Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

Source: Cook's Illustrated

How this amazing recipe escaped my radar for so long is a CRIME. A TRAVESTY. Because. It. Is. Heaven. On. A. Plate. Divinely inspired. I don't even think the English language has a WORD for how incredible this is.

I'm a "Would you like some salad with your dressing?" type of person, so I would have liked the salad to be a little more coated with dressing, but that's just me. I'll probably hold back a couple ounces of spinach next time. Everything else is wonderful. All the ingredients work so well together. 

I made this with the pan-seared salmon I also posted today. If you'd like to make them together (and I highly recommend it!), start cooking the salmon after the bacon has been cooking for about 5 minutes. I savored every bite of the meal!

Wilted Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

3 large eggs
6 ounces baby spinach
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Table salt
8 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 medium red onion, chopped medium (about 1/2 cup)
1 small garlic clove, pressed through a garlic press


1. Place eggs in a medium saucepan, cover with 1 inch of water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill medium bowl with 1 quart ice water. Transfer eggs to ice water with slotted spoon; let stand 5 minutes, then peel eggs, quarter them lengthwise, and set aside.

2. Place spinach in a large bowl. Stir vinegar, sugar, pepper, and salt together in small bowl until sugar dissolves; set aside.

3. Fry bacon in medium skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper-towel lined plate. Pour bacon fat into heatproof bowl, then return 3 tablespoons bacon fat to skillet. Add onion to skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add vinegar to mixture, then remove skillet from heat; working quickly, scrape bottom of skillet with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Pour hot dressing over spinach, add bacon, and toss gently with tongs until spinach is slightly wilted. Divide among individual plates, arrange egg quarters over each, and serve.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Sesame Seed Crust

Source: Cook's Illustrated

I have a penchant for smothering most of my seafood in cream-based sauces. As one of my favorite comedians Jim Gaffigan has said, "You know what's good on fish? Anything that kills the taste of fish." 

When I saw this recipe, I had originally planned on making the suggested chutney, too, but had to skip it when I was missing several key ingredients. I ended up being glad I didn't, because this was SO GOOD. It came together incredibly quick. I ended up using skinless fillets, and I just loved the crust that the pan-searing left on both sides of the fish. The combination of salt, pepper, and sesame was heavenly.  Simple and filling. You must try this recipe!

Being that my fish was skinless, I kept the sesame seeds to one of the tops and sides, and started searing the fish on the seedless side first. 

Pan-Seared Salmon with Sesame Seed Crust

1/4cup sesame seeds
4salmon fillets skin-on, each about 6 ounces and 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick
Table salt and ground black pepper
3teaspoons canola oil or vegetable oil


1. Heat a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet for 3 minutes over high heat. Spread sesame seeds in a pie plate. Rub salmon fillets with 2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then press flesh sides of fillets in sesame seeds to coat.

2. Add remaining oil to pan; swirl to coat. When oil shimmers (but does not smoke) add fillets skin side down and cook, without moving fillets, until pan regains lost heat, about 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium-high; continue to cook until skin side is well browned and bottom half of fillets turns opaque, 4 1/2 minutes. Turn fillets and cook, without moving them, until they are no longer translucent on the exterior and are firm, but not hard, when gently squeezed: 3 minutes for medium-rare and 3 1/2 minutes for medium. Remove fillets from pan, being careful not to break sesame crust; let stand 1 minute. Pat with paper towel to absorb excess fat on surface, if desired. Serve immediately.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Roman-style Chicken

Source: Food Network

Sometimes I get a little bored of chicken, so I went to the Food Network in search of a new recipe. I like this one by Giada - proscuttio, peppers, and capers were not a combination I've had before! I thought this was incredibly tasty, but next time I will make it entirely with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which I think will taste better and cut down on the cooking time. I liked the thighs much better than the breasts - mine may have been overdone, but did not seem to soak up the flavor like the thighs did!


  • 4 skinless chicken breast halves, with ribs
  • 2 skinless chicken thighs, with bones
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves


1. Season the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In a heavy, large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the chicken until browned on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Keeping the same pan over medium heat, add the peppers and prosciutto and cook until the peppers have browned and the prosciutto is crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, and herbs. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan, add the stock, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.

3. If serving immediately, add the capers and the parsley. Stir to combine and serve. If making ahead of time, transfer the chicken and sauce to a storage container, cool, and refrigerate. The next day, reheat the chicken to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the capers and the parsley and serve.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Seafood Gratin

Adapted from: Barefoot Contessa at Home

Boy, oh boy. If this doesn't make you go out and buy one of Ina's cookbooks, I don't know what will! I saw this on
Smells Like Home and what with my seafood addiction and all, had to make it! This is the best dish I've cooked so far in 2009! So incredibly tasty and flavorful. If you like seafood, this is a must-make dish!

A couple of drawbacks: yes, the dish is expensive. You need 8 ounces each of lobster, fish, and shrimp. But as the Smells Like Home blogger notes, you really could not get 4 servings of a dish like this at a restaurant for $30!

The prep time is also lengthy. For me, it took about 2 and a half hours from initial prepping to the table. Part of that is I truly suck at julienning...well, anything, so that step took me a good 20 minutes or so.

I cannot wait to heat this up again tomorrow...yum!

Seafood Gratin

1 cup clam juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons white wine, divided
3 tablespoon tomato puree
8 ounces raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails cut off and cut in half crosswise
8 ounces halibut or cod, cut into 1-inch chunks
8 ounces cooked lobster meat, cut into 1-inch chunks
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups julienned leeks, white and green parts (2-3 leeks)
1 1/2 cups julienned carrots (3 carrots)
1 cup panko
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 cloves)

  1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place 4 individual gratin dishes on sheet pans. (I used a square baking dish.)
  2. Combine the stock, cream, 1/2 cup of the wine, and the tomato puree in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and add the shrimp. After 3 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp to a bowl. Add the halibut to the stock for 3 minutes, until just cooked through, and remove to the same bowl. Add the cooked lobster to the bowl.
  3. Continue to cook the sauce until reduced by half, about 12 minutes. Mash 1 tablespoon of the butter together with the flour. Whisk the butter mixture into the sauce along with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saute pan. Add the leeks and carrots and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of wine, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender. Set aside.
  5. Combine the panko, Parmesan, parsley, tarragon, and garlic. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and mix it into the crumbs until they’re moistened.
  6. Divide the seafood among the 4 gratin dishes. Strew the vegetables on top of each dish. Pour the sauce equally over the seafood and vegetables and spoon the crumbs evenly on top. Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbly. Serve hot.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pan-Seared Filet Minon

Source: The New Best Recipe

I've always been a little scared of steak-type beef. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN IT'S DONE? I've made maybe 3 of them my entire life.

Being out of state from the rest of your family means you don't have a good grasp on the holidays sometimes. I mean, I KNEW it was Easter, but I didn't really think it through when planning out my weekend menu. I had some chicken thing planned, but realized I wanted something a little nicer. We've had a lot of seafood lately, so I thought I'd go for filet minon.

It's not nearly as complex as I thought! This recipe combines pan-searing with oven roasting, which allows you to get a really nice crust without overcooking. I also made a red wine reduction sauce which was OUT OF THIS WORLD good, but our filets were very thick, so I couldn't really taste it. 

To get your optimal doneness, The New Best Recipe suggest making a small nick in the steak with the tip of a paring knife, and checking it every so often while roasting.

The New Best Recipe also suggests using a heavy-bottomed 10-inch skillet. The decreased surface area helps to protect the fond, which is left behind after searing the filets, from burning. I used a 12-inch because that's all I had, and mine did burn a little. Using a pan like an All-Clad stainless steel qualifies as "heavy bottomed."

I popped a couple of potatoes in the microwave while the filets were in the oven and served them with sour cream, butter, green onions, bacon, and cheese on the side. It made for a very satisfying meal!

Pan-Seared Filet Minons
Serves 4

4 center-cut filets minon, 1 1/2 inches thick, patted dry with paper towels
4 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a rimmed baking sheet on the oven rack, and heat the oven to 450 degrees. When the oven reaches 450 degrees, heat a heavy-bottomed 10-inch skillet over high heat on the stovetop until very hot.

2. Meanwhile, rub each side of the steaks with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper to taste. Place the steaks in the skillet and cook, without moving the steaks, until well browned and a nice crust has formed, about 3 minutes. Turn the steaks with tongs and cook until well browned and a nice crust has formed on the second side, about 3 more minutes. Remove the pan from heat; using tongs, transfer each steak to the heating baking sheet in the oven.

3. Roast 2 to 4 minutes for very rate, 4 to 6 minutes for rare, 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare, and 8 to 10 minutes for medium. (After transferring the steaks to the oven, prepare a pan sauce in the empty skillet, if desired.) Transfer the steaks to a large plate, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Quick Black Forest Cake

Source: All Recipes

Whoops, I've been on a bit of a blogging haitus. We had guests in town a couple of weeks back, and I really don't like to test drive new recipes on guests! Last weekend I was in the mood to make some old favorites. I guess it happens when you only pull out the stops 2 days a week!

We were invited to a last-minute dinner with only a few hours before we had to leave. I hate to go to someone's house empty handed, so I racked my brain and my cupboard for easy recipes with ingredients I had on hand. I remembered this cake, which I haven't made in years, but is ridiculously easy and always a hit. To make things even simpler, I used some chocolate frosting I had on-hand instead of making the glaze. Enjoy!

Quick Black Forest Cake
Serves 18 

  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package devil's food cake mix with pudding (I just used a normal chocolate cake mix)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 1 (21 ounce) can cherry pie filling
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. Mix together: cake mix, beaten eggs, almond extract, cherry pie filling and 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips. Stir until just combined. Pour batter into a greased 9x13 inch pan.

3. Bake in a 350 degree F (175 degree C) oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and let cool.

4. To Make Glaze: Heat 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, butter or margarine, and milk in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once semisweet chocolate chips are melted and mixture is combined stir in confectioners' sugar.

5. Spread glaze over cooled cake. Serve cake as is or with whipped cream and a cherry.