Monday, February 23, 2009

Stuffed Mushrooms

For years I've made stuffed mushrooms and they were good. Then I got the challenge of making gluten-free foods, so I needed to get a little more creative. So I did. And they were amazing!

In most stuffed mushroom recipes, bread crumbs bind the stuffing together. But when you work gluten-free, bread is right out. So I thought to myself, "What else binds foods together?"

Cheese and egg do quite often. Unfortunately, egg is out because my friend is an lacto-vegetarian and doesn't do eggs. But, done carefully, cheese can bind the stuffing together on its own. Specifically, a mixture of ricotta and mozzarella can.

Unfortunately, they were so good we ate them before I could get any pictures.

Stuffed Mushrooms
9 med. to large crimini mushrooms
4 stalks of asparagus
2 green onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
Pepper to taste
Salt to taste

Clean and cut the asparagus and onions into coins. Remove the stalks from the mushrooms; these can be added to the stuffing if desired. Saute asparagus, onions, garlic, and optional mushroom stalks in the olive oil for 5 to 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Place mushrooms stalk side up in a baking pan. Combine the asparagus mixture with the ricotta and 1/3 of the mozzarella. Place in mushrooms. Cover the stuffed mushrooms with the remaining mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes or until mozzarella begins to brown.

Serve piping hot.
I prefer using crimini mushrooms to using large white buttons. Criminis are sometimes called baby portabellos -- with all that implies. I like the firmer, meatier texture; it gives the stuffed mushrooms more body. Criminis also can handle denser, heavier stuffings. I also prefer the flavor of criminis, richer and more savory than a white mushroom could ever dream of.

The stuffed mushrooms were very cheesy, but quite yummy. The mushrooms were firm and moist, but not soggy. The cheese was, again, nice and firm. I had made ricotta cheese and the flavor just was incredible. I usually use these as an appetizer, popping them in the oven just as the guests arrive.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Homemade Ricotta

Daniel Meyer talks about his experience making ricotta in Discovering Ricotta in Mark Bittman's NY Times blog on January 26, 2009. So I decided to try it.

Daniel Meyer's Ricotta Cheese
1/2 gallon of milk
1 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of lemon juice or 1/2 pint of buttermilk (I used the buttermilk)

Per his instructions, I heated the milk and salt over med-high heat until it was about 170°F (75°C), stirring regularly. I then added the buttermilk and reduced the heat to med-low.

I waited three minutes then looked at the curd. It didn't seem to be too thick, so I let it sit a bit longer. After about 20 minutes, I decided it has curdled enough so I started removing the curd into a cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl. I finally decided that it was going to be too much work to remove all the curd with the slotted spoon (a lot was slipping through the slots - my spoon had big slots), so I poured the mixture through the colander. Once I was done, I returned the colander and the curd to the pan, twisted the cheesecloth closed, and used the back of a wooden spoon to squeeze the whey out of the curd (quite literally). I left it in the fridge for about an hour to finish draining.
The curd was nice and firm and quite yummy. It has a little sharpness and a little saltiness, but wasn't nearly as salty as the store-bought stuff. The curd was firmer and less watery than what you can buy in the store. I plan to use the ricotta in stuffed mushrooms later.

Some people responded to the NY Times blog stating that this was paneer instead of ricotta. It was certainly firmer and had less whey than the ricotta you buy in the store. Either way, it was yummy.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Roasted Chicken and Roasted Vegetable Soup

Well, after I roasted the chicken (see previous post), I had a wonderful idea: roasted chicken and vegetable soup. I didn't want to waste any of the deliciousness that was the chicken.

I took the carcass from the chicken I roasted, pulled off any remaining large chunks meat, then boiled the carcass. I also scraped all the jelly off the serving platter (that's where a lot of the gelatin pools) and added it to the broth . I then roasted up some veggies for the soup.

Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Soup

1 5 lb chicken carcass
4 cups of noodles (thick, dumpling-like noodles work best)
3/4 inch piece of fresh ginger
1/2 pound of carrots
1 large turnip
1 medium onion
3/4 pound of mushrooms (preferably crimini)
1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons of chopped garlic
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
1/2 tablespoon of ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 450°F (232°C).

While roasting the chicken, put the giblets and neck in a pan to boil. This can be done ahead of time. Once the chicken is roasted, remove the large cuts of meat from the carcass. Reserve some of the roasted meat for soup; use or freeze the remainder.

Put the carcass and skin in the pan with the giblets and neck and simmer. As the carcass simmers, regularly scum away the froth and fat that collects on the top of the broth.

Chop carrots, turnip, onion, and mushrooms into bite-size pieces. Drizzle olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt over the vegetables and mix until all of the vegetables are coated. Coat a baking sheet with sides with olive oil (a sheet of aluminum foil can be placed in the bottom of the sheet and oiled for easier cleaning). Put vegetables in the sheet. Roast until nearly done, about 1/2 hour or so.

Once the stock has simmered for a few hours, strain the chicken carcass out of the stock. Remove useful meat from the carcass and return to the broth. Add the vegetables and vinegar.

Simmer for an hour. Continue scumming any froth or floating fat. Add noodles and cook until noodles are done. Enjoy!
This soup can be made with roasted potatoes in addition to or instead of the noodles. I don't like my soups too starchy, so I only use one starch. When I make chicken soup, I prefer noodles. When we moved to Spokane, I discovered Country Pasta, a brand of noodles that are much, much thicker than standard egg noodles, at Costco. I love the texture they bring, dense and chewy, almost dumpling-like.

The soup turned out really, really well. The balsamic vinegar really highlighted the roasted flavors of the chicken and vegetables without making the soup sour or tangy. I roasted the vegetables until they were done and they were good, but I think taking them out of the oven while they are still al dente will make the soup a little more flavorful without making the veggies mushy.

Monday, February 2, 2009

One-oven Meals

As I stated a few weeks ago, I love to roast! I will roast beef, chicken, lamb, pork, potatoes, vegetables, apples -- just about anything. The weather recently turned colder (our lows are about to go below zero again!), so I wanted to heat up the downstairs without using too much electricity. Using the oven allowed me to make dinner and heat up the house.

Dinner was roasted chicken stuffed with aromatics and roasted veggies. The house smells amazing.

Roasted Chicken
5 lb chicken, whole
1/2 medium onion
3-4 tablespoons chopped garlic
1-inch piece of fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, whole
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, whole
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, whole
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
2-3 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 450°F (232°C).

Chop the onion into large pieces, approximately 1-inch pieces. Slice the ginger into thick slices. Toast the cumin and sesame seeds in a small skillet on low heat until the seeds turn brown. Mix the aromatics together.

Clean the neck and giblets, large gobs of fat, and extra viscera out of the cavity of the chicken. Oil the chicken skin with a little olive oil. Stuff the chicken with the aromatics. Place chicken breast down on a roasting rack in a roasting pan (or cookie sheet with sides). Roast until the chicken reaches 180°F (82°C) -- about 15 minutes to the pound. Test the doneness of the chicken by temp, not time or "jiggle test." Rest the chicken at least 15 minutes.

If the chicken breast does not get brown enough, turn the chicken over once it reaches 150
°F (65°C) and finish roasting. I often don't turn the chicken if there is a lot of air circulation around the bird.
2009 01 24 roast chicken

Roasted Vegetables
1/4 to 1/2 pound carrots (baby carrots preferred)
4 large crimini mushrooms
1 med to large turnip
1 med to large beet
8 brussel sprouts
1/2 med onion
1/4 head of cauliflower
2 med to large potatoes (I prefer white potatoes, though russets and yukon golds will work as well)
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Wash the vegetables well. Peel the onion, beet, and turnip; I like the potatoes with the skin. Chop all the vegetables into bite-size pieces.

Oil a cookie sheet with sides. Drizzle the vegetables with oil and sprinkle the salt on them. Toss the veggies in the oil until all the vegetables are coated (if you cut smaller pieces than I did, you might need more oil). Spread out on cookie sheet into single layer. The beets will bleed onto other vegetables. If this is an issue, roast the beets on a separate cookie sheet.

Roast at 450°F (232°C) for 30-45 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add pepper, garlic, or other herbs to taste.
2009 01 24 roast veggies

Yes, the house got wonderfully warm and yummy-smelling. I enjoyed the cooking/smelling process as much as the eating process.

To cook everything in a single oven, you need to put the bottom rack nearly to the lowest setting and the top rack almost to the top. The more space between the racks, the more air circulation you have. In addition, try to make sure the top disk is smaller than the bottom dish. Again, this will help with air circulation so your chicken will roast and not steam.

The chicken was amazingly tender and juicy. By roasting it breast down, the chicken was self-basting and the breast never got a chance to dry out. In addition, the dark meat was juicy, but not greasy. Unfortunately, the breast didn't brown the way I wanted -- I should have oiled the breast and turned the chicken over. That would also have prevented the chicken from sticking to the roasting rack (not too much of a problem).

The veggies, on the other hand, were pretty spot-on. Wonderful Maillard reactions and caramelized vegetable sugars. The cauliflower and the brussel sprouts did incredibly well -- they got sweeter and less cabbage-y.
The potatoes and turnips were sweet and creamy.

And, in the interest of getting the most out of everything, I get to make chicken stock from the carcass!