Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicken Stew

This is a perfect stew to make during the in-between time of summer and autumn, when it's getting cold enough that you want to sit down in a pair of warm pajama bottoms with a bowl of hot stew, but still have the last of the fresh basil to finish from the garden. It's that time in Seattle already.

Chicken Stew

I love stew. Just saying the word can sometimes make me hungry. It connotes something warm, filling, and delicious, a concoction of all the things I like to eat. This is the first time I've ever tried making chicken stew, as I usually go for beef stew, but something about chicken stew called out to me, so I had to make it.


In my mind, I wasn't thinking the stew would have a tomatoey base, but this was a very highly rated recipe by Giada De Laurentiis -- and now I know why. It's fantastic, and hit just the right spot. I used chicken leg quarters instead of breasts as the original recipe called for, and I wasn't sorry at all. The only thing about the recipe is that it calls for fresh basil, which is a bit odd for a stew. Not that it's not good, but basil is a summer herb for most people and stew isn't usually something people crave when the sun's beating down on them during those hot summer months. In the wintertime, unless you have an indoor herb garden you'll probably have to make do with store-bought basil, or simply leave it out.

Chicken Stew (recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 large carrot, or 2 small, peeled, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 14.5oz can chopped tomatoes and diced green chilies
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 3 chicken leg quarters, skin on
  • 1 15oz can organic kidney beans, drained (rinsed if not organic)


  1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven (or other heavy pot) over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, and onion and saute the vegetables until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, basil, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme. Add the chicken; press to submerge.
  3. Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently uncovered until the chicken is almost cooked through, turning the chicken over and stirring the mixture occasionally, about 25 minutes.
  4. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a work surface and cool for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.
  5. Add the kidney beans to the pot and simmer until the liquid has reduced into a stew consistency, about 10 minutes.
  6. Discard the skin and bones from the chicken legs. Shred or cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Return the chicken meat to the stew, then bring the stew just to a simmer. Ladle in bowls and serve.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Well, it's that time. Time to say goodbye to summer and all its wonderful produce. Like many, I want to preserve what I can, so that I can get a taste of summer in the long autumn and winter months to come. To that end, I've made a big batch of pesto (using walnuts instead of pine nuts, and without cheese) to freeze, and now also, strawberry jam.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

What's the difference between freezer jam and regular jam? Essentially, cooking. The former isn't cooked, so it tastes more like fresh fruit, but it also needs to be stored in the fridge or freezer due to its highly perishable nature (whereas properly cooked jam can be stored at room temperature in a cupboard).

Crushed Strawberries

If you have the room in your freezer, freezer jam is definitely the way to go. It not only tastes more like fresh fruit, but is much simpler to prepare. No canning equipment necessary. All you need is the fruit, pectin, sugar, and some clean jars. Because freezer jam is more perishable than its cooked counterpart, you want to store them in small jars, so they can be finished in a reasonable time.

Sure Jell - No Sugar Necessary

In order to control the sugar in your final jam, use "no sugar necessary" pectin, such as the Sure Jell kind I used. There may also be "freezer jam" pectins out there, but this one works for that purpose (the instructions include ones to make freezer jam). Using regular pectin would probably work, too, but if you're like me and don't like things to be overly sweet, you don't want to have to use a lot of sugar in order to activate the pectin. In fact, I actually used less than the instructions call for, which it explicitly warns not to do (so as not to compromise the jam setting). It worked fine for me -- I used just under 2 cups of sugar, though the instructions say to use 3 cups -- but your mileage may vary.

Sure Jell and Sugar

In order to make strawberry freezer jam, all you have to do is crush the fruit, heat up a sugar/pectin/water mixture, add one to the other, then ladle into clean jars. Couldn't be simpler. When you're heating up the pectin mixture, be sure to constantly stir. After it reaches a boil, you should let it boil for one full minute. It's considered boiling when you can't stir away the bubbles anymore.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Let the filled jars sit on the counter at room temperature for 24 hours to let the jam set, then viola! Delicious, homemade jam. The jam can be stored in the freezer for 1 year (thaw in the fridge) or refrigerated for up to 3 weeks. Once you've opened a jar, use it up within a week. (That's why smaller jars are better.)

Strawberry Freezer Jam

The recipe that follows is specifically for strawberry jam -- and it's my reduced sugar version. Follow the instructions that come with the pectin for other fruit and best results.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Makes about six 8oz jars of jam.

  • 4 cups (about a quart) strawberries, washed, hulled and crushed
  • 1 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1 package fruit pectin
  • 1 cup water
  1. Using a potato masher, crush the strawberries in a large bowl. Leave it as chunky as you like -- depends on if you like large pieces of fruit in your jam. Do NOT use a food processor; this will liquefy the fruit.
  2. In a large pot, mix the sugar together with the pectin until well combined. Add the water and stir. Heat over medium-high, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a FULL boil. Let it boil, stirring, for one full minute, then remove from heat.
  3. Carefully and quickly pour the crushed fruit into the pectin mixture and stir for one minute, until well combined.
  4. Ladle the jam into clean jars, leaving about 1/2-inch room at the top, then set the jars on a counter at room temperature for 24 hours. Store in freezer for 1 year (thaw in the fridge) or refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. Once you've opened a jar, use it up within a week.
Strawberry Freezer Jam

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I was introduced to this Jewish cookie this summer by my best friend. It hasn't been an easy summer for me, as my mom was going through some serious health issues (though she's thankfully a lot better now). One of the things my friend did to help keep me sane, other than just be there for me, was bring me treats. One of these treats was rugelach from a bakery near where she lives.

Raspberry Rugelach

I fell in love with them, especially the raspberry ones, and was determined to make my own. First, they were rather pricey. Second, they seemed pretty simple. And third, I needed to find a sure-fire way to be able to have them any time I wanted, once I left southern California.

Raspberry Rugelach Dough

I found plenty of recipes for rugelach online, but none of them seemed to fit the bill. Then, I was browsing a bookstore one day after returning to Seattle, and found The World of Jewish Cooking, by Gil Marks. In it was a recipe that I felt sounded very similar to the rugelach that I'd fallen in love with. And the pastry crust used cream cheese, which I already knew I was a fan of, from previous pie-making experiences.

Raspberry Rugelach

I am pleased -- and amazed -- to tell you that these homemade versions are even better than the ones from the bakery. I wish that happened more often! The only difference is in appearance -- rugelach are traditionally crescent shaped, while the bakery version sold them in squares. I followed the instructions to shape them into crescents, though it would be very easy to roll them into squares, instead. In fact, it would be a lot less time consuming.

Chocolate Rugelach

You can also shape the rugelach into small, medium, and large sizes -- I chose to make small, bite-sized ones; the recipe makes 64 bite-sized cookies, 48 medium-sized cookies, and 32 large cookies. Because you're working with four balls of dough, it's also easy to play around with fillings. I decided to make half raspberry and half chocolate (though to be honest, I still love the raspberry ones best). Also, for the filling, I used walnuts and granulated sugar, and omitted the optional raisins.

Rugelach (recipe from The World of Jewish Cooking by Gil Marks)


For the dough

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1/2 cup dried currants or raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 granulated sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • About 1 cup apricot jam, raspberry jam, strawberry jam, orange marmalade, or 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, melted

  1. To make the dough: Beat together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the salt. Gradually beat in the flour.
  2. Divide into 4 equal portions, form into balls, wrap, and refrigerate overnight. (For quicker use, place in the freezer for about 1 hour. The dough can be frozen for up to 4 months.) Let the dough stand at room temperature until workable.
  3. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  4. On a lightly floured surface or piece of waxed paper, roll out each piece of the dough into a 1/8-inch-thick round about 15 inches in diameter.
  5. To make the filling: Combine the nuts, currants or raisins, if desired, sugar, and cinnamon. Brush the dough rounds lightly with the jam, marmalade, butter, or margarine, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle evenly with the nut mixture.
  6. For large rugelach, cut each round into 8 wedges; for medium, cut into 12 wedges; for small, cut into 16 wedges. Roll up the wedges from the wide end toward the point, pinching the point to seal. Gently bend to form crescents. (The rugelach can be prepared ahead to this point and frozen for several months. Defrost before baking.)
  7. Place the rugelach on ungreased baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let the cookies stand until firm, about 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer.
Variation: Chocolate rugelach: Substitute 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder for the cinnamon and brush the dough rounds with the 1/4 cup butter or margarine (not the jam).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Oven-Fried Paprika Chicken

Some might say that I'm obsessed with finding the perfect oven-fried chicken recipe. It comes from loving fried chicken ... like, a lot. The last time I tried this was in January, with Pat and Gina's Oven-Fried Chicken.

Oven-Fried Paprika Chicken

I'm back with another recipe, this time from Tomatilla. This one uses seasoned breadcrumbs instead of panko, and uses buttermilk to keep the chicken moist (which is also Alton Brown's method of making traditional fried chicken). It's definitely one of the best oven-fried chicken I've eaten.

Seasoned Breadcrumbs

Making seasoned breadcrumbs is quick and easy, and helps you use the last of that old bread that's not much good for anything else -- but you can also use prepared breadcrumbs if you like. But it should be noted that for the purpose of making oven-fried chicken it never tastes as good as fresh breadcrumbs, partly because the prepared kind is usually too evenly ground and pulverized to be interesting.

Oven-Fried Paprika Chicken

As with the Pat and Gina recipe, this one calls for removing the skin from the chicken. I (reluctantly) did so -- and was pleasantly surprised that the buttermilk did, in fact, help keep the chicken moist. The chicken is scored and seasoned, so that when you bite into it, your mouth is full of flavor.

Oven-Fried Paprika Chicken

Coat each chicken piece generously. Do it as quickly as you can, because you don't want the breadcrumbs to get too soggy. Be sure you oil both the pan and the tops of the chicken, to help it attain a crispy texture in the oven.

Oven-Fried Paprika Chicken (adapted from Tomatilla)

  • 1/4 of a loaf of dried-out old bread
  • 2 tbsp herbs de provence
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground pepper
  • 1 chicken (3-4lbs), cut into 8 pieces, or 8 pieces of assorted chicken parts
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 cup buttermilk

  1. Tear the bread into chunks, then pulverize in a food processor to get coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in the herbs de provence, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and pulse a few times to get it all evenly distributed.
  2. Remove the skin from the chicken and cut deep slashes to the bone in each piece.
  3. Put the chicken into a bowl and sprinkle the paprika over them. Rub thoroughly, making sure each piece gets some paprika, until it's evenly distributed. Pour in the buttermilk, making sure that each piece gets coated, and rub the buttermilk into the slashes. Let the chicken sit in the fridge for about an hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  5. Spray or otherwise oil a large baking sheet with canola or olive oil.
  6. Take each piece of chicken and coat it thoroughly in the crumb mixture. Place them in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  7. Drizzle or spray some oil onto each piece of chicken.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes, until the bottom starts to turn brown. Flip each piece over and bake another 15-20 minutes until the chicken is a golden brown all around. Check for doneness -- when you cut into a piece near the bone, the juices should run clear. If they're tinged pink, turn the pieces again and bake for another 5-10 minutes.