Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mexican-style Baked Chicken Breasts

My dad got this recipe from me years ago (I think it was from a sunset cookbook?) and I was so pleased when he had it in his personal cookbook, Jim-Bob's Gore-May Cookbook, a collection of his favorite recipes which included family favorites from over the years and new ones brought to his kitchen by my step-mother Trish, and by many of his students and friends.

We have recently gotten these printed, and have been selling them to raise money to benefit one of our nieces, Marilyn, who had a near fatal car accident last summer. She is recovering, but slowly, and we all want to help cover costs and expenses outside of her insurance coverage. So if you are so inclined, please consider buying one of my Dad's cookbooks the recipes are fun, and easy, like this one, and proven family favorites.  

So this recipe is presented in the recipe that way it is in my dad's cookbook, and lists a lot of garnishes that help this mimic a serving of enchiladas, but I made it tonight with a side of steamed rice and some black beans.

Mexican-style Baked Chicken Breasts

2 eggs
3 Tbl. salsa
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup plain panko
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
4 Tbl. butter

Garnishes: shredded lettuce, chopped scallions, sliced avocados or guacamole, sliced cherry tomatoes, sour cream or crema, salsa

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a shallow bowl, beat together the eggs and the salsa, add salt.

In another shallow bowl, mix together the panko, cumin, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
Add and mix all the seasoning in the Panko bread crumbs

Place butter in a shallow baking dish, large enough to hold all the chicken in one layer without crowding. Set in preheating oven until butter melts, and remove from oven.

Roll the chicken breasts, one at a time, in the egg mixture and then into the bread crumbs, covering completely.
The egg/salsa mixture helps to keep the crumbs on the skinless chicken
Place the coated/crumbed breasts in the pan. (I drizzle a little more melted butter over the tops.) Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the meat in the thickest part of the breast is no longer pink.

Remove, and serve with your favorite garnishes. Leftovers work well in salads and burritos.

Fried Pickles

I am a very adventurous eater, and have tried things that would repulse a lot of people. So it was kind of odd to think that with all the buzz about fried pickles recently, I would not have sought them out and tried them. It is not that I didn't want to try them, I just really wasn't curious. But that changed once I did eat them. I have had them a few times, and the first ones I had at a restaurant in northern Virginia (Alexandria?) were absolutely delicious, in fact, I really wanted to eat the entire plateful, and they were not even my order.

I recently found a great recipe for onion rings, and while making those, I recognized that the method would likely make really great batter for pickles. So today when my eyes fell on the pickle jars at the store, I knew it was time to give it a try.

Fried Pickles

About 1 cup or so of sliced dill pickles
1-1/4 cup unbleached flour (or all -purpose)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup of milk, maybe a little more
1 egg
1-1/4 cups of panko bread crumbs, plain

enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of your pan about 1" deep

Drain the pickles and dry on paper toweling. Set up all your stuff ahead of time, so it works easily.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Drop the pickle slices in to coat, and set aside on a plate. Then add the milk and the egg to the flour, and whisk until well mixed. Add a little milk as needed, it should be about as thick as a pancake batter.

Set the panko into a shallow dish.

Heat the oil in a skillet until a little drop of batter sizzles when dropped in the oil, maybe around 375 degrees?

Take the pickles that are floured, and drop them into the batter a few at a time, turning them over with a fork to coat evenly. Then drop separately into the panko crumbs and turn to get another even coat of bread crumbs. Drop into the hot oil, and fry, turning once, until they get golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper toweling, and serve with your favorite dipping sauce, like ranch, or a fancier flavored aioli.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Super Rich Old-fashioned Chocolate Birthday Cake

I like to decorate this cake very simply, it is a classic, moist chocolate cake, and  doesn't need much added.
For me, birthday cakes should be somewhat simple, homey, vernacular if you will. I prefer a sheet cake over a round layer cake and love recipes that produce a moist, heavy chocolate crumb. This recipe is a variation of a Hershey cocoa recipe, and I usually make it with chocolate frosting on a chocolate cake, but this would be good with any kind of topping you like. The end of the recipe here gives you a lot of options for size and shapes of pans. I wanted to make this in my Bundt pan, but it was a little on the small size.

A few things to note, the batter gets a final addition of boiling water, which makes a very runny mixture, and seems wrong. But the recipe calls for baking powder, which, in its standard form, is dual acting, meaning it starts to react under two influences, moisture and heat. I think the boiling water not only adds moisture but kick starts the leavening action, making this a very tender cake.

And this gives me a chance to share a great tip: I found I was out of baking powder, so I made some, very easy to do, mix 1/3 cream of tartar to 2/3 baking soda. So here, in addition to the baking soda needed, I replaced the baking powder with 1/2 tsp. of cream of tartar and 1 tsp. more of baking soda.

Super Rich Chocolate Cake

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa (I use Special Dark Cocoa)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

Alternate milk and powdered sugar to the melted butter/cocoa mixture.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Stir in Vanilla.
Recipe can be made with a thick spreadable frosting or . . . 

a more pourable frosting, with more milk added.
Add small amount additional milk, if needed, or if you like a thinner, more pourable frosting. About 2 cups frosting.
The frosting spreads very easily and will set up a bit as the melted butter re-sets after  mixing.
ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kinda Classic Chicken Croquettes

For birthdays at our house, the birthday person gets to chose what we have for dinner. There is an extremely short list of what gets chosen. The number one far and away has been linguine with a white clam sauce, which for the Rock house, is the default spaghetti. There is often a request for green chili enchiladas, and my son James usually wants chicken croquettes. Chicken croquettes never graced our table growing up, and I admit, the very name makes me think of overstuffed chairs, doilies and cut glass candy dishes with last years candy corn in them. BUT, I found a recipe for these that I have made over the years, and I am glad that on some random day in my past I had decided to try these, although this is a variation on the original recipe. They are baked, not fried, as they traditionally would be, but still develop a very nice crispy exterior, with a creamy interior. They go well with a lot of different things, and I imagine you could dress them up, maybe make a curry version, or one with vegetables mixed in. perhaps add some sauteed mushrooms . . . But these are fairly classic in their way, nothing fancy, but as is, a wonderful comfort food that keeps well as leftovers and travels well to dorms and other adult children's abodes.

The following pictures represent a tripled recipe, so if it does not match the single written version below, do not be confused.

Chicken Croquettes
Serves 4

Prep: 20 min./Chill: 2 hours/Cook: 40 min.

3 Tbl. butter
3 Tbl. flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups finely chopped cooked chicken (maybe about a pound? I use chicken breasts, but anything would work)
1-1/4 cups dry bread crumbs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 eggs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (I use the green box kind for this, no need to waste the good stuff.)

I start by cooking off my chicken, I submerge it in seasoned water, salt, pepper and some garlic, and boil it until it is tender and completely cooked. I use my old giant Oscar processor (do they even make these any more?), with its chopping blade. I place this in a large bowl.

You could certainly chop this by hand, but this works well, a smaller, consistent chop helps hold it together.

In a sauce pan or skillet, I melt the butter, and when bubbling, add the flour, and stir into a paste, basically making a roux.
This is equal parts flour and butter
Let this bubble for a minute or two, and add in the broth and milk, stirring to completely  incorporate into the roux. Keep heat at about medium high. Add salt and pepper, and stir until thickened. You want it to be able to coat the back of a spoon. Once it reaches the right thickness, set it off the heat and let it cool down for about 5 minutes or so, so it won't cook the eggs in the meat mixture. If you want to introduce different seasonings, I would suggest you add them to the sauce here, for example, adding some curry powder, or maybe some cheese.

The white sauce works like glue to hold all the chicken bits together

Add the liquids after letting the roux bubble a bit.
You want the sauce thick enough to coat a spoon, but not too gooey or clumpy.
To the chicken, add 1 cup of dry bread crumbs and the eggs. Mix well, so that the eggs and crumbs are evenly mixed throughout, and then add the cooled white sauce. At this point, you want to chill this, covered, in the refrigerator for two hours. This helps set up the meat and the sauce.
Remember, this shows a tripled recipe! You could add green onions here, or some parsley . . .
The crumbs make the meat fairly dry, so make sure you mix the sauce in evenly.

The mixture will be very moist and sticky, but as it cools, will be very easy to shape and bake.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard cookie sheet, spray oil works. Combine Parmesan cheese and remaining bread crumbs in a shallow bowl or dish. You will want to shape the meat mixture into 8 equal patties, I shape them like burgers. You want them to hold their shape but handle them as little as possible, you don't want them too dense.
They should be somewhat spaced out. I stagger them so the heat flows evenly around all the edges.
Once you get one shaped, carefully coat it all over with some crumb mixture, and repeat, place one at a time as you prepare them, evenly spaced on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. I flip them over half way through, to allow both sides to brown nicely. You could also drizzle the tops with a little additional butter to aid in the browning, but I rarely do this.

Try not to over cook them, so they retain a nice creamy moist center. Serve with a cranberry sauce if you really want to work that nostalgic angle, or make some extra white sauce to use like a gravy.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

Growing up, we always had birthday cakes. My favorite was my Grandma Viola's Crumb Cake, and it was my chosen cake every year (recipe available on an earlier post). But mostly, for birthday cakes, would always use a boxed cake mix for our birthday cakes, and either homemade frosting or one from a box as well. The tubs of pre-made frosting came much later. Because we always used a mix, I grew up thinking making a cake was a really hard thing to do, because we baked really practically everything else from scratch. I have loved making homemade cakes from scratch throughout my adult life, and it always pleases me to find a new twist on something. The recent trend for looking for unusual things to pair with chocolate makes recipes like the following one very easy to find and appreciate. (Although what DOESN'T go well with chocolate? . . . "not really a good flavor? Add enough chocolate to cover up the rest, and you are set . . ." ). I found this recipe on the internet and I have to admit I have no idea where. And so while I can not attribute it, I can certainly not claim it as my own invention. It is a wonderful recipe, and appeals to a wide range of tastes. So today for my birthday, my daughter Sara has made a batch:

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, plus more for dusting finished cupcakes
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch fine salt
  • 1 bottle stout beer (recommended: Guinness)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese , softened at room temperature
  • 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt.
In another medium mixing bowl, combine the stout, melted butter, and vanilla.

Beat in eggs, 1 at time. Mix in sour cream until thoroughly combined and smooth. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet mixture.

Lightly grease 24 muffin tins. Divide the batter equally between muffin tins, filling each 3/4 full. Bake for about 12 minutes and then rotate the pans. Bake another 12 to 13 minutes until risen, nicely domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out.

To make the icing:

In a medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the heavy cream. On low speed, slowly mix in the confectioners' sugar until incorporated and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Icing can be made several hours ahead and kept covered and chilled. Top each cupcake with a heap of frosting and dust with cocoa.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Infamous Deetz Egg Night and New Year's Chiliquiles

Happy New Year! This morning was lazy, getting up late, having extra coffee. I don't really recall specific NYE celebrations growing up, maybe it was because we had so many parties any day of the week, they all kind of run together in my memory. We have one particular evening the Deetzes all fondly call "egg night" and I suspect that may have been a New Years Eve. The usual suspects included a large number of my dad's students from his native american history class at Harvard.

I know we were all really hungry, as we had been dancing Round Dances and 49s in the living room, which was the usual follow up to our live bluegrass sessions in the early part of the evenings. (I really do not kid when I say this could have been any random night at the Deetz house).

It was winter, and there was a lot of snow outside. My mother decided to cook everyone eggs at about 3 in the morning, and she enlisted a lot of help. She assigned the job of making toast to our very dear Hopi friend, Hartman Lomawaima. At one point the toaster caught on fire and my mother yelled at Hartman to do something, he looked at her, and in his usual stoic manner said "putting out fires is women's work." I would say that comment came as much from Hartman's youth and alcohol consumption that night as it did from his Hopi-ness. He and my mom Jody had developed a great repartee along these lines. The fire was squelched when Charles Cann and Rod Roach ran the toaster outside and dumped it in the accumulated snow on the porch. (I welcome any alternate versions!)

Anyway, after a long holiday season, and lots of fancy meals, it's nice to have a recipe that lets you take bits and pieces of what you have laying around and make a delicious breakfast. AND doesn't require toast.

There are other versions of Chilequiles, but this one uses eggs and corn tortillas. Like any scrambled eggs or omelettes, you can add whatever bits and pieces you like.

Egg Chilequiles

2 Tbl. vegetable oil
3 corn tortillas, ripped into bite size pieces
6 eggs
2 Tbl. salsa
3 scallions, sliced
1 small red or orange pepper, diced
@1/4 c. of black beans (well rinsed)
1/2 c. shredded cheddar or other cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Saute the scallions and peppers until softened, and add the torn tortillas. Fry until the tortillas are golden and start to crisp a little.

While the tortillas are crisping, crack the eggs into a medium bowl, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the salsa and beat until the eggs are frothy. This gets a lot of air in them.

Lower the heat under the skillet to low/medium low, and pour the egg mixture over the tortillas. Cook slowly like you would regular scrambled eggs, until the eggs are starting to set up. Stir in the black beans and the cheddar, and heat through, allowing the cheese to melt. Salt and pepper to taste.
By adding the cheese and beans at the end, you get the eggs evenly set and get a more cheesy taste.
Serve with more salsa.