Friday, September 30, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes with Three Cheeses

Tender, soft pillows of potato and onion quilted with cheese and cream. What is not to like?

Use fresh cheeses for a great scalloped potato dish.

The first time I made this was for a family Christmas served alongside a beef tenderloin. Relatives still talk about it. What's not to like? Creamy potatoes baked with cheddar, Parmesan and blue cheese. Use quality cheeses that you grate yourself. If I use blue cheese, I generally use Maytag Blue. For the recipe below, I used Gorgonzola. Instead of using all milk, I use about 2/3 whole milk and 1/3 half-and-half. Either way, don't use reduced-fat milk. It's not unusual for the potatoes to look "curdled" during baking. That's okay. It generally works into a creamy sauce with the cheese. I generally use a mixture of shallots and yellow onions. 

A mandoline makes easy work of grating the potatoes. Do not use boiling or waxy potatoes. You want starchy Idaho spuds. 

(Adapted from Bon Appetit)
  • 3/4 cup grated (packed) extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces) I prefer white, not yellow
  • 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese or Gorgonzola (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup grated (packed) fresh-grated Parmesan (about 1 1/4 ounces) do NOT use the canned stuff
  • [I probably use a bit more of all the cheeses]
  • 4 pounds Russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch rounds (I think 1/8 is better)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided (I prefer Kosher)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (I use a combo of onions and shallots)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cups whole milk (I've never used just milk. I use a combination of whole milk and half-and-half or all half-and-half)

Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Butter or spray a 13 x 9 x 2 glass baking dish (I recommend spraying with Pam).

In a medium bowl, mix together all the cheeses. Set aside.

Grate potatoes. Set aside. Either grate or finely chop the onion/shallot. Set aside.

Measure milk/cream mixture in a glass measuring cup. Microwave until warm. Set aside.

Using half of the potatoes carefully arrange them in rows in the baking dish, overlapping slightly. I go one row down the length, and then the second row across the width. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Evenly sprinkle the onion mixture over it then the flour. Dot with 2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle half of the cheese mixture over this and reserve the rest of the cheese. 

Now top with the rest of the potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and dot with remaining two tablespoons butter.

Pour warmed milk over the potatoes (it will not cover them completely). Tightly cover the dish with foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil (liquid may look curdled, that's okay, especially if using all whole milk). Evenly scatter the rest of the cheese over casserole. Bake an additional 45 minutes, uncovered until cheese is a deep golden brown and potatoes are tender and creamy.

Oh, my!

Remove from oven. Let sit a good 20-30 minutes before serving.

This recipe is easily halved. Bake in an 8 x 8 dish and adjust cooking time accordingly. I bake it covered for about 35 minutes and then uncovered for about another 40 minutes or so.

(This may be prepared two hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Cover and re-warm in 375 F. oven for about 20 minutes)

NOTES: People always love to add more cheese. Be careful. More cheese may add more oil and grease, not necessarily taste. A little cheese with potatoes goes a long way.

Cover with milk just until the top is barely covered or it will boil over. The trickiest part of scalloped potatoes is bake time. It's easy to underbake them. 

How much milk you use depends on the thickness of your potatoes. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Scalloped Potatoes with Garlic and Goat Cheese

I just kind of assume it's the French who had the culinary genius to bake ultra-thin layers of potato in cream. I mean, just look at that photo. Magnifique, n'est pas? It's a work of art!

Three kitchen utensils make this recipe a breeze to prepare: first and foremost is a mandolin. No kitchen should be without one. Next is a scale. How many times have you told yourself you were going to get one? You need two pounds of spuds. And last, but not least, a garlic press. Or a micro-plane. Okay, that's four.

A mandolin makes easy work of slicing potatoes. Always guard your fingers
and never look up while slicing. Keep your eyes on the task at hand.

Use large starchy Idaho potatoes, not red or yellow waxy ones. Use a good goat cheese. People who don't like goat cheese will love these potatoes. Trust me. This is Bon Appetit recipe. I used a flavored goat cheese instead of plain it called for and changed the process of preparing a bit.

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 5-oz. log garlic and herbs goat cheese, softened
  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons regular table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon regular black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (do not omit)
  • 2 pounds starchy potatoes, such as Idaho or Yukon Gold

Preheat oven to 400 F. Butter or spray a glass baking dish 11 x 7 x 2, which I prefer. But mine was out of commission at the time so I used an 8 x 8 which also worked.

Measure your milk and cream into a glass measuring cup and microwave until warm (not hot). Add your softened goat cheese and with the tines of a fork begin working it into the cream mixture so it dissolves. Add the garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Taste and re-adjust seasonings, if necessary. Set aside.

Scrub and peel your potatoes. I don't peel, I just use a metal scrubbie to wash them well which removes some of the skin. Slice 1/8-inch thin. Save the largest slices to place on top of dish.

Place 1/3 of the potatoes on bottom of dish, overlapping slightly but neatly in rows. Whisk cream mixture and pour 1/3 on top. Continue layering and adding cream mixture 2 more times. I use the smaller pieces to place around the perimeter of the dish.

Bake uncovered for 1 hour and 10-15 minutes. Allow to rest a bit before serving.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Turkey Soup with Dumplings and Meatballs

Savory-spiced ground chicken (or turkey) meatballs add depth to this rich soup.
Celery leaves make a great garnish for just about anything
and are usually on hand more so than fresh parsley.

This recipe has a few "twists." First, I no longer use "diced chicken or turkey" when I make turkey or chicken soup. I use ground chicken that I make into tiny meatballs, even for turkey soup. They add a ton more flavor and it's easy to incorporate spices into the mixture.

Where I live in the South, it's difficult to find good noodles. I have no idea why. And it's almost impossible to find broad flat noodles--they're twisted which I find, well, twisted. What's up with that? I bought some frozen "dumplings" that were already rolled out, but they were tasteless and I ended up tossing the box into the garbage.

In the Midwest I had access to Amish noodles or frozen Kluski noodles, all made with egg yolks and wonderfully fluffly. If you have access to them, by all means use them. But now, I just make my own. It's actually simple, especially if you have a mini-food processor. If you don't want noodles at all, sub in some rice. I whole-heartedly recommend Ream's Frozen Egg Noodles. Most grocery stores now carry them. 

Noodle. Dumpling. What's the difference? To me, these are "flat dumplings." They are made with egg, rolled out, and tend to puff up just a bit, unlike a noodle, as they absorb the stock. 

Speaking of stock--

For this recipe, it's important to use homemade. Either turkey or chicken will work. Canned does not cut it. 

When I first made this soup and gave it to friends, they all said they "wanted more." Trust me, it's those little meatballs and the homemade stock. Enjoy.

  • 6-8 cups homemade turkey stock: Kitchen Bounty: Turkey Broth
  • 1/2 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced celery (less rather than more)
  • 2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Dumplings/Noodles the amount according to your preference

  • 1 cup ground chicken (or turkey)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried savory
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 4-6 tablespoons tepid water
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 egg yolks

Bring your turkey stock to a simmer and add carrots and celery. Taste for salt.

In a small bowl, mix together the ground chicken, savory, onion and garlic powder, parsley, salt and pepper. Be sure to mix really well. Set aside.

It's important to mix the spices well.

Place the flour, salt, and baking powder in a mini food processor. Pulse. Add egg yolks and olive oil. Pulse. With top on and motor running, begin dribbling in the water, pulsing backwards if necessary. When dough comes together as a mass and leaves the sides of machine, it's done. Remove from processor and knead one or two times. Cover with cloth and allow to rest 30 minutes.

Using the small end of a melon baller, scoop chicken mixture and add to turkey stock. It's not necessary to make them into a perfect "ball" shape. They will float to the top as you add them. As they cook, they will yield their flavor to the stock.I a

Ground chicken gives a lot more flavor to your soup that diced
chicken or turkey.

After 30 minutes of resting, cut the dough ball in half and roll on a floured surface. Roll to about the thickness of poster board or thin cardboard.

You may cut the dough any way you like. Sometimes I cut it into small squares. Sometimes I use a cake-decorator tip and cut out circles. I like small "dumplings" or noodles that fit on a spoon.

If making circles or other shapes, re-roll scraps of dough and then proceed with other half. Place dumplings into simmering soup. 

Bring to a nice simmer, not a boil. I tend to avoid "boiling" soups. Cover. Simmer for ten minutes. Lower to a slow simmer and taste for salt and pepper. Add butter. Cover and leave on low for 30 minutes or more. The dumplings will have "plumped" up a bit. The longer they sit in the soup, the better they will taste. 

Ladle into bowls. Garnish with celery leaves and, if desired, sprinkle with dill. I love it with dill.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Favorite Baked Chicken Leg Quarters

Note how the meat of the lower leg has pulled away from the bone.
That means it's done. It's important to baste the last 25 minutes
to achieve this golden, brown skin. And you want just a bit
of that blackened spiced mixture.

(Update, June 13, 2012: Wow, I'm glad to see this as one of my top recipes! I make it all the time and hope you enjoy them as much as I do!)

I snagged a five-pound bag of chicken leg quarters at my grocery store on sale for only 2.99! That's a whole lot of eating for little money. And it's a brand I like. The quarters are both meaty and juicy.

You'll need a garlic press for this recipe. You want your garlic to be a "paste." Why? Well, when garlic is a paste, it's not apt to burn the way minced garlic will. If you don't have a press, simply mince your garlic fine and then put the salt on it and, using the broad side of a knife knead it back and forth, working the salt into the garlic until a paste is formed. Or just use a mortar and pestle.

I gnaw these babies to the bone and lick my lips!

  • 2 leg quarters
  • 2 large cloves garlic, pressed
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon Old Bay's Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2-3 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  • 1-2 tablespoons (about) dry white wine

Pre-heat oven to 375 F. degrees

Remove any excess fat from leg quarters and rinse well under cool water. Pat dry with paper towels. Place in a shallow baking dish. I prefer metal.

In a small bowl mix the garlic, thyme, Old Bay's, salt, cumin, Tabasco, and several good grinds of fresh pepper. Add olive oil a teaspoon at a time. Using the back of a spoon, mash all the ingredients together to kind of form a paste. Taste. The garlic flavor should be in the forefront along with some heat.

Coat the chicken evenly with the spice mixture.

Place pan in oven and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Raise the temperature to about 425. Splash in two tablespoons dry, white wine into pan and one tablespoon butter. Swirl it around a bit to mix with the juices. When butter is melted, baste the leg quarters with the "sauce." Return to oven and continue to bake for an additional 25 minutes, basting several times. Basting is important to get that golden-crisp skin. I leave in oven for ten minutes then baste. After that, I baste two more times every five minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to rest 20 minutes before serving. I find I enjoy these much more after sitting for 20 minutes or so. Just out of the oven, they're too hot to handle. I like to be able to pick one up and bite into it to get a  mouthful of crispy skin and juicy meat.

Chicken quarters should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165-170 F degrees. Because they contain much cartilage and fat, they are forgiving if you cook them longer. 

Notes: If your legs quarters are on the small side, reduce cooking time by several minutes. Try to cook leg quarters that are about all the same size. I've also done this with just thighs. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Turkey Broth with Rice and Carrots (Don't throw out that turkey carcass!)

Cooking is just as much about beautiful as delicious.
And this is already both! Turkey necks are no longer cheap,
so don't throw away that turkey carcass!

No canned soup can even begin to compare with homemade. And there's nothing more comforting than the rich aroma of a homemade pot of soup simmering away and filling your home with that tantalizing scent. Served with a crusty, artisan loaf of bread and a salad, it's a meal in and of itself. And leftovers just get better and better. If you want "noodles" or what we here in the South call "dumplings," here is the recipe: turkey-soup-with-dumplings

If you can find them, I highly recommend REAMES brand frozen noodles. I also recommend dried Italian Pappardelle noodles. They are extra-wide and lovely in soups and stews. They usually come in small "nests" or rounds. Don't break them up. Great for slurping . . . 

Turkey soup is one of my favorites. It has a depth and richness difficult to achieve in a chicken broth. And it's easier to find turkey "parts" than chicken parts. Here I've used turkey necks. Five turkey necks will give a good quart of soup. You don't have to use fresh herbs. Or, use your turkey carcass, but cut it up best you can so the bones can leach more flavor into the broth.  A cleaver makes easy work of it.

This is a basic turkey stock. From it, you can make all kinds of soup and it's easily doubled.

For the Stock:
  • 1 1/2 pounds turkey necks (about 5-6) or turkey carcass or a combination
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, roughly sliced, peels and all 
  • 1 1/2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 carrots roughly chopped, no need to peel
  • 1 small clove of garlic either sliced or just smashed (I usually just smash it and plunk it in the stockpot, peels and all
  • 1-2 springs of fresh thyme or about 1/4-12 teaspoon dried
  • 3 fresh sage leaves (optional) but don't use dried sage since it will cloud your broth
  • 5-6 cups cool water or enough to just cover what's in the pot
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 12 peppercorns (optional
Wash each turkey neck under cool water and place in a stockpot large enough to handle all ingredients. Cut up (see above) turkey carcass.

Turkey necks make great stock because of all the tiny bones
and cartilage. When on sale, purchase to freeze.

Wash your carrots and celery, roughly chop, and add to stockpot along with onion (the peels will help turn the broth a rich golden color), garlic, and herbs. Fill with cool water just until the ingredients begin to float. (The less water, the stronger your stock. But be sure to at least cover the contents, especially if you give it an all-night simmer.) You may sub some of the water with canned chicken stock. If you have a "clear" leftover gravy, go ahead and add that. Sprinkle with salt.

Place over medium heat and bring just to a simmer. Do not boil. Boiling with cloud your turkey stock. Cover and simmer for 4-8 hours, (this is easiest on an electric stove top) checking and stirring occasionally. (I often put it on the stove just before I go to bed and then it's ready when I get up.)

Place a colander with a large bowl in your sink. Carefully dump the ingredients into the colander so the broth sieves into the bowl. Remove colander and place over the stockpot for about 10 minutes or so to catch any excess drippings. Return drippings to bowl. 

Rich, golden turkey stock flavored with fresh vegetables and herbs.

At this point, most of the nutritional value of your ingredients have leached into the stock itself. Just throw them out. Sometimes I'll pick some of the meat off for my cat. I just dump the colander ingredients into a plastic grocery bag (make sure it has no holes!) and place in the garbage. If you have pigs or goats, they love it. If you live near the edge if a wood, possums, raccoons etc. will gobble it up at night, including bones.

Wash out your stockpot. Place a sieve over it and now strain your stock from the bowl back into the stock pot to rid it of any smaller impurities.

Taste your stock and add more salt if necessary, a little at a time. Be careful to never over-salt your stock--it's easy to do. Place the raw rice in a sieve and wash under cold water. Why? You want to get rid of the starch that could cloud your soup.

To Make Soup

For the Soup:
  • 6 tablespoons washed, raw, long-grain white rice (not instant)
  • Noodles (see notes above)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • dried onion flakes (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Dried dill or parsely (optional)

Carrots and celery with rice make a simple and rich turkey soup.

Wash and cut your celery and carrots. Place in stockpot and bring to a simmer. I don't usually add onions. If the broth is a bit too watery, I will add some dried onions that easily dehydrate in the broth and add flavor. Sometimes a small garlic clove, sliced. Now add the rice. Cover and simmer until rice is fluffy, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle with a bit of dried parsley if desired. Allow to sit for another 20 minutes or so. The longer your soup sits, the fluffier the soup will become.

Ladle into bowls and, if desired, sprinkle with dried dill.

Delicious! (I've had this spoon since I was five years old!)


After putting your stock through the sieve, you may cover it and place in the refrigerator if you don't want to assemble a finished soup that day. The fat will have risen to the top and solidified and is easily peeled away, if desired. OR instead of refrigerating your stock, place in freezer bags and freeze until ready to use.

If you use regular table salt, use half of the Kosher amount. But Kosher salt is milder in flavor and is recommended.

When making the stock, use up your largest carrots and the outer ribs of celery saving the more tender ones for the actual soup.

Friday, September 9, 2011

But I Can't Cook! Ten Easy KB recipes You Can Make!

There was a time when even the best of cooks and chefs couldn't cook. It's a skill that takes time and patience. And repetition. 

If you are one who thinks he/she can't cook, Yes you can. In fact, you can do an awesome job! A few pointers on getting started:

  • Start simple. Avoid complicated recipes with many ingredients.
  • Read over the entire recipe from start to finish, several times. If you don't understand something, look it up or ask someone who does.
  • Have all your ingredients on hand and already measured out.
  • Know what pots and pans you are going to use, including utensils. Things can burn and get out of control when you're pulling open drawers and opening cabinets trying to find things.
  • Have things like pot holders handy.
  • Keep a bit of warm, sudsy water in the sink for quick clean up of spills, etc.
  • Turn off your cell phone. Put on some nice music that won't distract you. Tell people to keep out of the kitchen--your kitchen. Remember the old adage: Too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • When using a burner, gas or electric, begin low. You can always dial up.
  • And never walk away from a simmering pan or pot. A neighbor recently put some bacon on the stove and then took a call on her cell phone as she walked to the deck outside. By the time the smoke alarm went off it was too late. The apartment had filled with smoke and she had a lot of cleaning to do. Moral of story: We also cook with our ears. Stay within earshot.
  • Don't change a recipe. I always advise to first make a recipe as is. You can change it the second time around.

Kitchen Bounty: Easy Rice with Spinach and Parmesan Cheese (Company Rice)
People will think you're a genius when you serve this savory dish.

Kitchen Bounty: Mashed Potatoes
Even people who cook well make crappy mashed potatoes. A bowl of warm, fluffy spuds can be a meal in itself.

Kitchen Bounty: Potato and Bacon Pie
This is pretty straight forward. It's a lot of cutting, but worth it.

Kitchen Bounty: Cube Steak Neapolitan
Bring this to the table and you'll get applause!

Kitchen Bounty: Ground-Beef Stroganoff
Serve this with mashed potatoes for a filling meal.

Kitchen Bounty: Pasta with Garlic, Olive Oil and Parmesan
It doesn't get much easier than this. Just be sure to have a huge bowl to do the mixing.

Kitchen Bounty: Rice and Chicken (Easy Risotto)
If you have a food processor, you're in business.

Kitchen Bounty: Veal Stew
Lovely and delicious.

Kitchen Bounty: Ham and Hominy Soup
If you can open cans, you can make this. People will want the recipe, so be ready!

Kitchen Bounty: Split Pea Soup with Bacon and Rosemary
Another great, easy soup!