Friday, April 29, 2011

Seasonal Food Friday ~ Asparagus

**Seasonal Food Fridays is no longer a feature on the blog. Sorry!

Howdy Friends!

I've been wanting to do a weekly "themed post" for some time now and I've finally realized just what to go with as my subject....  **Seasonal Foods and Recipes!

Starting today and on each Friday, I'll be featuring a seasonal ingredient or food item and including a recipe that uses it in some way.  Right now, because it's Spring (at least in this part of the world) I'm going to be showcasing food items that are now readily found in grocery stores, butcher shops, farmer's markets or pretty much anywhere that food is purveyed.  It could be a particular vegetable or fruit, a certain meat or other form of protein. It might be herbs or spices... you get the idea. If it's a food that is prevalent at this time of the year, whether in nature or in a particular culture, it meets the criteria!

If anyone has a special request, please feel free to let me know in the comments section of a recent post or by touching base with me using the tab titled "Contact Me" at the top of this page. I'll do my very best to honor each request if I can. For my dear friends who live in other parts of the world where the seasons are different, (and for anyone who would like to) I do have a "print friendly" feature at the end of each post, so you can print any recipe that you like and save it in your recipe box until that food item is "seasonal" or available in your neck of the woods!  So.....

Welcome to Seasonal Food Friday!

Today's Seasonal Food is.....


There are two basic types of Asparagus. Green and White. (there is also a purple version found mostly in Europe) The Green version of this long nubby pencil shaped shoot is generally more prevalent in your neighborhood grocery stores and on the menus of more mid-priced, family-style restaurants. It's more precious counterpart White Asparagus, which is grown without exposure to sunlight to keep it from turning green, has become more readily available in recent years. It was at one time found primarily in the "higher end" dining establishments and the produce departments of gourmet style retailers. Farmer's Markets have been offering both options for many years because of their tendency toward more unique or "Artisan"  food production.  It is, of course, most abundant in early to mid spring, but some version of fresh Asparagus is now available year-round at your local grocery store since transportation from warmer regions has become more common and streamlined.  There is also the frozen version (which has become a bit more tolerable with the introduction of "flash freezing" methods, but for the purpose of this feature we're going to stick to the fresh product)

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus with Mascarpone Cheese
  • 2 Lg Bunches of Green or White Asparagus (long thin stalks are best)
  • 1/2 Lb of Prosciutto, sliced paper thin
  • 8oz Mascarpone Cheese
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic or Red WineVinegar
  • Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Bring 3-4 quarts of liberally salted water to a boil in a large stockpot or deep wide skillet. Check the asparagus over for any dark spots or bruising and cut off the bottom 1/4 or 1/3 where the stalk can get tough or "woody".  If the asparagus you have seems a bit too tough overall, you can peel it with a vegetable peeler (as you would a carrot) to get down to the more tender flesh. (White asparagus generally doesn't need to be peeled)

When the water has come to a rapid boil, add the asparagus and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove with tongs or a large strainer and immerse immediately in a bowl of **salted ice water to stop them from cooking further and retain their bright color.  Remove them from the ice bath when cooled completely onto paper towels or a clean tea towel.

**Note: No, that wasn't a typo. I wrote that correctly. Salt is added to ice water baths by many chefs when "shocking" vegetables, so that the seasoning that is imparted during the cooking/blanching process isn't lost in the ice water bath. Trust me, it makes a difference.

Once asparagus has cooled, lay out an equal number of slices of prosciutto to asparagus spears on a clean cutting board. If using the pencil thin asparagus, you may want to cut each slice of ham in half, lengthwise.

Using a butter knife or small spatula, spread about 1 Tbls of the mascarpone cheese on each slice of ham, being careful not to tear it. (I take the mascarpone out of the fridge about 10-15 minutes before I'm going to use it so it can soften up a bit more)

When all of the ham slices have been spread with the cheese, take a spear of asparagus and roll it up in a slice of the ham. Arrange on a platter and drizzle with vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle some sea salt and fresh cracked pepper over the whole platter. You can chill your roll-ups in the fridge until about 10 minutes before you're ready to serve them or just serve them at room temperature right away and enjoy! If chilling first, wait until you take them out of the fridge to drizzle them with the oil and vinegar or add the salt and pepper. (the closer to room temp they are, the more flavorful they'll be)

Here's a little "twist" on the recipe...

If you'd prefer a warm/hot Asparagus appetizer or side dish, you can wrap the already assembled asparagus spears in thin strips of thawed, store-bought puff pastry and bake it for 12 to 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven, checking at about the 10 minute mark to make sure the pastry isn't burning.


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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hard Boiled Eggs, Anyone? (Deviled Eggs & Pickled Eggs)

At this time each year, I would dread having to figure out just what to do with all of the hard-boiled eggs that we had hanging around after Easter. My daughter loved Easter Egg Hunts, (and still does at 26) so we always had at least a dozen (or more) of the little buggers left over each year.  More often than not, I would usually fall back on that good old stand-by, egg salad.  Now, don't get me wrong... We love egg salad around here, but let's face it;  you can only eat just so many egg salad sandwiches before you get mighty sick of the stuff.

So, what else can you do with your leftover eggs? Well, out of necessity I came up with a few ideas over the years that saved the Easter Egg Hunt from becoming extinct around here. If my daughter ever realized how close I came to eliminating her favorite part of Easter morning, she probably would have run away from home!  Here are some of my favorite ways (and the recipes for a couple of them) to use up those leftover eggs. They're all pretty simple and quite tasty too.

1) Deviled Eggs
2) Pickled Eggs (Don't knock 'em til you've tried 'em! Really!)
3) Sprinkling the chopped eggs over briefly cooked Spring vegetables like Asparagus with a tangy vinaigrette
4) Add them to a Macaroni or Potato Salad
5) Throw them into a Spinach, Chef or Cobb Salad, or even a simple Tossed Green Salad
6) And of course, so as not to leave out our furry family members: A bit of chopped egg is a special treat and a good source of added protein when mixed in with a dry dog or cat food. (not too much, though)

Every mom or grandma has her own recipe for these delightful little morsels. While great for picnics and cook-outs, they're just as nice as a little snack when you're sitting on your front porch sipping your sweet tea or lemonade. Or... maybe an icy cold Mint Julep, Y'all!
Mary's Deviled Eggs
  • 6 Hard Boiled Eggs, peeled
  • 1 Cup Mayonnaise (may need more depending on the moistness of the yolks)
  • 2 Tsp Dijon or Yellow Mustard
  • 2 Tsp Capers, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tsp Yellow Onion, grated or 1 Scallion, white/light green parts, finely minced
  • 1 Tbls Prepared Sweet or Dill Pickle Relish (whichever you prefer)
  • A couple of Dashes of your favorite hot sauce (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Paprika, Cayenne Pepper or small sprigs of Parsley (as garnish)
Using a very sharp paring knife, cut the eggs in half lengthwise, being careful to keep the whites intact. Using a small spoon, gently scoop out the yokes into a mixing bowl and mash them well with a fork. Add the Mayo, Mustard and all remaining ingredients to the yolks and combine thoroughly. (You may need a tad more or less of the mayo, depending on the moisture of the yolks)

Using a pastry bag or a zip-top bag with one corner cut off, pipe the yolk mixture into each of the egg halves until they are slightly mounded. Garnish them with a sprinkling of the paprika or cayenne or a sprig of parsley. If you don't have one of those "deviled egg platters" that come with the little impressions in them to hold the eggs, you can take a tray or platter that has slightly higher sides and make a bed for them with things like shredded lettuce or cabbage, dried beans and lentils, or edamame. (boiled fresh soybeans)  If you look around your pantry, you can find any number of edible items that will keep the eggs upright, but do try to make it something that won't impart too much of an "odd" flavor to the eggs as they sit there. I thought I was being so clever once and used some star anise and juniper berries mixed together on the platter. Their flavors/aromas were so strong that it was all you could taste when you bit into the eggs. Never did that again!

Pickled Eggs? Yup! If you're anywhere close to my age and you've spent any time during your misspent youth in a typical neighborhood "dive" bar (and I really do mean that in the most loving sense of the term) you'll understand how delicious a couple of pickled eggs and a nearby shaker of salt can be!

There are several ways to pickle eggs, but I prefer mine to be pretty basic. If you've never had them, don't turn your nose up at them without trying them first.  They're especially good when you're having a couple of icy cold beers on a hot summer day. Keep the salt shaker handy and I always spoon out a small bowl of the yummy pickling liquid for dipping. 
Pickled Eggs
  • 2 Dozen Hard Boiled Eggs, peeled
  • 2 Cups White Vinegar
  • 2 Cups Cider Vinegar
  • 1 Cups Water
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Lg Yellow Onions, sliced into 1/2 inch rings
  • 8 Lg Garlic Cloves, peeled and very lightly "smashed" with the side of a knife
  • 2 Tbls Kosher Salt
  • 2 Tbls Mustard Seed
  • 2 Tbls Celery Seed
  • 6 Whole Cloves
  • 10 Whole Black Peppercorns
  • 2 Tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
**You'll need 2 large clean glass jars with tight-fitting screw-top lids. Each jar should be large enough to hold 1 dozen eggs, 2&1/2 cups of liquid, onions and garlic cloves. (approx 4 quarts)

In a large saucepan, bring both types of Vinegar, Water, Sugar and all of the other spices to a boil over medium-high to high heat. (Do not add onions or garlic)  Make sure the sugar and salt have dissolved completely before turning the heat off.

While the pickling liquid is coming to a boil, add 1 dozen eggs, half the onion slices and half the garlic cloves to each jar, layering them as you go. I (carefully) put the liquid into a measuring cup(s) or bowl with a pour spout to avoid burning myself or others when pouring. Pour 1/2 the liquid over each jar of eggs until it reaches 1/4 inch from the top of the jar. (if you don't have quite enough liquid, you can add some additional Cider or White Vinegar to make up the difference) Screw the lids on each jar immediately and set aside in an area that is room temperature to cool. (as the hot liquid cools it will seal the jars)

Allow the jars to sit at room temperature for about 1 week. (The longer they sit, the more flavorful they'll be.) Once they've been opened, I suggest refrigerating them. My Gramps and most of the folks who operated the neighborhood bars that we hung out in back in the day didn't do that because I guess they figured there was enough vinegar in there to kill off any "critters", but I tend to err on the side of caution myself. LOL!

So, I hope this gives you all some new or different ideas for those leftover Easter Eggs that's a welcome change from the usual Egg Salad.  Maybe next year, you might even want to boil up a few extra eggs, just so you can make these treats! LOL

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter !!

Just wanted to give you all an Easter treat that won't give you cavities!  Wishing everyone a Happy and Blessed Easter!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Croque Monsieur (et Madame)

These classic French bistro sandwiches have to be at the top of the list when it comes to simple but elegant dining. The only difference between the two, is that one of them has an egg on top. That would be the Madame, of course. Neither of these is the type of sandwich that one would normally indulge in on a regular basis due to the rich ingredients involved. The overall calorie count isn't something that I've ever looked up, and frankly, I have no intentions of changing that. Obviously, the Madame is even more of a heart attack on a plate because of the addition of the fried egg. If I knew how many calories this rich, gooey, cheesy sandwich racked up, I'm afraid that I'd feel guilty the entire time I was eating it. ;~)

The recipe is a simple one, for the most part. As with most classic recipes, I've seen different variations made by celebrity chefs and in cookbooks, and I have my own preferences about just which ingredients go into it and how I like to arrange those ingredients. When all is said and done, the end result can be very basic or quite elaborate. As far as I can tell, mine is pretty close to the "original". The Original??  Hmmm. Because this sandwich can be found at just about every cafe or bistro in France, it's true origin is unknown. What is known, is that it seemed to show up in the early part of the twentieth century, (approx 1910) based on the mention of it in literature. It was referenced in Volume II of Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past", written in 1918.

Croque Monsieur
serves 2

  • 4  half-inch thick Slices of Hearty Bread (I use a Tuscan Bread, but it can be any bread you like)
  • 8 Slices of Black Forest or Baked Ham, sliced thinly
  • 1 Cup Gruyere Cheese, shredded
  • 4 Slices Gruyere Cheese
  • 6 Tbls Butter, divided
  • 4 Tbls All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
  • 3 Cups Whole Milk (2% can be substituted)

Make the Bechamel Sauce:  Melt 4 Tbls Butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the 4 Tbls Flour, Salt and Pepper and whisk thoroughly until a medium thick "paste" is formed. Keep whisking for about 2-3 minutes to cook off the raw flour taste.  Add the milk in small amounts (about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking continuously, incorporating the milk and flour mixture well, until thick enough to just coat the back of a spoon. Add the shredded cheese and continue stirring with a spoon until it's melted. If the sauce becomes too thick, you can thin it out with a bit more milk. Remove from heat and whisk in the Nutmeg. Set aside.

Assemble the Sandwiches:  You can cut off the crusts or leave them on. If cutting them off, do so before the sandwiches are made, placing 2 slices on top of each other before cutting so that sandwiches are pretty even.  Place 1 slice of cheese on each piece of bread.  Layer 2 slices of ham on top of each slice of cheese, in a sort of piled up fashion. (not laying flat) Drizzle about 2 Tbls of the Bechamel over the ham on each piece of bread. Put each 2 sides together to make 2 sandwiches. Spread both sides of each sandwich with as much of the remaining butter as you need and place them in a preheated skillet over medium heat.

Completing the Sandwiches:  Check the sandwiches frequently making sure they don't burn, turning heat down if necessary and when they are golden brown on one side, flip them to the other side and do the same until that side is also golden brown.  Remove the 2 Sandwiches to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Turn your oven on broil.  Ladle the Bechamel liberally over the tops of each sandwich allowing it to drip down the sides a bit and place them under the broiler, watching them constantly until they are hot and bubbly. You can cut them on the diagonal if you wish, but the traditional way is to serve them whole.

To Make a Croque Madame:  Follow the recipe above, except place 1 fried or poached egg on top of each sandwich before ladling the Bechamel over the top. Place them under the broiler just as with the Monsieur.

I like to serve these with something light to balance out the richness of the Bechamel and Cheese. My usual choice is blanched chilled Asparagus, drizzled with a light Vinaigrette and maybe a little bit of chopped hard boiled egg.  A big green salad is perfect too.

Now all that's left  to do is to pour yourself a glass of white wine or sparkling water if you prefer, and imagine yourself sitting outside at a lovely cafe along the Rue St. Germain in Paris. Perhaps the seat you're sitting in was once occupied by Hemingway, Wilde or Morrison.....

Bon Appetit !!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Easy "Box Mix" Solutions

This is not a promotion or review of any one brand of cookie or brownie mix. These are the brands that I use and I am in no way stating that they are better or worse than any other product(s) of their nature.

This is definitely not a difficult recipe but it is one of the most requested desserts or sweet treats that I make. It's incarnation is actually the result of a "happy accident".  We were invited to a cookout at a friend's house a few summer's ago, and I was asked to bring a dessert.  Since it was a casual occasion, I figured that something yummy, yet simple was in order. Sounds easy-peasy, right?  


I got to thinking about the more popular desserts that I've served at our own barbecues or casual parties, and my first thought was to make a big pan of brownies, grab some vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce at the store and provide the fixings for hot fudge brownie sundaes. Brownies have always gone over quite well with both adults and children and they sure weren't going to take up half of my day making them. Add a little scoop of ice cream and some thick gooey hot fudge and you have a real party pleaser!  Et Voila! That was the plan.  Or was it??   Hmmmm.....


We'd had a pretty busy morning and as usual, I had waited til later in the day to start my preparations. As I  grabbed the brownie mix from the pantry shelf, I realized that there was only one box. One box? How in the world was I going to feed what I was told would be at least 30 people with one box of brownies? Those little needles of panic started to take hold. I didn't have time to run to the store and buy another box!  Yikes! I hadn't even showered yet! I was barely going to have enough time to stop at the store to get the ice cream and fudge sauce on my way to the party! I was beginning to feel a bit faint. What on earth could I do?


As I was momentarily teetering on the edge of sanity, the pantry shelves flashed by in my head. There wasn't a second box of brownie mix, but wasn't there something else that I saw out of the corner of my eye?? OK... I think so.... But, what was it?  I flew back into the pantry and as my eyes scanned the rows of condiments and canned goods, it appeared!  One lone box of chocolate chip cookie mix! But.... Wait a minute!  Surely one box of cookie mix was not going to feed that many people either!  Maybe I could make cookies and brownies?  Would that be enough?  Well, maybe..... BUT!  What if..... What if I could somehow combine the two mixes and make one dessert go far enough?  Then, it hit me.  Like a miracle from Heaven above, I saw in my mind's eye a pan full of wonderful chocolate chip cookie/brownie bars!  Could it work?  I mean, really work?

Well, it did work.  I set about making the cookie dough and before it was fully mixed, I thought to myself, "Wait!"  So I set the half combined dough aside and grabbed a second mixing bowl and began to make the brownies.  When I finished mixing the brownies, I decided to leave the cookie mix in the crumbly state that it was and sprinkle it over the brownie batter like you would a "crumble" over a cobbler.  So, I followed my somewhat doubtful plan and in about 30 minutes, I had what looked like a pan of cookie bars, but not just any old cookie bars....  No, these bars had a decadent secret underneath their chewy goodness.  A rich dark chocolate secret.


I took a deep breath and jumped into the shower, knowing that these new confections would be cool enough for me to cut into several small-ish squares and arrange on a pretty platter.  Surely, the combination of the two goodies would be rich enough that one would only need a small piece to satisfy their sweet tooth.  Much to my luck by the time I was dressed and ready to head out to the party, I had a lovely platter of small, but yummy goodies to offer my hostess for her guests to enjoy.  And enjoy them they did!  So much so, that at least 10 people asked me for the recipe before the end of the party!  And new party goers galore ever since then have done just the same.  I proudly pass my happy little accidental recipe along to all who ask.  And now, I have the pleasure of sharing it with all of you too!


  • 1 Box Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix, follow package directions (see note below**)
  • 1 Box Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix, follow package directions
(Of course, you don't have to use Ghirardelli mixes, but they're the only ones I've ever tried this with.  My theory?  If it ain't broke.....   If you do use other brands, I'd love to hear your thoughts.)

Once you have mixed the dough and the batter, pour the brownie batter into ungreased 9x13x2 glass baking dish.  Sprinkle the "chunks" of cookie dough over the top of the brownie batter as close together as you can get them.  Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 28-30 minutes, or until top looks set and is a light golden brown. Allow to cool for 30 minutes (or a bit longer if you can) running a butter knife around the edge of the pan two or three times during cooling, and then cut into approx 2 inch squares. Serve and Enjoy!

**  Do not mix the cookie dough thoroughly. Try to leave it in "chunks" the same size as you might use for a fruit cobbler or crumble. It's virtually impossible to "spread" the cookie dough on top of the thinner brownie batter. I suppose if you made a boo-boo and mixed it too much, you could rotate the cookie dough to the bottom and pour the brownie batter on top. I also wouldn't worry if the brownie batter seeps down in between the cookie dough chunks.  No matter which way you have to do it, they'll still be delish!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Java Java Java

First off, even though most of you likely won't see this post until tomorrow or Wednesday, I'd like wish a Happy and Blessed Passover to all of my Jewish friends on this very Holy Day.

Well, we did it. We finally broke down and caved in to the pressure of Monday through Friday morning life in the 21st century.  Now, don't get me wrong.... We haven't exactly been living in the Dark Ages. For the last several years, hubbs and I poured our morning coffee from a standard "Automatic Drip Coffee Maker".  A 14 Cup Cuisinart Brew Central, to be exact.

I wouldn't call either of us coffee connoisseurs, but we can both be a little picky when it comes to our daily dose of "eye-opener". That being said, I did grow up with a father who was a simple and kind man, but was a complete coffee snob.  He wasn't always concerned about the brand, roast or blend of coffee that he drank, but he was a stickler for fresh brewed, percolated coffee.  To say that he despised automatic drip coffee makers would be an understatement of mammoth proportions. If it wasn't fresh perked or if it was over 10 minutes old, he wouldn't drink it. It was that simple. This was a man who knew every diner, truck stop and roadside restaurant within a 100 mile radius of home, by how good or bad their coffee was.  The food was just an afterthought.  He even carried a small percolator around Europe in his rucksack during WWII and made "camp coffee" in foxholes and bombed out buildings. I still have his favorite percolator in a box in our basement.  I keep telling myself that one of these days I'll go down and unearth that bad boy and make myself a big old pot of memories. Usually, it's at about 3:00 AM that I think about it, so that tells you how unlikely it is to happen any time soon. It's an old Farberware pot that looks almost exactly like this:

Of course, Daddy's pot is a bit worse for the wear than the one in this picture, but it's not damaged. It just has a certain patina that comes from years of love and hand washing by the man himself.  He never trusted Mama not to use soap. After each pot of coffee was finished, he would rinse it out with very hot tap water and dry it with a clean kitchen towel. (which made Mama furious, not to mention making it necessary for her to replace her kitchen towels on an insanely frequent basis) About once every two or three weeks, he would "brew" a pot of white vinegar, to take care any serious build-up of coffee residue. This was not a time when you wanted to be anywhere near the kitchen because the fumes from vigorously boiling vinegar can be overwhelming, to say the least.

But, I digress...... The point of this post was to "fess up" to finally giving in and purchasing the newest thing to come up the coffee pike.  (or is that "down" the pike??)  Either way, I'm sure that Daddy would be appalled! Yup! That's it, you guessed it!  We bought a Keurig single cup brewing station.  The Keurig B70 to be exact. I resisted as long as I could, but the pressure was just too strong.  I got so sick of  the work it requires to keep a drip coffee maker in top brewing condition. Plus, it's reached the point where it has become an issue of basic economics. In a nutshell, we've been wasting perfectly good (and expensive) coffee from Monday through Friday. Hubbs fills his commuter mug once on weekday mornings, right before he leaves for work and over the next half hour or so, I'll drink another 2 equal sized mugs.  If you brew a full 14 cup pot of coffee, you waste a great deal of it when you're only consuming 3 mugs of it a day.

There are about 25 other excuses reasons that I could come up with to justify our new purchase, but let's face it..... We wanted it.  And we couldn't be happier!  It even has a separate little accessory called "My K-Cup" that allows you to use your own ground coffee instead of the little pods that are made for it. (of course we bought it!) Sure, it's a bit of a novelty right now, so it's going to be exciting to use and experiment with, but it's the convenience of the machine and our laziness factor as we get further into middle age that makes this new coffee maker such a joy. So without further ado, here she is!

Isn't she a beauty?? Not only does this miracle of the weekday morning make great coffee, but it also brews tea (both hot and iced) and cocoa and who knows what other purposes I can find for it down the road? We're still keeping the drip coffee maker for those times when we have a few more coffee drinkers in the house and we also still have our faithful French Press pot for those times when we're feeling a bit European and pretentious. And some day, I'll dig out Daddy's beloved percolator and make myself that pot of memories.  But for now, it's single cup brewing all the way for us!  Anyone else out there fallen in love with the Keurig??  I'd love to hear what you think.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I'm linking up with Java today!

Photo courtesy of Google Images
Howdy folks! It's a busy Friday for me, but I wanted to link up with Java's Friday Follow this week. It's been a while and I plan to do some long overdue visiting with my current blog buddies and hopefully meet some new friends too this weekend!  If you haven't participated in her 40 and Over Blog Hop and you fit the criteria (40 plus and just downright fabulous! - both boys and girls!) you should "hop" on board and give it a try! It's lots of fun and better still, it's how I've met some of the nicest bloggers around! Hope to see you around the blogosphere!

It's easy.... Just click on the link above and Java has all the steps right there for you to "follow"!  Have fun!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Got Chicken Soup?

Oy Vey!  Much to my extreme dismay, I wasn't lucky enough to escape the scourge of hubby's recent bout with bronchitis. I'm about a week into this and I'm slowly getting a tiny bit better each day, but it's been quite difficult to get the kind of rest that it really requires to get well. My 12 year old diabetic cat has been quite ill this past week and has been in and out of the hospital. He's home right now, but it's hard to say if he's going to recover from this. I'm just heartbroken. He's my little buddy. My shadow. A total Mama's boy. I just keep praying that he's not in any pain and if he's not going to get better, that we'll know sooner rather than later. As much as I don't want to even think about it, the thought of what may be ahead is just tearing me up inside. I've been down this road before with more than a couple of my furry babies and I believe that it is one of the most difficult things a person who deeply loves their "not quite human kids" can experience. Logically, I know that the cycle of life is inevitable, but frankly, at times like this it just sucks!

So, for the time being I have my Mucinex, my Ibuprofen, my tissue box(es) and about a case of Vitamin Water to help keep me hydrated. All I think I need need now is some good old fashioned Jewish Penicillin. (Chicken Soup) I wonder if the Carnegie Deli delivers? They have the world's best Matzo Ball Soup and I desperately wish I could blink like Jeanie or wiggle my nose like Samantha Stevens and have a great big steaming bowl of it appear on my kitchen counter. The broth is rich and chicken-y (if that's even a word?) and the matzo balls are fluffy and flavorful and as big as your fist!

The really sad part about it, is that I have a fantastic recipe and all of the ingredients to make my own. I just don't feel well enough to make it! That being said, (and not that I would ever wish this on any of you) I figured that I'd post the recipe, so that all of you can make and freeze it ahead of time..... just in case.

Matzo Ball Soup

About 6 Servings

Chicken Broth or Stock

  • 1 5-6 Lb Chicken, either whole or cut into quarters (for "Stock" you would roast the Chicken first)
  • 1 Large Yellow Onion, cut into quarters (unpeeled for darker broth/stock)
  • 2 Large Carrots, washed and cut into thirds
  • 2 Large Celery Stalks, washed and cut into thirds
  • 6 Cloves Garlic, peeled and slightly smashed with the side of a knife
  • 1 Small Bunch each of Fresh Italian Parsley, Fresh Thyme, 1 Bay Leaf, Celery Tops (leaves), tied together with kitchen string or tied in a bundle with cheesecloth
  • 1 Tbls (heaping) Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
  • Cold Water to cover (about 12 cups)

Place the chicken and the rest of the ingredients in large stock pot. Add enough cold water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook, uncovered for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours, skimming foam/fat from the top and adding a bit more water as needed. The chicken should be very tender and pretty much falling off the bones. Allow it to cool just a bit for about 15 to 20 minutes and then remove the chicken to a plate to cool further. Pick out and discard the vegetables and herbs and strain the broth through a colander lined with cheesecloth into another slightly smaller pot. Remove the meat from the chicken and set aside to add to the soup. (any excess meat is great for chicken salad or can be frozen for later use in soups, salads or casseroles)

Note** You can certainly use 3 or 4 quarts of prepared store bought chicken broth/stock and a purchased rotisserie chicken, if you don't have the time or the desire to make your own.

I like to add the cooked shredded chicken meat and the same basic vegetables and herbs to my soup, but if you prefer a simple broth as the base for your matzo ball soup, you can omit any or all of them.

Matzo Balls
  • 2 Cups Matzo Meal
  • 2 Cups of Water or Chicken Broth
  • 2 Tbls Schmaltz or Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Large Eggs, separated
  • 3 Tbls Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Fresh Black Pepper

Note** Schmaltz is rendered Chicken Fat that you can often find in the International sections of some larger grocery stores or at Jewish Delis and specialty stores. Vegetable oil or cooled melted butter can be used in it's place.

In a large bowl, mix Matzo Meal, Schmaltz/Oil, Egg Yolks, Parsley and Seasonings together until well combined. (mixture will be goopy/lumpy and thick) Slowly add Water or Broth, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a thick paste/dough.

In a separate bowl, whisk or beat the whites until they form medium stiff peaks. Add about 1/3 of the beaten whites to the matzo meal dough, stirring briskly to lighten up the mixture slightly. Slowly add the remaining 2/3 of the whites, folding gently with a spatula in a figure 8 pattern until both mixtures are fully combined, trying not to deflate the mixture too much. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Bring the strained broth/stock to a boil over medium high to high heat. It's at this point where you can decide if you want to add some newly cut up vegetables, herbs or chicken meat to your soup. Just bring the soup to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender before doing the next step.

Cooking the Matzo Balls:  You can take spoonfuls of the chilled mixture and roll them into whatever size you prefer, or you can just drop them free-form by rounded spoonfuls directly into the broth. They can be small, medium or large, depending on personal tastes. I like to use about 2 heaping tablespoons per Matzo Ball.

Simmer the matzo balls, uncovered, for about 25 or 30 minutes until they are cooked through. You can check them by inserting a wooden skewer (like testing a cake) or remove one to a plate and cut it in half with a knife. They should be firm and the centers should not be "wet" or doughy. You can freeze any leftover soup or matzo balls, but I would suggest that you freeze them separately. I take the matzo balls and place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet and put them in the freezer until they are frozen solid. I then place them in zip top freezer bags in quantities of 2 or 4 and  ladle the soup into containers that will serve 1 or 2 people. When I want to serve the soup later, I just put whatever amount of soup I need and a couple of matzo balls per person in a saucepan right from the freezer, and cook them over medium heat until everything is piping hot and ready to eat.

It seems there will always be an ongoing debate about whether or not Chicken Soup has any true medicinal benefits; especially in regard to the common cold. There are a few studies that claim that it works and just as many that refute those claims. Do I personally have any scientific proof that chicken soup can cure what ails you?  Nope.  Is it warm and rich and comforting when you're just not feeling well?  It sure is for me.

Sooo..... All I have to do now is figure out a way to convince the Carnegie Deli to deliver a couple hundred miles away! I suppose I could throw in a slice of their incredible New York Style Cheesecake to make it worth their while.  Do you think $20 is a big enough tip?

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