Friday, March 30, 2012

Incredible Butternut Squash, Chickpea & Red Lentil Stew

This stew is amazing.

Trying exciting new recipes is always fun.  When I saw this North-African modeled stew, I was intrigued and made a mental note to buy the ingredients on my next grocery trip.  It just sounded so different from anything that I usually make.  As it came together beautifully in the kitchen, it became this incredible marriage of spices and ingredients that resulted in heavenly smells wafting through the house.  I was sold!

After reading the recipe reviews, I decided to make some major changes to improve the dish.  You can see the original recipe HERE.  My biggest changes included using red onion and canned chickpeas, adding garlic and chicken to the dish, sauteing the onion and garlic before adding the other ingredients and also cooking the stew on the stove top instead of a slow-cooker.  Several of the reviews noted that there wasn't much flavor, and that all the ingredients sort of became the same consistency in the slow cooker.  Because of this, I added extra flavor by using red onion and by sauteing the onion along with garlic before adding the other ingredients.  This worked flawlessly and the vegetable broth deglazed the pan perfectly, adding even more flavor. 

Also, cooking this on the stove top kept the ingredients from becoming the same consistency.  The squash and carrots still had a little bite to them, and the flavor was incredible.  The cumin, saffron and fresh ginger in this stew really push it over the top in the deliciousness department!

Brad and I found the finished stew to be packed with flavor, and upon first bite, I even got a "Wow!" from Brad.  I think he was a fan.  :)

Luckily, there are left-overs in the fridge, which makes me happy.  I might serve them over brown rice tonight, or I just might serve it in a bowl all on its own again. 

This is a keeper!  Bon Appetit, my friends!

Butternut Squash, Chickpea & Red Lentil Stew
Adapted from Eating Well

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup canned chickpeas, drained
2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup red lentils
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon saffron, (see Note)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup chopped roasted lightly salted peanuts
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the chicken breast in an oven-proof dish, drizzling it with about 1 tbsp. of the extra virgin olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and bake for approximately 40 - 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.  Cut into small bite-sized pieces and set to the side.
  3. In a heavy-bottomed stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat, drizzle 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.  Add the red onion and saute until tender and slightly golden brown.  Next, add the garlic and continue to saute for 1 additional minute.
  4. Deglaze the pan by adding the vegetable broth to the pot, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom.
  5. Add the squash, carrots, lentils, chickpeas, chicken, tomato paste, ginger, cumin, salt, saffron and pepper.  Stir together well.
  6. Put on the lid, leaving it ajar, and simmer over lowish heat until the squash are tender and the lentils have begun to break down, about 45 minutes.  While it's simmering, stir the stew every now and then, to make sure the bottom doesn't burn.  If the stew starts to become too thick, you may need to add a little additional water during the process.  (I ended up adding about 2 cups of water.)
  7. Just before serving, stir in the lime juice. Serve sprinkled with peanuts and cilantro.

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
  • Note:  Considered the world's most expensive spice, saffron contributes a pungent flavor and intense yellow color. It is sold in threads and powdered form.  

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Monday, March 26, 2012

And The Winner Is...

Drum-roll please......................................................

The winner of the latest giveaway - a great selection of Amazing Taste seasonings, plus a large 27 oz. shaker - has been selected! has chosen comment #3, from Shanda M.!

Shanda - Please email me at to claim your prize!  :) :) :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars + A Dream Come True


About a month ago, I nonchalantly checked my email as I went about my normal daily routine.  Only this time, I couldn't resist letting out a squeal of excitement as I read the first email that popped through.  It was from the Producer at our local Fox 6 News station, and she was asking if I might be interested in appearing on Good Day Alabama as a part of their morning cooking segment.  

I couldn't believe it. 

After I got past my initial shock, I sent her an email to confirm that I would absolutely love the chance!  The segment usually runs about 5 minutes long, so I got to work trying to figure out just what I wanted to make in that time frame.  There had been a recipe in the back of my mind for quite some time that I wanted to develop.  This was the perfect opportunity.  I pictured a dessert bar, which was sort of a combination of a Snickers candy bar and a chocolate chip cookie...a "Snookie" Bar, if you will (no...NOT the Jersey Shore kind!).  It sounded delicious, so I put on my apron and started experimenting that night.  

The results were quite scrumptious, and I knew that I had my recipe ready.  When the big weekend came, my sisters came up from Dothan to be here for the excitement.  Fortunately, the segment would be pre-recorded, so that helped me not be AS nervous.  But, I have to admit that the days leading up to the segment were filled with nervous anticipation.  I was SO incredibly excited!  I've dreamed of doing something like this, but never thought I'd EVER actually get the chance.

That morning, we loaded up the car and headed to the studio.  As I put my apron on and watched that morning's live newscast being filmed, I realized that it was really happening!  Soon thereafter, I was in the kitchen getting the chocolate and caramel melted and making the final preparations.

It was over in a flash, and the entire experience was a lot of fun.  Janice Rogers was the anchor that morning helping me along, and she was fantastic.

A BIG, BIG thank you to Suzanne Cornett and Janice Rogers at Fox 6!

I really hope that you enjoy this recipe.  The chocolate chip cookie dough is very, very easy to whip together in minutes.  The sweet-salty combination of the creamy caramel and chopped peanuts is divine, and there's no better way to top it all off than with milk chocolate!

Just be warned...these dessert bars are entirely way too addictive!  :)

Bon Appetit, my friends!

The Fox 6 studio...

Ready to go!

Setting up...


I'm so glad my sisters got to go!


Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars (aka "Snookie" Bars)

1 Box Duncan Hines "Butter Recipe Golden" cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup + 2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups Kraft Premium Caramel Bits
3 tbsp. heavy cream
1 cup roasted, lightly salted peanuts, roughly chopped
2 cups milk chocolate morsels

Pre-heat oven to 365 degrees F.

Pour cake mix into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Turn the mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, to break up any large chunks of cake mix.

With the mixer still on low speed, slowly pour the vegetable oil into the cake mix, and then quickly add the eggs. Increase speed to medium and mix for about 1 minute, just until the ingredients come together.  Next, add the semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter and mix on low for an additional 30 seconds to combine well.

Coat a 9x13" baking dish with cooking spray.  Pour the cookie batter into the dish and smooth into an even layer in the bottom of the dish.

Bake in the preheated oven for 23-24 minutes, or until the cookie layer is nice and golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cookie dough comes out clean.  (Be careful not to over-bake.  You want the cookie layer to remain a little soft.)  Set to the side to cool, while you prepare the caramel and chocolate layers.

Next, pour the Caramel Bits and heavy cream into a small saucepan.  Over low heat, slowly melt the caramel and cream mixture, stirring often.  Keep an eye on it, because caramel has a tendency to burn quickly.  Once it reaches a very smooth consistency, pour the melted caramel over the cookie layer.  Using a spatula, smooth the caramel into an even layer. 

Now, sprinkle the chopped peanuts over the caramel. 

Using a double boiler, melt together the milk chocolate morsels and 2 tsp. of vegetable oil, stirring often.  Once melted, pour the milk chocolate over the peanuts and caramel and smooth into an even layer.

Place the dish in the refrigerator and allow to cool for approximately 2-3 hours, or until the chocolate and caramel harden enough so that you can easily cut the dessert into bars.


  • This dessert is best kept at room temperature.
  • If you do not like peanuts, you can simply omit them from the recipe, or substitute with chopped pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, etc.
  • This recipe for cookie dough is a wonderful, easy way to make cookies, also.  If making cookies, simply spoon the dough onto a greased cookie sheet (an ice cream scoop makes this easier and will ensure all the cookies are the same size).  Bake in a 365 degree F oven and adjust baking time to 12-13 minutes.
  • When making cookies, be creative with this recipe! You can substitute almost any flavor cake mix or any flavor chocolate chips (ex: use M&Ms or chocolate/vanilla swirl morsels instead of chocolate chips). You can also add shredded coconut, a few tablespoons of chunky peanut butter or even unsweetened cocoa right to the batter!
For examples of different cookie recipes, please visit my other blog posts here:

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

An "Amazing" Giveaway! + Chicken Linguine w/ Kalamata Olives, Cilantro, Fresh Mozzarella & Toasted Almonds

I'm so excited that the new Sugar & Spice by Celeste Facebook fan page hit 500 fans yesterday!  Thank you all for the support...You guys are awesome!

To celebrate, how about a giveaway?!  The awesome folks at Amazing Taste recently sent me some goodies to give to one lucky blog reader.  I use this brand of spices all the time and am very happy to be able to give a great selection to the winner.  

The thing I love about these spices is that they make my life a lot easier on busy weeknights.  They're an easy way to add tons of flavor without spending long in the kitchen.  Plus, they are all natural and contain no MSG.    
I recently used the Chicken Seasoning in a pasta dish, which turned out to be a new favorite.  I just adore cooking pasta dishes.  It's fun to experiment with different veggies and ingredients, to come up with something delicious...yet uncomplicated!  The following recipe was the result of  using what I had on-hand in my kitchen at the time.

One of my favorite elements of this recipe is the fresh mozzarella...added between the pasta and the sauce.  This method causes the cheese to slowly melt into all of the ingredients...Heavenly!

Now, back to the giveaway...

The Prizes:
This giveaway will really help stock your spice cabinet.  The loot includes:
  • One large 27 oz. shaker of Amazing Taste Malibu Seasoning (This is my favorite and is a "zesty blend of garlic, onion, black pepper & paprika).
  • 1 oz. packet of Chicken Seasoning
  • .75 oz packet of Beef Seasoning
  • .75 oz packet of Pork Seasoning
  • .75 oz packet of Burger Seasoning
  • 1 oz. packet of Chili Seasoning
How to  Enter:
It's super easy.  Simply leave a comment on this post, which answers the following question:

What's your favorite spice to cook or bake with?

Also, for extra chances to win, simply do the following and leave additional comments letting me know that you did:
The Rules:
  • Entries must be submitted by midnight (CST time) on Sunday, March 25th. 
  • A winner will be picked at random (using and will be announced on Monday, March 26th.
  • Please make sure you include your name and email address so that I will have a way to contact you if you win...especially if you leave a comment using the "Anonymous" option.
  • At this time, the contest is open to US residents only.
Good Luck!  :)

Chicken Linguine with Kalamata Olives, Cilantro, Fresh Mozzarella & Toasted Almonds

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp Amazing Taste Chicken Seasoning
3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
5 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes, diced
5-10 Kalamata olives, pitted and minced
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped; plus extra for garnishing
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth 
Salt & Pepper, to taste
13.25 oz box whole grain linguine
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (How to Toast Almonds)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts in an ovenproof dish and drizzle with 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Sprinkle with the Amazing Taste Chicken Seasoning.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.  Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces.  Set to the side.

Meanwhile, drizzle 2 tbsp of the olive oil into a medium skillet, over medium heat.  Add the red onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.  Next, add the mushrooms and continue to saute until the mushrooms are soft and golden brown, another 5 minutes.  Add the garlic to the skillet and saute for 1 more minute, or just until the garlic is fragrant. 

Next, add the tomatoes, Kalamata olives, 2 tbsp of the cilantro, diced chicken breasts, and finally the chicken broth.  Stir thoroughly and continue to simmer over medium-low heat, until the sauce thickens a bit, about 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

While the sauce simmers, boil the pasta according to package directions.

Once the sauce is finished, place a serving of pasta on each plate, topping it with several slices of fresh mozzarella cheese.  Next, spoon the sauce over the pasta and cheese.  Garnish each plate with a handful of toasted almonds and reserved cilantro.


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Friday, March 16, 2012

Swine & Wine Twilight Supper 2012 - Birmingham, AL

If you ever find yourself in the lovely city that I call home - Birmingham, AL - You simply MUST make time to dine at Little Savannah Restaurant & Bar.  Chef Clif Holt and his wife, Maureen, make it a not-to-miss restaurant in the "Magic City."  

Clif and Maureen have spearheaded a pretty awesome event here in Birmingham, that I want to share with you all.  It's the Swine and Wine Twilight Supper, which they created because of "a growing need for a collaborative chef driven event in support of Urban Farms."   For the dinner, the chefs will roast whole pigs overnight and whip up some amazing side dishes.  Then it will all be served as a big family-style meal.  Now, that sounds like my kind of party!

Swine and Wine 2012 is an event that I can't WAIT to attend this year!  It will benefit the Druid City Garden Project and will be held on Sunday, March 25th, 2012 from 5PM - 8PM.

A bevy of the most talented chefs from Birmingham...and around the USA...will convene to make the event extra special.  There will be outstanding food, wine and beer tastings, along with live music from the bluegrass band Lou Wamp & Swing Shift and a kids area with lots of fun things to do!

The chefs include:

I love that this even benefits the Druid City Garden Project (DCGP).  What exactly is the DCGP, you ask?  Their website explains it best...They are:

"...a community-based nonprofit in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, working to increase access to fresh, locally grown produce.  By reinvigorating vacant urban spaces with community garden plots, facilitating the development of school gardens, and implementing educational programs, the DCGP aims to reconnect Tuscaloosa’s residents to local food systems and educate the community about sustainability and healthy eating. With your help, the DCGP will act as a locus for community activity, cooperation and vitality."

Details, Details, Details!!!

Swine and Wine Twilight Supper
Date:  Sunday, March 25, 2012
Time:  5PM - 8PM
Location:  Old Car Heaven

Ticket Info:
For Regular Admission ONLINE
$70 VIP
$45 pre sold over 21
$20 13-20 years old
12 and under free

For Regular Admission at the DOOR
$75 VIP
$50 at the door over 21
$25 13-20 years old
12 and under free

You can find even more details about the event HERE.

I hope to see you there!!!  :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Warm French Lentils - Ina Garten

There's a little Mediterranean market here in town that I love to shop at when I'm in the area.  It's called Nabeel's International Market, and I love perusing their shelves for little treasures to experiment with in the kitchen.  As you enter the front doors, your senses are greeted by an array of fresh cheeses and olives that will immediately make you hungry and the store shelves are packed with things like Chinese pine nuts, assorted olive and grapeseed oils, Greek dried figs, Turkish pistachio nuts, fresh Phyllo dough and mountains of spices.

On my last visit, I turned the corner to browse the last shelf in the back of the store, and what did I find?  Clear bags bursting at the seams with gorgeous French green Le Puy lentils.  For some reason, these little beauties are hard to find around here, so I excitedly snatched up 2 big bags and added them to my basket.

Who knew I'd EVER get so darn excited about LENTILS.  I guess it's the small things in life, folks.  ;-)

A recipe by Ina Garten immediately sprang to mind as I continued to browse the shelves filled with gourmet goodies - A warm plate of French lentils with a Dijon vinaigrette.  It's a classic dish that sounded heavenly, and I couldn't wait to cook with these perfect little green legumes that I had read so much about.

That night, I got to work in the kitchen.  I added a little bacon and celery to Ina's original recipe (which you can see HERE), and the final result was just as delightful as I had hoped.  This dish will most certainly be making another appearance at our kitchen table!

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Warm French Lentils
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten

2 slices bacon, cut into lardons
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, scrubbed and 1/2-inch-diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup French green Le Puy lentils
1 white turnip, cut in half
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a medium skillet, fry the bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Remove from the pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. 

Pour off all but 2 tbsp of the bacon fat.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery.  Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute and set aside. 

Meanwhile, place the lentils, 4 cups of water, and the turnip in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are almost tender. Remove and discard the turnip and drain the lentils. Place them in a medium bowl with the onion, carrots, and celery, and add the bacon and butter. 

Meanwhile, whisk together the 1/4 cup of olive oil, the mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add to the lentils, stir well, and allow the lentils to cool until just warm, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve. The longer the lentils sit, the more salt and pepper you'll want to add.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza with Pesto, Bacon, Goat Cheese & Balsamic Red Onions...Plus Butternut Squash Seed Oil!

If you're anything like me, a little grapeseed or olive oil paired with a fabulous mix of spices and freshly baked bread is the perfect appetizer to almost any meal.  Great quality oils can be so incredibly versatile, making the perfect addition to salad dressings, sauteed veggies and of course, dipping spices.  So, when I heard of a contest that Marx Foods was hosting to promote their new seed oils, I excitedly sent them an email right away.  They were looking to select 6 food bloggers to develop a recipe using the oil, and then write a candid review for the product.

Fast forward a week or so, and I came home to find a package on my front doorstep.  Yay!  I had been selected!  I opened the box right away and was excited to find a bottle of Butternut Squash Seed Oil inside.  Butternut Squash Seed Oil?!?  That sounded amazing.  I didn't even know such a thing existed.  Once I made it to my kitchen, I opened up the bottle and a beautiful, nutty aroma found it's way to my nose.  I knew right away that I was holding something pretty special.  The next thing I did was taste a tiny bit.  After all, I wanted to get a good handle on the flavor profile before deciding how to use it.  The nuttiness was strong yet not overwhelming...In fact, it was just right.  There was even a hint of sweetness.

The wheels started turning and I began brainstorming about how I wanted to use the oil.  I wanted a recipe where the oil could stand out and maybe be utilized in several different ways, so that it could really be appreciated.  I finally decided that a homemade pizza from scratch would be the absolute perfect way to showcase this delicious oil.  

In this recipe, the butternut squash seed oil is used 3 different ways.  First, I added 1/4 cup of the oil right to the pizza dough itself.  This gave the dough a wonderful depth of flavor which I had never tasted in a pizza dough before.  Next, the oil has a high smoke point, which makes it perfect for sauteing vegetables.  So, I sauteed a red onion in the oil, and then added a splash of balsamic vinegar near the end, along with several cups of baby arugula.  This combination was magical and made the perfect topping for the pizza.  And lastly, I drizzled the oil along the crust of the pizza, right before popping it into the piping hot oven.  This resulted in a beautifully browned crust.

The final result?  I can honestly say that I was blown away by this pizza, and the butternut squash seed oil is quite delish...I'm hooked!  Somewhere between the balsamic red onions, bacon pieces, roasted butternut squash, squash seed oil and pesto, pizza magic is created.  The flavors meld together so beautifully, and Brad and I both said that it was actually some of the very best pizza we've EVER had.  It rivals the pizzas that we ate in Italy, where I really learned to appreciate pizzas made with thinner crusts and the best quality ingredients available.

This is definitely a keeper.

My only complaint about the butternut squash seed oil?  I'm going to run out too quickly!

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Note:  While I did receive a complimentary bottle of the Butternut Squash Seed Oil, all opinions and comments in this post are completely my own.  When reviewing a product on this blog, I will always be honest and tell you exactly what I think...the good, the bad and the ugly!

Baby Arugula

Balsamic Vinegar, Goat Cheese, Baby Arugula, Red Onion, Pesto and Butternut Squash Seed Oil

Balsamic Red Onions with Wilted Arugula...Yum!

Right before going into the oven...

Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza with Pesto, Bacon, Goat Cheese & Balsamic Red Onions

Yields:  3 medium pizzas

9 slices thick cut bacon
3 tbsp. Butternut Squash Seed Oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 oz. bag baby arugula
3 cups butternut squash, diced into 1-inch cubes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 recipe Basic Pizza Dough (recipe below)
3.5 oz jar pesto
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cook bacon until crispy.  Break into small pieces and set to the side.

While the bacon is frying, drizzle 2 tablespoons butternut squash seed oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until tender and golden, about 10-15 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until liquid cooks away and onion is very tender, about 5-10 minutes more; season onion with salt and pepper. Add baby arugula and continue to saute just until the arugula has wilted.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place the butternut squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned, and stirring halfway through.

Once the butternut squash is finished roasting, remove from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees F.

To assemble the pizza:
Take one of the pizza dough balls and roll or toss into the desired size.  Spread 1/3 of the pesto onto the dough, leaving a 1 inch border.  Next, take 1/3 of the balsamic onion and arugula mixture and spread over the pesto.  Next, do the same with 1/3 of the roasted butternut squash, then the goat cheese, and finally 1/3 of the bacon pieces.  Drizzle a small amount of butternut squash seed oil around the crust of the pizza, spreading it evenly over the crust with you finger.  Season the entire pizza with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Bake in the preheated 500 F oven for 12 - 14 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.


Basic Pizza Dough
Adapted From: Frank Stitt's Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef's Love Affair with Italian Food

1 1/4 cups warm water (105 F to 115 F)
1 tbsp honey (I used Wildflower Honey from Helen, GA)
1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup Butternut Squash Seed Oil
Cornmeal for dusting (optional)

Pour the warm water into a small bowl, stir in the honey, and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Set aside to proof until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Combine the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a large bowl and a sturdy hand mixer). Add the yeast mixture and butternut squash seed oil and mix on low speed until the dough forms a mass on the paddle and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 4 to 5 minutes. (Note: I sometimes have to add a little extra flour near the end of mixing, if the dough is still too wet. Add a little at a time, if 1 tbsp. increments, until the dough comes together)

Remove the dough and divide it into 3 equal portions. Put on a flour-dusted baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until almost doubled. (You can make the dough ahead and refrigerate it overnight if necessary; allow it to come to room temperature before continuing).
The dough is ready to be rolled and baked. You can hold the rolled dough at room temperature for a short while on a sheet of parchment paper that has been dusted with a little cornmeal.

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

The International Boston Seafood Show is Right Around the Corner

There are some pretty exciting  food-related conferences and festivals happening within the next few months.  The Charleston Food + Wine Festival was this weekend, and the Atlanta Food + Wine Festival is in May.  The International Biscuit Festival and corresponding Southern Food Writing Conference are also to be held in Knoxville, TN in May 2012.  And I'm already looking forward to Food Blog South 2013!

One conference I was excited to hear about recently is the International Boston Seafood Show, which is right around the corner...on March 11 - 13th.  It's the largest seafood event in North America and is a very important conference for those involved in the seafood industry.  Plus, rows upon rows of seafood vendors sampling their delicious wares sounds like my sort of event!  If only I lived closer to Boston.  The Passionate Foodie wrote an excellent post about the 2011 show, which you can see HERE.

Photo courtesy of PR Newswire

 Photo courtesy of Eating the Week

The following is brought to you by Emerse Ltd.: 

Showcasing more than 900 suppliers from 120 countries offering a wide variety of seafood products, services, and equipment, International Boston Seafood Show/Seafood Processing America is North America’s largest must attend seafood event.

Here you will find the newest products, solutions and industry connections that will keep your business growing. This, along with an extensive education program will leave you more knowledgeable, connected and prepared to meet your customer needs.

International Boston Seafood Show & Seafood Processing America has been connecting qualified buyers with leading suppliers for more than 30 years. Take advantage of this experience and expertise and join us this year in Boston – March 11th - 13th!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Coq Au Vin - Julia Child

With a little imagination, "Mademoiselle de Paris" softly playing on the radio, and a glass of red wine in hand, my kitchen can be transformed into a Parisian  pied-à-terre near the Champs-Élysées any day of the week...

Okay, maybe with A LOT of imagination!

No, seriously...I love to get into the kitchen, put a little Juliette Greco or Edith Piaf on the radio and cook a classically delicious French meal.  There's something amazing about all those layers of flavor that go into a meal cooked slowly with red wine like Coq Au Vin or Boeuf Bourguignon.  And, if you've never made one of these, you are missing out on two of the best dishes you'll ever eat.  I blogged about Julia's Boeuf Bourguignon HERE, and her recipe below for Coq Au Vin is equally as life-changing. 

When I'm in the mood for classic French cuisine, I undoubtedly always turn to Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I only made a few minor adjustments:  I did not use the cognac.  The idea of lighting it on fire with a match makes me incredibly nervous!  I'll get over that one day, but not just yet.  Also, I couldn't find fresh pearl onions, so I left those out.  However, I partially made up for that by using regular onions in the following marinade technique:

Some recipes for Coq Au Vin, like THIS ONE, call for marinating the chicken pieces in the red wine overnight, along with carrots, onions and celery.  I really loved that idea, so I added this extra step to Julia's version, using the quantities in the recipe from Epicurious included above.  I simply removed the chicken from the marinade (reserving the marinade!) and dried it well with paper towels before browning it in the bacon fat.  I also left the vegetables in the marinade while it simmered with the chicken, but strained the veggies out after the chicken was removed (see notes below).  

This dish was amazing, and Brad gave it 2 BIG thumbs up as well.

Bon Appetit, my friends!

  • See my notes above about marinating the chicken overnight!  If you do this, extra ingredients will be needed.
  • 3 to 4-ounce chunk lean bacon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds frying chicken, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 3 cups young, full-bodied red wine, such as Burgundy, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone, or Chianti
  • 1 to 2 cups brown chicken stock, brown stock or canned beef bouillon
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 12 to 24 Brown-Braised Onions, recipe follows
  • 1/2 pound Sauteed Mushrooms, recipe follows
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • Fresh parsley leaves
Remove the rind and cut the bacon into lardons (rectangles 1/4-inch across and 1-inch long). Simmer for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water. Rinse in cold water. Dry.

In a heavy large heavy bottomed casserole or Dutch oven, saute the bacon slowly in hot butter until it is very lightly browned (temperature of 260 degrees F for an electric skillet). Remove to a side dish.

Dry the chicken thoroughly. Brown it in the hot fat in the casserole. (360 degrees F for the electric skillet.)

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Return the bacon to the casserole with the chicken. Cover and cook slowly (300 degrees F) for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once.

Uncover, and pour in the cognac. Averting your face, ignite the cognac with a lighted match. Shake the casserole back and forth for several seconds until the flames subside.

Pour the wine (or reserved marinade in my case) into the casserole. Add just enough stock or bouillon to cover the chicken. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and herbs. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer slowly for 20 to 25 minutes (I simmered mine for closer to 45 minutes), or until the chicken is tender and its juices run a clear yellow when the meat is pricked with a fork. Remove the chicken to a side dish.

(Note:  This is where I strained the extra veggies out of the cooking liquid.  See my notes in the headnote above.)

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

Simmer the chicken cooking liquid in the casserole for 1 to 2 minutes, skimming off fat. Then raise the heat and boil rapidly, reducing the liquid to about 2 1/4 cups. Correct seasoning. Remove from heat, and discard bay leaf.

Blend the butter and flour together into a smooth paste (beurre manie). Beat the paste into the hot liquid with a wire whip. Bring to the simmer, stirring and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

Arrange the chicken in a casserole, place the mushrooms and onions around it and baste with the sauce. If the dish is not to be served immediately, film the top of the sauce with stock or dot with small pieces of butter. Set aside uncovered for no longer than 1 hour or cool, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Shortly before serving, bring the casserole to a simmer, basting the chicken with the sauce. Cover and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is heated through.

Serve from the casserole, or arrange on a hot platter. Decorate with sprigs of parsley. 

Brown-Braised Onions:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons oil
  • 18 to 24 peeled white onions, about 1-inch in diameter
  • 1/2 cup brown stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine, or water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Medium herb bouquet: 4 parsley sprigs, 1/2 bay leaf and 1/4 teaspoon thyme tied in cheesecloth
When the butter and oil are bubbling in the skillet, add the onions and saute over moderate heat for 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

Braise them as follows: Pour in the stock, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 15 to 20 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet. Serve them as they are.

Bake them as follows: Transfer the onions and their sauteing fat to a shallow baking dish or casserole just large enough to hold them in 1 layer. Set uncovered in upper third of a preheated 350 degree F oven for 40 to 50 minutes, turning them over once or twice. They should be very tender, retain their shape and be a nice golden brown. Remove herb bouquet. Serve them as they are.

Sauteed Mushrooms:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, washed, well dried, left whole if small, sliced or quartered if large
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons minced shallots or green onions, optional
  • Salt and pepper
Place the skillet over high heat with the butter and oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add the mushrooms. Toss and shake the pan for 4 to 5 minutes. During their saute the mushrooms will at first absorb the fat. In 2 to 3 minutes the fat will reappear on their surface, and the mushrooms will begin to brown. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.

Toss the shallots or green onions, if using, with the mushrooms. Saute over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Sauteed mushrooms may be cooked in advance, set aside, then reheated when needed. Season to taste just before serving. 

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