure to be a hit.

Speculoos are spicy, sweet, crispy cookies that are popular in France but available elsewhere. I found them in the international section of the grocery store. The ones I bought were LU Cinnamon Sugar Spice Biscuits. They are also easy to make if you can’t find them in the store, although Dorie notes that she prefers the store-bought ones for this recipe.

I began by stirring crushed speculoos into homemade crème fraiche and seasoning with salt and pepper. Although the cookies are sweet, you don’t use a lot, and the tanginess of the crème fraiche combined with the salt and pepper makes the mixture more savory than sweet.

Next, I sliced chicken breasts into strips and sautéed them in butter until well-colored and almost cooked through. I seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper, stirred in the crème fraiche mixture, and cooked everything for a minute or two until the crème fraiche was warmed and the chicken cooked through.

I served the chicken with homemade bread and a salad for a quick and easy weeknight supper. As I was putting the dish together, I remember how my dad used to tease my grandmother for putting a dash of paprika on everything before it went on the table. What Nanny Faye understood and Dad didn’t was that we eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouth. 

I must have inherited some of Nan’s genes, as I was worried that the dish would look to blah on the plate. In fact, I was originally going to serve it with creamy rice, but I realized it would be a  nearly monochromatic meal. So I dressed the dish up with a few speculoo crumbs and by serving it on a colorful plate.

If the color was less than impressive, the dish itself was delicious. The slightly sweet, spicy tang of the crème fraiche and speculoos paired so well with the chicken. The cinnamon in the speculoos wasn’t at all cloying or overpowering — it reminded me of savory Indian or Middle Eastern dishes that I’ve had with cinnamon.

Perhaps because of the association with Indian food, I reheated the leftovers and served them over couscous the next day. It was as good reheated as it had been the first day, and it married perfectly with the couscous.

This odd-sounding combination of ingredients made for one of my favorite dishes so far from Around My French Table. And it’s definitely one that I’ll make again.

Fig & Almond Bread {BOM}

This month’s BOM (bread of the month) for the Facebook Artisan Bread Bakers group is a recipe that Nick Malgieri recently developed for his upcoming book. You can find the recipe here.

The recipe is made with a basic, sweetened bread dough enhanced with:

Figs!

And Almonds!

 I kneaded the dough in my Kitchen Aid mixer and added the figs and almonds near the end. In order to get them to mix in better, I first flattened the dough in the bottom of the mixer…

…then spread the figs and almonds on top.

I pressed the fruit and nuts into the dough, then folded the dough over itself several times with a bench scraper.

The dough is minimally kneaded at the beginning and further mixed and developed through several “turns”. After an initial 30 minute rest, I gave the dough its first turn:

First, I flattened the dough on a pastry mat.

 

Next, I folded the sides in toward the center.

 

Finally, I rolled the dough from one of the short ends,

 

...and returned it to the bowl to continue rising.

 I let the dough rise for another 30 minutes, then gave it a second turn. After 30 more minutes, it was ready to be shaped into a boule.

This dough was very nice to work with and easy to shape. And it baked up beautifully. I served the bread for dinner, along with some freshly baked French bread.

This bread was absolutely delicious! The figs and almonds paired well together, making the bread flavorful but not overly sweet. If you like raisins in bread, you’ll like this bread, even if you don’t usually like figs.

This bread really has me looking forward to Nick’s book. I can’t wait to see what else he has up his sleeve!

Apple Tarte Tatin {ModBak}

After my recent tatin disaster, you’d think I wouldn’t want to rush right back in and try another one. But as I’m never one to let a little thing like failure dissuade me, jump back in I did. Besides, this it the real thing — a classic apple tarte tatin.

Having learned from my issues with the pineapple tatin, I did make some changes this time. To begin with, I made my caramel in a saucepan. That way, I could pour it out as soon as it was done so it wouldn’t overcook.

Now that, my friends, if perfectly cooked caramel. Despite my history of burning caramel, this time I nailed it.

The other change I made to the recipe was to bake it in a cake pan instead of a sauté pan. I poured the cooked caramel into the cake pan, then layered on the apples.

I covered the pan with puff pastry dough, which didn’t melt this time, as the pan wasn’t hot.

I baked the tatin at 350°F for about an hour, then cooled it a bit before turning it out onto a plate.

It was obvious at first glance that the caramel wasn’t overcooked on this tatin like it was when I made the pineapple tatin, and I was hopeful that this one would make up for the disaster I had the first time around.

I didn’t have any ice cream, so I served this one naked.

As it turned out, this tatin didn’t need any adornment. It was delicious. The caramel was perfectly cooked and complemented the apples beautifully. I would gladly make this again, caramel and all. In fact, this may just be the recipe to help me overcome my mental block with caramel.

Pineapple Tarte Tatin {ModBak}

I knew this week’s recipe for the Puff Pastry section of the Modern Baker Challenge was going to give me trouble. Like my well-known issues with pie crusts, I’ve always struggled with caramel. It goes from amber to burnt so quickly, and I usually end up having to make it twice. Nonetheless, I bought my pineapple, assembled my ingredients, and got to work.

I began by roasting the pineapple until it was cooked and slightly dried.

While the pineapple cooled, I made the caramel sauce. This recipe is unique in that the tatin is baked in the same pan that you use for the caramel sauce. One of the problems with this is that the caramel continues to cook after you remove it from the heat, so you have to be careful not to overcook it.

I, of course, overcooked it. It very quickly went from this…

…to this…

…to this.

In my own defense, I don’t think the caramel was actually overcooked when I took it off the heat. But it, of course, kept cooking after I removed it from the heat. I turned my attention to the pineapple, and by the time I got back to the pan, the caramel looked a bit overdone.

The caramel contained sugar, corn syrup, water, and butter and only took about 10 minutes to make; so I should have made it again as soon as I suspected it was burnt. But, of course, I didn’t. I layered on the pineapple, covered the top with puff pastry dough, and baked it.

Another issue created by the hot pan was that the puff pastry dough started to melt when I laid it over the top of the tatin. This didn’t seem to negatively impact the baked tart too much.

I let the tatin cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turned it out onto a plate.

It smelled delicious with the caramel and pineapple, and I was hopeful that the caramel hadn’t overcooked to the point of bitterness.

After the tarte had cooled, I cut a slice and plated it with some homemade vanilla ice cream.

One bite was all it took. The pineapple was sweet and well-caramelized. But the caramel was overcooked and inedible. I ate the ice cream (no sense wasting that), then threw out the slice and the rest of the tatin.

Fortunately, it wasn’t a particularly difficult or time-consuming recipe, nor did it call for a lot of ingredients. But it was still a huge disappointment. Don’t get me wrong: there was nothing wrong with the recipe as written. All of my problems were operator error. 

Unfortunately, they were enough to ruin the entire tatin. And it made me that much more anxious about the next recipe: apple tarte tatin. It’s the same basic recipe made with raw apples instead of roasted pineapple. You’ll have to come back in a few days to see how that turned out.

« Older entries