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Recipe: The Counterintuitive, 100% Failsafe French Fry

By Lisa Fielding of Secret Ingredients

Happy New Year — and like everyone else I’m thinking less about food and more about getting back into top-notch shape. Given this bit of news one would think my recipe this week would showcase a nutritious, calorie-friendly dish such as Ligurian vegetable soup. But instead I have to share one of my favorite recipes, for two reasons: it’s a perfect recipe, and I love French fries (or frites as I refer to them when paired with a steak au poivre or juicy burger). 

French fries are not easy to perfect, even with a deep fryer on hand. Lots of things typically go wrong; even if you get them crisped to a golden hue, crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside, they get soggy if not eaten immediately. And the other pitfall is getting the oil too hot so the potatoes burn quickly without ever achieving a crunchy exterior. I got so tired of trying to make a perfect batch of French fries on our bistro or burger night that I finally relented and started buying frozen fries. Yes, me, the chef buying frozen food.

And then I came across a recipe by Patricia Wells, a master chef and inspired cookbook writer whom I love unreservedly. Patricia and French fries don’t really go together, but apparently she loves frites, too and was also desirous of hitting the bullseye. So, with much skepticism and fear — since the first time I tried this methodology was for a client (I do like living on the edge) — I followed her directions to the letter. And voila! I achieved the most gorgeous French fry in all my years of cooking. And the best part: because of the way they’re cooked, they’re impervious to getting soggy. I’ll let Alton Brown explain the chemistry behind this, but suffice it to say, once you remove them from their boiling bath, their form will not alter in the slightest. And to reheat is just a matter of minutes in a super hot oven.

I acknowledge this defies everything you know about making French fries, since plunging potatoes in hot oil and sometimes doing it twice is a sacred cow of sorts. But trust me, this is the only way. That said, be forewarned: now that you know how to make the perfect frites, they’ll prove counter-productive to your diet plans. Oh well, there’s always next month. 

Cold Fry French Fries
(Adapted from Patricia Wells)
Serves 6-12

2 pounds (about 4 large) russet potatoes
2½ quarts vegetable oil at room temperature
Fine sea salt

Special Preparation:
Two thick, clean kitchen towels; a 4-9-quart heavy-duty saucepan or cast-iron pot; a kitchen timer; a wire skimmer; (2) cookie sheets lined with paper towels.

1. Rinse the potatoes, peel them, rinse again, and cut into matchsticks. (I cut ½-inch thick slice lengthwise and then each slice receives another ½-inch thick slice so I end up with a perfectly symmetrical matchstick.)

2. Soak the potatoes in a bowl of cold water for about 15 minutes, changing the water when it becomes cloudy (at least twice), until the water remains clear. (Soaking releases the starch in potatoes, making them less rigid and less likely to stick together while cooking.)

3. Drain the potatoes and wrap them in the kitchen towels to dry. (Removing the excess liquid will speed up the cooking time and reduce the likelihood of the potatoes splattering once the oil is hot.)

4. Transfer the potatoes to the saucepan and set it over the stove. Pour the oil over the potatoes. Do not cover the pot. Set the heat to high, give the potatoes a very gentle turn with a metal spoon to distribute the oil and prevent sticking. They can be cozy.

5. The oil should move from a peppy simmer to a boil in about 9 minutes. When the oil starts to boil, set a timer for 17 minutes. Don’t worry about overboiling — the oil should boil rapidly and evenly with no need to adjust the heat throughout the entire process.

6. When the timer rings, the potatoes should have begun to take on color, turning from white to slightly golden, but will still have about 4 minutes remaining until they are fully cooked. For these last few minutes, watch them closely, stirring gently. When the fries are a deep golden brown, taste one to make sure they are crisp and firm on the outside with a creamy interior. They should not be the least bit soggy, so resist the urge to remove them from the oil too soon. When you’re happy with the consistency, carefully transfer the rest of the fries with the wire skimmer or slotted spoon to the paper-towel-lined trays to drain. Season with salt and serve immediately. If they cool, place in a 500-degree oven for five minutes. They’ll never lose their crispy exterior. 

Tips:
1. Use firm, fresh potatoes. Rinse and soak them well to rid them of starch. The less starch in the potatoes, the crispier the fries will be.
2. To keep the oil well contained in the pot, make sure there is at least 2 inches of room from the top of the oil to the rim of the pot.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/16/18 at 02:49 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Chickpea Cakes With Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

One of our favorite events every summer is The Sylvia Center’s Farm-to-Table dinner, hosted by Great Performances in the fields of Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y. The mission of The Sylvia Center is to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Madeleine Fischer, program coordinator at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.

We made this week’s recipe in our teen class. It was one of those meals that no student had tried before and that all students walked away praising. Inspired by its incorporation of a sauce and a dressing, we discussed how and when to use each one and their power to enhance any dish. We also love this recipe for its use of legumes as a source of vegetable protein. The teens proved to themselves that it is possible to create a tasty and filling burger without meat! Breaking down the chickpeas gives them a whole new character that yields the foundation for a buttery, nutty, light yet satisfying patty. The yogurt sauce is simple and creamy, making it the perfect counterpart to the rich cakes. The slaw adds a delightful tangy crunch with spices that complement the rest of the meal.

Chickpea Cakes with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Serves 9

1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and shredded
Salt and pepper
1 ½ cup plus 6 tablespoons 2-percent Greek yogurt
9 scallions, sliced thick
½ cup fresh cilantro, minced
2 ¼ cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
3 large eggs
¼ cup olive oil
¾ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
3 shallots, minced
Lime or lemon wedges for serving
Pita for serving

1. Toss cucumber and ¾ teaspoon salt together and let drain in colander for 15 minutes. Combine drained cucumber, 1 ½ cup yogurt, 3 tablespoons scallions, and 3 tablespoons cilantro in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
2. Mash by hand or pulse chickpeas in food processor to coarse puree with some large pieces remaining, 5-8 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Do not over process— the texture helps the patties stick together and prevents mushiness.
3. In medium bowl, whisk egg, 2 tablespoons oil, garam masala, ¼ teaspoon salt, and cayenne together. Gently stir in panko, remaining scallions, remaining cilantro, and shallot until just combined. Divide bean mixture into 18 lightly packed balls and gently flatten each ball into 1-inch thick patty.
4. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Gently place patties in skillet and cook until well browned on first side, 4 to 5 minutes. Gently flip patties and continue to cook until well browned on second side, 4 to 5 minutes.
5. Serve by stuffing pitas with chickpea cakes, slaw, and cucumber yogurt sauce with lime or lemon wedges on the side.

Coleslaw with Cilantro Lime Dressing
Serves 6-9 as a side

1 small red cabbage, or a mix of red and green cabbage, sliced thinly
3 carrots, grated
½ onion, sliced thinly
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 limes, juiced
2 T cilantro, minced
½ teaspoon cumin

1. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrots and onion. Toss to combine.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, cilantro and cumin. Slowly add the olive oil while continuously whisking. Pour over cabbage mixture and combine thoroughly.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/09/18 at 02:15 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Blueberry Pie

By Lisa Fielding of Secret Ingredients

I’m often asked when I started cooking and I answer emphatically that the seminal moment occurred when I was six years old. I was visiting my favorite place on earth: my paternal grandparents’ ranch in Orange Cove, Calif. My grandparents were “ranchers” and grew oranges, lemons and olives for a living after decamping from Texas during the Depression. The countryside was redolent with the heavy bouquet of orchards in bloom and provided acres of an idyllic playground for any child. 

My Grammies Fielding, as I dubbed her, was an amazing cook who specialized in Southern comfort food. And her kitchen, on a daily basis, was a warm and inviting place where the aromas of baked goodies and cooked dishes greeted anyone who crossed the threshold into the house. My favorite meal during those halcyon days of my childhood consisted of fried chicken with milk gravy, mashed potatoes, flaky warm biscuits smothered in butter and honey, and creamed corn (there was never a mention of the word, “calorie”) followed by a slice of Grammies’ always-perfect pie. The most memorable pies were chocolate cream, lemon meringue, pumpkin, blueberry, cherry lattice and banana cream.  Hands down, the reason her pies were so delicious (and gorgeous) was because she had the touch when it came to making and rolling pie crust. And it was this ritual that finally motivated me to pull my step-stool up alongside her and ask, “Grammies, will you teach me to bake a pie?”

It goes without saying that my grandmother was a very patient woman because I spent the next several days obsessed with baking pies and mastering the wire pastry cutter with its worn wooden handle. I was not successful in my mission to emulate Grammies’ pastry. My dough would stick together in big blobs no matter how religiously I applied the cutter to blend the fat and the flour into pea-shaped balls. Eventually I would abandon hope, pour in the ice water and attack the dough with my chubby hands destroying any chance for a flaky outcome. Even if I was a dismal failure, Grammies still managed to coo a few words of encouragement so I didn’t allow defeat to quash my love of being in the kitchen with her and moving on to other culinary adventures. 

It only took me several decades and the introduction of my favorite kitchen appliance, the food processor, to get it right, but I now can, without hesitation, bake great pies of many varieties. And I must admit that there is nothing like placing a freshly baked pie on the table after a long, lazy dinner accompanied with (preferably homemade) vanilla ice cream to evoke oohs and aahs from your guests. Whether it’s a single-crust blind-baked, lattice-topped or a crimped-edge double-crust pie, don’t deny yourself the pleasure of making homemade pie, especially if you have budding cooks at home. Just a few days ago while visiting friends, their daughter, Cate, decided it was time to bake her first pie and it was my sincere pleasure to oversee her effort.  With the aid of the food processor and me taking on the lion’s share of peeling and slicing fresh peaches, she managed the rest and the end result was a sweet sticky peach pie for dessert. I have passed the baton so to speak and I believe Grammies would be proud. 

Blueberry Pie

Perfect Easy Pie Crust
Yield: (2) 10-inch crusts

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening
6 to 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) ice water

Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Now you’re ready to make the filling.

Filling

4 cups fresh blueberries, washed and dried
1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/4 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon cassis liqueur
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk or cream, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

Mix the blueberries, the 1/2 cup of sugar, the corn starch, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cassis in a large bowl. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured surface into a circle at least 1 inch larger than the pie pan, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough so it doesn’t stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, ease it into the pie pan and gently unfold it. Spoon the blueberry mixture into the pie shell. Roll out the other half of the dough and repeat the process of gently folding in half and unfolding it once you’ve placed over the pie filling. With a pair of kitchen shears cut the excess dough off at the edge of the pie plate. Press the two edges together with your fingers so you have a raised edge. Now you can crimp with your knuckles or press a fork into the dough to make a decorative edge. Brush the top crust with the egg wash, cut three slits in the center for steam to escape, and sprinkle with sugar.

Place the pie in the middle of the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the filling is very bubbly and the crust is nicely browned. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

*Pinwheels: Roll leftover dough into a disc, generously sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Roll into a log, cut into 1-inch segments and bake cut-side up at 400 degrees for ten minutes.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/02/18 at 11:52 AM • Permalink

Recipe: Curried Winter Squash Soup

One of our favorite events every summer is The Sylvia Center’s Farm-to-Table dinner, hosted by Great Performances in the fields of Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y. The mission of The Sylvia Center is to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Madeleine Fischer, program coordinator at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.

Need more creative ideas for cooking with squash this winter? Look no further than this curried winter squash soup. The sweetness of the apples and squash are complemented by the savory onions and spices. Once the squash is roasted the soup comes together quickly. We used butternut squash and topped it with cayenne pepper and fresh ground black pepper for an extra bite. It’s light yet filling and will warm you up on a cold winter day.

Curried Winter Squash Soup
Serves 4

2 small pumpkins or 1 butternut squash
1 large onion, diced
2 apples, diced
1 quart of chicken stock
1 teaspoon or more of curry powder
Salt
Pepper

1. Cut the squash into sections, remove filling and seeds and roast at 375 degrees until tender, about 40-50 minutes. Roast seeds separately for garnish if desired.

2. Let the roasted squash pieces cool.

3. Sauté onions and curry powder until they are soft and fragrant.

4. Add apples and continue to sauté for another few minutes.

5. Peel the pumpkin and add its flesh to the soup pot.

6. Then add stock to the soup pot.

7. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then simmer for another five minutes.

8. Use a blender to puree the mixture.

9. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 12/12/17 at 02:01 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Wellington Trumps Turkey This Holiday

Contributor Lisa Fielding is a private chef and boutique caterer based in Manhattan who weekends in Litchfield County whenever possible. Many of her Manhattan clients are also Litchfield County weekenders, so work brings her to Northwest Connecticut as well. A Los Angeles transplant, Fielding was a former Hollywood film executive who segued into screenwriting several years ago, which enabled her to pursue her passion for food and entertaining. Lisa’s culinary skill set draws from a broad spectrum of dishes and ingredients.

Whenever there was a special occasion in our house or a spectacular party in the works, my mother would pull out all the stops and make a classic dish or dessert that was a Herculean effort from my young point of view. Two dishes stand out in particular: Beef Wellington and Baked Alaska. I never understood the attraction of the latter. Cake is cake and ice cream is ice cream. Should the two collide, it needn’t occur under the veil of a meringue bomb with the added jeopardy of a brief appearance under a broiler. She loved making it until one year, with her hands full, she used a bare foot to push the scorching rack bearing the Alaska back into the oven, and the dessert was forever removed from our festivities.

The Beef Wellington lived on, and it is with much chagrin that I admit to never undertaking the sumptuous and elegant main course until a client (whom I could not refuse) requested it upon his return home from a long stay in the hospital. I smiled at memories of my mother making her own pastry and just enough extra to cut out flowers and leaves to decorate the crust. She was talented in that way, which I am not. I promised to make the Wellington, but since this was new territory for me, I didn’t promise it would be crowned with a pastry laurel wreath. 

For the uninitiated, Beef Wellington is rumored to be a classic British dish named after the first Duke of Wellington, but little evidence supports this historical anecdote. What it is, and all cooks agree on, is seared beef tenderloin coated with pâté and duxelles, which is then wrapped in puff pastry and baked. The process is shockingly simple. I imagined a far more laborious endeavor in the kitchen, with a few aborted encasing episodes thrown in for good measure. This did not happen. My Wellington cooperated easily and went quietly into the oven encrusted in vented puff pastry glistening with egg wash and sprinkled with coarse sea salt. The overall appearance was rustic but still decorative. After carving the first slice, I was hooked. Few dishes make such a stunning presentation right out of the oven and require so little else to make a meal fit for a duke or a duchess. 

So this holiday dinner, ours being a Christmas celebration, I will be serving a stately Beef Wellington with green peppercorn sauce, roasted fingerling potatoes with fresh herbs, and wilted greens. My mother would be proud, but I know that with her propensity for perfection, she would comment (and not under her breath) something to the effect of “It would have looked so much prettier with a Christmas wreath on top and perhaps a few red peppercorns for color.” Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea.

Happy Holidays from the Duchess of Litchfield County!

The Ultimate Beef Wellington
Serves 6 to 8

For the duxelles
3 pints (1-1/2 lb.) white button mushrooms
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the beef
1 3-lb. center-cut beef tenderloin, trimmed and tied
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbs. salted butter
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard

For the pastry
Flour, for rolling out puff pastry
1 lb. puff pastry, thawed if using frozen
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp. coarse sea salt
Minced chives, for garnish

For the green peppercorn sauce
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1 cup brandy
1 box beef stock
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbs. grainy mustard
½ cup green peppercorns in brine, drained.

Make the duxelles:
Put the mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Put the butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan and set over medium heat. Add the shallot and mushroom mixture and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

Prepare the beef:
Tie the tenderloin in 4 places so it holds its cylindrical shape while being seared. Generously coat with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet and add the beef to the pan. Sear all surfaces, including the ends, about 8 minutes. When the beef is seared, remove from heat, cut off the twine and smear lightly all over with Dijon mustard. Allow to cool.

Prepare the pastry:
Heat the oven to 425°F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to about a 1/3-inch thickness. With a spatula spread the duxelles over the pastry, leaving a 1-inch border. Set the beef in the center of the pastry and fold over the longer sides, brushing with egg wash to seal. Fold the ends and tuck them under the beef on the seam side. Place the beef seam side down on a baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Make a couple of slits in the top of the pastry using the tip of a paring knife to create vents that will allow the steam to escape while cooking.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the beef registers 125°F on an instant-read thermometer. If the pastry browns before the beef is finished cooking, tent with foil and continue cooking. Remove from the oven and let rest while you make the sauce.

Make the green peppercorn sauce:
Add the olive oil to the pan after removing the beef. Add the shallots, garlic, and thyme and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Then, off the heat, add the brandy and flambé, using a long kitchen match. After the flame dies down, return to the heat, add stock, and reduce by about half. Strain out the solids, and then add the cream and mustard; reduce by half again. Remove from the heat and add the green peppercorns.

Cut the Wellington into thick slabs and serve with the sauce.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 12/06/17 at 04:28 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Broccoli, Caramelized Onion And Cheddar Frittata

One of our favorite events every summer is The Sylvia Center’s Farm-to-Table dinner, hosted by Great Performances in the fields of Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y. The mission of The Sylvia Center is to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Madeleine Fischer, program coordinator at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.

Suitable for every meal, frittatas are, simply put, the best. Our version uses sweet, caramelized onions balanced by crunchy and delicate broccoli. Serve it with a side salad or other steamed veggies for a quick dinner. Try it leftover atop a piece of toast for lunch. Pair it with roasted potatoes as a hearty breakfast.

Once you’ve given this recipe a shot, let yourself experiment with different vegetable, herb and cheese combinations. Swooping in like the superhero of quick-fix meals, a frittata, packed full of protein and veggies, might just come to your rescue when you need it most.

Broccoli, Caramelized Onion and Cheddar Frittata
Serves 8

10 large eggs
2 large onions, diced
2 heads broccoli, roughly chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat broiler.

2. Beat eggs until frothy. Add 1 teaspoon salt and some pepper.

3. In a large oven-safe sauté pan over medium-low heat, sauté the onions in olive oil until caramelized or a light brown, about 20 minutes. Add the broccoli to the onions and cook until tender, about five minutes.

4. Add egg mixture to pan. Add cheese and cook at medium heat until barely set, about 7 minutes.

5. Transfer pan to broiler. Broil for a minute or two, until top of frittata is nicely browned. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 11/27/17 at 03:08 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Abuelita’s Mole

Contributor Lisa Fielding is a private chef and boutique caterer based in Manhattan who weekends in Litchfield County whenever possible. Many of her Manhattan clients are also Litchfield County weekenders, so work brings her to Northwest Connecticut as well. A Los Angeles transplant, Fielding was a former Hollywood film executive who segued into screenwriting several years ago, which enabled her to pursue her passion for food and entertaining. Lisa’s culinary skill set draws from a broad spectrum of dishes and ingredients.

Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez is a Mexican conductor and classical pianist who happens to be associated with one of my favorite clients in the city. Last Sunday he performed a recital as part of a fundraiser and yours truly was asked to cater the luncheon. Since I am of Mexican heritage I suggested a Mexican fiesta, which was unanimously approved. So now that I opened my boca grande, I knew I had to pull out all the stops to impress an authentic Mexican. This proved to be not too terribly tough an assignment as I took a page from my Mexican abuelita’s cookbook and made her unbelievably thick, rich, smoky, creamy, spicy, nutty, chocolatey mole. It made me want to share what is one of the most deliciosa dishes on earth. (And mole can be frozen so make lots of keep some of it in the freezer.) It’s one of those sauces you can imagine eating with everything. Buen apetito! And muchas gracias Eppie Rodriguez. You were one hell of a cook and an always smiling and loving abuela.

Lisa Fielding’s Abuelita’s Mole
Serves 10

3 tablespoons (or more) peanut oil (preferably unrefined), divided
5 pounds chicken thighs
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 cups orange juice
1 1/4 pounds onions, sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds
6 large garlic cloves, sliced
4 teaspoons cumin seeds
4 teaspoons coriander seeds
4 ounces dried pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed
1 ounce dried negro chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed
1/4 cup raisins
4 3 x 1/2-inch strips orange peel (orange part only)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 3.1-ounce disk Mexican chocolate, chopped
½ cup creamy peanut butter
Chopped fresh cilantro
Warm flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously salt and pepper chicken thighs. Place in a roasting pan in a single layer and cook until nearly done – 45 minutes.  Add broth and orange juice and cook for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add almonds, garlic, cumin, and coriander. Sauté until nuts and garlic begin to color, about 2 minutes. Add chiles and stir until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer chicken to large bowl. Pour chicken cooking liquid into saucepan with onion mixture (reserve pot). Add raisins, orange peel, and oregano to saucepan. Cover and simmer until chiles are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; add chocolate. Let stand until chocolate melts and sauce mixture cools slightly, about 15 minutes.

Working in small batches, transfer sauce mixture and peanut butter to blender and puree until smooth; return to reserved pot. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (Sauce can be made 3 days ahead.) Add chicken thighs to pot and pour in sauce. Heat until bubbling. Serve with saffron rice, black chipotle beans and warm tortillas. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 11/21/17 at 05:21 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Pasta with Chicken Sausage & Broccoli Rabe

One of our favorite events every summer is The Sylvia Center’s Farm-to-Table dinner, hosted by Great Performances in the fields of Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y. The mission of The Sylvia Center is to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Madeleine Fischer, program coordinator at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.

This recipe is so satisfying that before you’ve even finished cleaning your plate, you’ll be adding it to your repertoire of quick, easy and fulfilling weeknight meals. Preparing a mise en place — the French phrase for prepping everything you need for a recipe — will set you up for success by having all of the ingredients ready to go. Sautéing the broccoli rabe is arguably the best part of this recipe because it turns a mesmerizing bright green and comes to life before your eyes. That medium-high heat is a magical thing!

When it came time for us to share the meal we created, it was evident from the silence and facial expressions that the broccoli rabe’s commanding bitterness challenged some of our teen’s taste buds. This opened up the age-old discussion of how our taste buds are always changing. One of the best things about cooking is that it gives us a space to try new things.

Pasta with Homemade Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
Serves 6

1 lb pasta
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 lb ground chicken
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth, maybe more
1 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped into 1-inch pieces
Grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes

1. Cook pasta according to instructions on the box (al dente). Drain and reserve ½ cup pasta water.

2. In a large bowl, combine ground chicken, parsley, fennel, and oregano. Add a few pinches of salt and pepper. Mix to combine and set aside.

3. Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat. Add a generous drizzle of olive oil and, when it shimmers, add garlic and crushed red pepper. Sauté garlic until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add chicken mixture and sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Add broccoli rabe and continue to cook until broccoli turns a bright green. Add pasta and ½ cup of chicken broth, or more if necessary. If the pasta sauce needs thickening, add some reserved pasta water and simmer. Serve immediately with Parmesan.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 11/13/17 at 04:16 PM • Permalink

Recipe: The Ultimate Double Chocolate Chip Cookie

Contributor Lisa Fielding is a private chef and boutique caterer based in Manhattan who weekends in Litchfield County whenever possible. Many of her Manhattan clients are also Litchfield County weekenders, so work brings her to Northwest Connecticut as well. A Los Angeles transplant, Fielding was a former Hollywood film executive who segued into screenwriting several years ago, which enabled her to pursue her passion for food and entertaining. Lisa’s culinary skill set draws from a broad spectrum of dishes and ingredients.

I wrote this week’s article for purely selfish reasons. I wanted to memorialize the best chocolate chip cookie recipe on earth. That’s saying a lot. And I mean it. For years I have tinkered and tailored recipes to come up with my version of the perfect chocolate chip cookie: thin with lacey and crispy edges, a soft gooey center, studded with extra chocolately chocolate chips, overflowing with chocolate flavor and with a definitive crunch from a spattering of nuts. This quest of mine proved to be some version of the Holy Grail. For all of my trying I never got it right. The famous Toll House cookie is too cakey and fat. Other versions combined different fats and did not deliver the rich buttery taste I also crave. And finally, most chocolate chips are not chocolatey enough for me.

And then, last week, I made a determination that this was it — I was going to master a chocolate chip cookie recipe that would put Tate’s to shame (for a packaged cookie, theirs are pretty good). And I am happy to report, I was not only successful, but I would award myself a big fat gold star! Now I just have to figure out when the next cookie contest is so I can unveil this little beauty to a panel of discriminating judges (and I hope they are kids)! So here it is, folks. Take two of these with a glass of milk and call me in the morning.

Lisa’s Lacey Gooey Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 3 dozen

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

1 cup all purpose baking flour
1 ½ cups oat flour (2 ½ cups oatmeal finely ground in the food processor)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. Maldon salt flakes
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
¾ cup white sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup sweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
11.5 oz. (1 bag) Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate Premium Baking Chips
1 cup chopped pecans

1. In a mixing bowl, mix flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder.

2 In another mixing bowl beat butter and sugars until creamy.

3. Add eggs one at a time to butter mixture and beat well after each addition.

4. Add vanilla to wet mixture.

5. Gradually beat in flour mixture until well combined. Turn in chocolate chips and mix with a spoon. Then add the nuts and mix again.

6. Drop by 2 tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheet giving ample space between them as they will flatten when they cook. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until done. Cookies should look crispy on the edges and soft in the center.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 11/07/17 at 02:41 PM • Permalink

Recipe: Butternut Squash Minestrone

One of our favorite events every summer is The Sylvia Center’s Farm-to-Table dinner, hosted by Great Performances in the fields of Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y. The mission of The Sylvia Center is to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Madeleine Fischer, program coordinator at The Sylvia Center, offers us recipes the teenagers are learning to make.

This fresh yet hearty take on the classic Italian minestrone is tough to beat when looking for a recipe that simultaneously reminds us of summer days gone by and welcomes the change that fall has to offer. And its versatility allows us to use whatever is in season. This worked out well for us during the mysterious and unpredictable warm and cold days with students from Ichabod Crane.

Minestrone is an ideal soup in which to play around with spice and vegetable combinations. For our recipe, the bounty of butternut squash, waiting patiently to be featured, was a necessary addition. When simmered in the minestrone broth, it took on a whole new persona that is melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Trustworthy kale, by our side all season, was our green of choice. Cabbage, Swiss chard, or any hearty green can be substituted. As our own twist, we used the last of our cherry tomatoes in lieu of canned. Macaroni is conveniently cooked in the broth and cannellini beans round out the soup, making it a complete meal. Topped off with oregano and Parmesan cheese, a familiar and beloved combination, all parties left content.

Butternut Squash Minestrone
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups butternut squash, cut into ½- inch cubes
2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup dried macaroni
1 15 oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans
1 bunch kale, chopped
1 T fresh oregano, minced
Salt
Pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan

1. Heat oil in large saucepan. Add onions, sauté 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, sauté until fragrant. Add butternut squash, sauté for another 2 minutes.

2. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add macaroni and reduce heat to simmer, cook 7-8 minutes, add tomatoes. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Add beans.

3. Add Swiss chard and oregano. Stir in until it wilts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 10/31/17 at 05:23 PM • Permalink