Easy Chicken Masala and revisiting my knife skills

I suppose I have to thank Bon Appetit Magazine for my weekend of cooking.  A recipe from a while back for yesterday's soup and a DELICIOUS recipe for Chicken Masala from the most recent issue.

I love Indian food but have always been reluctant to try and cook it myself for one reason: so many ingredients!  I got Padma Lakshmi's Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet cookbook a few years ago but have yet to make anything out of it because most of the dishes call for at least 10 ingredients, most of them spices I don't own.  I'm slowly building up my Indian spice repertoire.  Until then, I am relying on spice packets from Whole Foods!  Thankfully that's exactly what the Bon Appetit recipe called for.

Two years ago I took a knife skills class at L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, MD .  I had so much fun, even though I came home with a blister on my right index finger from all the chopping!  In the class they gave us a few chickens to cut up and de-bone.  Usually when I buy whole chickens it's to roast them.  This recipe was a fun excuse to try and cut one up again!

Easy Chicken Masala
as found in Bon Appetit's February 2010 issue

1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (I left this out... sorry Cilantro lovers)
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs garam masala ( I used a ready mixed bag I bought at Whole Foods but you can also mix your own with the appropriate spices too!)
2 tsp salt
1 large garlic clove ( I used two small ones)
1 4-4 1/2 lb whole chicken (I could only find a 7 lb one so that's what I used)

Cut up the whole chicken into 8 pieces.

Next, mix the yogurt, olive oil, garam masala, salt and garlic in a glass baking dish. 

Add the chicken.  Cover it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it at least 2 hours and up until 1 day.

Preheat over to 400 degrees and roast chicken for 45-50 minutes.  I checked mine after 45 minutes and it was almost done... 50 minutes is a good happy medium I think.

This recipe could not have been easier to make. The yogurt made the chicken so moist and the garam marsala gave it such amazing flavor.  Roasting turned the marinade into a caramelized crust.  Yum!!  This is a must try recipe!




A bright soup on a snowy Saturday

It's another snowy Saturday in D.C.  I've been so busy working late at work, I promised myself I would cook this weekend to make sure I had something yummy to come home to for dinner next week.  Soup is an easy answer.  I can keep some in the fridge and then freeze some for later!
My little Dupont Circle goddess looks like she is wearing a snow shawl, doesn't she?  
I never noticed how strong her arms were!  

My mom found a recipe in one of her Bon Appetit magazines about a year ago for an amazing carrot ginger soup.  On such a grey, snowy day I thought something bright, orange and a little spicy would be perfect.

Ginger Carrot Soup
Addapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

2tbs of salted butter
1/4 cup of olive oil (I used a little less)
1.5 lbs of carrots (It's about a bag and a half of those bags of carrots from the store)
4.5 cups of vegetable stock (I used 4 cups because that's all I had!)
1 large onion
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tbs of grated fresh ginger (I only used about 1 tbs)


Peel and chop the carrots into small circles. Put them in a large pan along with the chopped up onion, butter, ginger and olive oil.  Over medium heat, saute them together for about 10 minutes or until the onions and carrots start to soften.

Add the vegetable stock and nutmeg and turn up the heat a little bit (not too too much!)  Let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until the carrots are soft.

Once it has finished cooking, transfer it carefully, in stages, into a food processor and blend it until creamy.
Who said you need fancy appliances to cook well?  I like to call mine "vintage".  
It belonged to my grandmother.


Serve in a heated bowl to make sure the soup doesn't cool off before it reaches the table.  You can add a little bit of creme fraiche or sour cream in the middle to make it just that much more delicious.  I clearly went that route!

...and then there was none.


You say Car'mel I say CarAmel.

Tomatoes....Tomaaaatoes.. .how ever you say it, caramel is delicious.

Last weekend was my first full weekend off in a while.  Two full days without going to work... what to do?!  Make caramels clearly.

A recipe from Vanilla and Lace (http://vanillaandlace.blogspot.com/) was recommended to me so I thought I would give it a try.  I LOVE chocolate/caramels with fleur de sel and I bought a candy thermometer a while back and never had the chance to use it.  This was the perfect opportunity!

I figured making candy would be rather complicated.  I'm not very good at measuring out ingredients ahead of time but this time I thought I would give it a try.  First step.. get everything out.

This was not a quick little recipe.  I dedicated my morning to it but it definitely took more time than I thought.  All worth it of course!

Here it goes!

(recipe originally found here: http://vanillaandlace.blogspot.com/2009/12/fleur-de-sel-or-not-caramels.html)

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
(simple ingredients turn into a delicious treat!)

Line a cake pan with parchement paper (cut it to size) and butter it.  Buttering is important.  You want the cooled caramel to come off the paper easily.  The recipe called for a 9x9 pan.  I used a small rectangular cake pan and it worked just fine.

In a saucepan combine the sugar, salt (not the sea salt) corn syrup and cream.

Stir constantly and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and stir for 5 minutes.  Cut up the butter into little chunks and slowly add them to the sugar mixture, letting each one melt before adding the next.

The recipe told me to clip on my candy thermometer ... "finally!!!"  
Allow the mixture to boil until it reaches 250 degrees.  I thought this would happen pretty quickly.  Wrong.  The recipe told me it would take 20-40 minutes... I thought It would happen faster.  VERY WRONG.  I started stirring the mixture occasionally, as instructed, at a medium low heat watching the thermometer.  

I have a while to go apparently. Stir....stir.....stir...

bubbles!  It must be getting hotter.

(20 minutes later) The needle hasn't moved that much.
I keep stirring....and turn up the heat a little 

 Another 20 minutes and I'm almost to the red! I finally feel like I'm making candy! By this time I'm past the 40 minutes the recipe said this would take.. so I turn up the heat and watch it a little more carefully.  I tasted the sugar on the spoon I was using and it tasted like caramel...must be a good sign.

In the red... thicker bubbles.  On the right track...but not there yet!

I was so excited to finally reach 250 degrees that I forgot to take a picture.  An hour later, at 250 I see beautiful thick bubbles .

When the sugar mixture reaches 250 take it off the heat immediately and stir in the vanilla.

Pour it carefully into your pan.  Make sure not to scrape the sides of the pan.  If you do you'll scrape sugar crystals into the caramel and you don't want that!  Keep it smooth...leave the sides alone.  If you feel like you are wasting some, don't.  You'll have more caramel then you know what to do with.  Trust me.

Let it cool for about an hour until you can touch it.  (This is where the buttered parchment paper comes in handy.  I'm not sure it would have come out of the pan without it!)

I turned the caramel out onto a cutting board and went at it with my kitchen knife.  Oil your knife because this stuff is STICKY!!

 Prepare a plate with fleur de sel.

I cut mine into long strips and then into squares.  Press each little square into the salt.  Work quickly because it cools pretty fast, making it harder to cut and harder to press into the salt.

Only after I got half way through cutting the caramel strips into squares did I realize that making candy also means making candy WRAPPERS. *sigh*

-[STOP all candy cutting and find plastic wrap.  Cut said plastic wrap into as many pieces of caramel you think you are making, and then cut double that number]

After cursing the number of caramels you have to wrap ........ you can enjoy them :)
This recipe was a lesson in patience but it was well worth it!  The caramels were delicious and it was fun watching the sugar start off as a solid, quickly turn into a liquid and the slowly thicken into thick thick bubbles.  I'll definitely make candy again!  Recipe suggestions welcome!

Friends... get ready for some candy in the mail!


Queen for a day?

... and eat cake too!

In true French tradition I decided to make a Galette des Rois for Epiphany.  I am not much of a baker and even less when it comes to recipes involving puff pastry but when I decided that there was nothing wrong with using pre-made frozen puff pastry (thank you Pepperidge Farm) I thought I would give it a try.  Growing up, going to a French school, I used to eat a Galette des Rois, king's cake, every year for Epiphany.  Whoever makes the cake hides a little "fève", a little plastic baby, or a coin, or a bean in the cake.  Whoever gets the feve in their slice of cake can be Queen or King for the day.  Fun!  I didn't have a miniature plastic baby so I used a bean.  Less chance of choking if swallowed :)

I have the luck of working in a restaurant with a very talented pastry chef so on Wednesday I asked her for a few tips! She took out her sharpe pen and started to explain!

Clearly restaurant quantities of almond cream totally unnecessary.  Good thing she was nice enough to do the math for me and re-size it to individual cake measurements!

I'm very visual.  While I didn't ask her for pictures they were appreciated!  The recipe calls for mixing almond cream and pastry cream together.  She just happened to have pastry cream left over from some desserts she was making that day and gave me some. No sense making tons of pastry cream if I only need a little!

The recipe I ended up using was a combination of the one from Baking with Dorie (thanks!) and my tips and tricks the pastry chef gave me.

14 ounces all-butter puff pastry, homemade or store bought, chilled and ready to roll
3/4 cup almond cream
1/4 cup pastry cream
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 large egg

Pastry cream recipe from Baking with Dorie:
- makes about 2 cups -
2 cups whole milk
1 plump, moist vanilla been, split and scraped
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons (1 3/4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 3 pats
1. Bring the milk and vanilla bean (pulp and pod) to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and allow the milk to infuse for at least 10 minutes or for up to 1 hour.
2. If the milk has cooled, it will need to be reheated now.
3. Whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Whisking constantly, drizzle one-quarter of the hot milk over the yolks. When the yolks are warm, whisk the remainder of the milk into the yolks in a steadier stream; remove and discard the pod (or save it to make vanilla sugar).
4. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, bring the mixture to the boil. Keep at the boil—still whisking energetically—for 1 to 2 minutes before pulling the pan from the heat and pressing the cream through a sieve into the small bowl. Let the cream sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the butter. Cover the cream with a piece of plastic wrap—press the wrap against the cream—and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. You can speed up the chill by putting the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water. (Keeping: Covered tightly with plastic wrap, pastry cream can be refrigerated for 2 days. To smooth the chilled cream, whisk it for a few seconds.)

Almond Cream recipe from my friend the Pastry Chef:

2 sticks of butter - at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of almond flour (I put raw sliced almonds in my coffee grinder)
1 1/2 tbs of flour
5 eggs

Take puff pastry out of the freezer a good 40 minutes before you want to start making the cake.  It takes a while to defrost.

Cream butter and sugar until light
Beat in the eggs 1 by 1
Beat in almond flour and flour

At this point you add the pastry cream to the almond cream.
NOTE: I apparently mixed the two together a little too vigorously because there was air in my cake and it left a little cave between the two layers of puff pastry.  It fell once I cut it but mixing it lightly instead of using all your force, which is what I must have done, might work better.
Add the rum!

Take one sheet of puff pastry, lay it out on a well floured board or counter and roll it out a little, depending on how big you want your cake to be. I only rolled it out a few more inches.

Take the lid of a large saucepan and make a round imprint in the dough.  Brush eggwash around the circle.  This will help the top layer of puff pastry stick to the bottom one when it's time to put it on.

Put your almond cream/pastry cream combination in the middle of the circle and spread it out a little until it is about an inch away from the circle.
Add your bean!  Put it towards the edge of the dough so its harder to see when you cut into the cake.

Roll out the second sheet of puff pastry and gently place it on top  of the cream, making sure that you smooth out any air pockets.

Score the top of the puff pastry with a knife, lightly, if you want a design on the top and then brush it with eggwash.
NOTE: don't forget to cut the puff pastry into a circle shape!  I scored the cake, brushed it with eggwash and put it in the oven forgetting to cut it into a circle.  10 minutes into baking I panicked and remembered what I had done.  Luckily I could still take it out and cut off the excess puff pastry.  It worked... but I still felt stupid.

Cook the pastry according to the baking directions on the box of puff pastry you used.  Mine said 40 minutes at 400.  I think I could have probably baked it at 375.

joyeuse fete des rois!

Who said you can't have cake for breakfast?


Cookies in the Mail

... because I love mail.

....even when it is just e-mail.  For a few years now I've signed up for the 12 days of cookies on the Food Network website.  Every holiday season the Food Network sends me a new cookie recipe for 12 days before Christmas "reinvented" or "touched up" by one of the Food Network celebrity chefs.  While most of them are usually cookies that I would not make or have made before, this year Ina Garten (I love the Barefoot Contessa) sent out Rugelach!  I've always loved them and have never thought to make then until now!

Here are what Ina's cookies looked like in the email I got:
(photo thanks to the Food Network

Let's see if mine turn out the same.


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (Yeah.... I was surprised there was cream cheese in them too!)
  • 1/2-pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 9 tablespoons
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves, pureed in a food processor
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash


Add the cheese and butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until light.  
( I used a wooden spoon...seriously. This stuff is so soft my grandmother could stir it)  

Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured board and roll it into a ball.
NOTE: my dough was REALLY wet. I don't know if I did something wrong or if this is how it was supposed to be.  Just in case yours turns out this way..no need to panic...the cookies will turn out just fine :)

Cut the ball in quarters, wrap each piece in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the filling, combine 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the raisins, and walnuts.

On a well-floured board, (they aren't kidding here.  This dough is STICKY.  I rolled it out several times only to realize there was NO WAY it was coming off the counter.  FLOUR FLOUR FLOUR) roll each ball of dough into a 9-inch circle. Spread the dough with 2 tablespoons apricot preserves and sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling. Press the filling lightly into the dough. Cut the circles into 12 equal wedges-cutting the whole circle in quarters, then each quarter into thirds.

Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge. Arrange the cookies, points tucked under, on a baking sheet(s) lined with parchment paper. Chill for 30 minutes.(Chilling will help take the sticky off and make them easier to handle)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash. Combine 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on the cookies. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven to a wire rack and let cool. Arrange on a large platter and serve.

 Rolling them as it turns out was pretty hard.  It was very sticky and the raisin and walnut filling would fall out sometimes.  Next time I might chop everything up more finely.
I wouldn't call my cookies pretty but they tasted great :)

Bon Appetit!

Christmas revisited

......don't blink or you'll miss it.

Christmas came and went so fast! I spent most of the time relaxing and spending time with my family...I suppose that is what the holidays are for.  I meant to write about my new Christmas tradition (as of 2 years ago), a while ago but am only getting around to it now.

Stollen! The "other" Christmas bread.  I have already covered fruitcakes on this blog...because what are the holidays without a little fruitcake so I thought I would write about the fruitcake's prettier, healthier more popular older sister, Stollen.  Stollen is the made-for-breakfast, not-that-sweet, more-like-bread-than-cake holiday fruit alternative.  My grandfather used to bake bread and made stollen every Christmas.  I haven't yet mastered his other breads but I am getting close to perfecting the stolen!

I found a recipe in the big yellow Gourmet cookbook and have used it ever since.

For Dried fruit mix (can be made up to 4 hours ahead)
1/4 cup glaceed cherries, halved ( I used 1/4 cup of golden raisins instead)
12 cup diced mixed glaceed fruits (oil knife when cutting fruit) ( I used dried apricots)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup currants (dried!)
3 tablespoons dark rum

For Sponge
1 (1/4 oz) package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup warm mile 9105-115 degrees)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

For Dough
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds ( I left these out...but feel free to add them in!)

For Brushing and Glaze
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons confections sugar

Make the Fruit mix
Stir together all ingredients in a small bowl.  Let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally for at least 2 hours.

Make The Sponge
Stir together yeast, sugar, and warm milk in bowl until yeast is dissolved.  Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (if mixture does not foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

"happy yeast!"
Make the Dough:
Add flour, 8 tablespoons melted butter, eggs, and sugar to sponge and beat at medium speed with paddle attachment until incorporated.  Switch to dough hook, add almonds and dried fruit mixture, and beat at medium speed until dough is smooth and pullling away from sides of bowl, about 5 minutes.   Beat for 5 minutes more (it will be a little sticky).

Put dough in a lightly oiled large bowl and turn to coat with oil.  Covert tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down dough, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead briefly.  Roll out dough, turn with an unfloured rolling pin into an oval about 12 inches long and 7 inches wide (1 inch thick).

Brush top of dough with remaining melted butter.  Fold dough lengthwise in half so that bottom half extends about 1 inch beyond top half, and press folded edge lightly together with fingertips.

Generously butter a baking sheet.  Arrange stollen diagonally on it.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 12/ hours.

Glaze and Bake Stollen
Put in a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350F.
Brush stollen with melted butter.  bake until loaf is deep golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped, 40-50 minutes.

Perfect Christmas morning breakfast.