Friday, February 25, 2011

Parmesan Chicken Sticks

*15 years ago my younger sister and I were at the World's Fair in St. Louis and tried fried alligator on a stick.  This recipe tastes like that!  (Okay, actually I believe that saying goes with any strange meat, "It tastes like chicken!").  It was good.  This was a hit at our table.
From Barefoot Contessa Family Style
Makes 14-16 sticks

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts (3 to 4)
3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
2 extra-large eggs
1 c seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
unsalted butter
olive oil
bamboo skewers, ice-cream sticks, or chop sticks, optional

1.  Pound chicken breasts to uniform thickness, about 1/2 inch, without breaking up each breast.  Lay the chicken breasts on a cutting board and slice each diagonally into four or five large strips.
2.  Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate.  Beat the eggs with 1 T of water on a second plate. Combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese on a third plate.  Dredge the chicken breasts on both sides in the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and roll in the bread-crump mixture, pressing lightly to coat.
3.  Heat 1 T of butter and 1 T of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook the chicken strips on medium-low heat for about 3 minutes on each side, until just cooked through.  Don't crowd the pan.  Add more butter and oil and coo, the rest of the chicken breasts.  Serve each strip on a skewer or stick.
4.  Keep the chicken breast warm for abou on a sheet pan in a 200-degree oven.

Honey White Bread

*I don't often make my own bread, but yummm.  This just might convert me.  Perfect with butter or jam or sandwiches.  The bread baked up smooth and moist.

1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast 
1 t sugar
1 1/2 c warm whole milk
6 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 T honey
2 extra-large egg yolks (I used just 1 whole egg)
5 to 6 c flour
1 T kosher salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten

1.  Place the water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment.  Add the yeast and sugar; stir and allow them to dissolve for 5 minutes.
2.  Add the milk, butter, and honey.  Mix on medium speed until blended.  Add the egg yolks, 3 cups of the flour, and the salt.  Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes.  With the mixer still on low speed, add 2 more cups of lour.  Raise the speed to medium and slowly add just enough of the remaining flour so the dough doesn't stick to the bowl.  Add the flour slowly; you can always add more, but you can't take it out.  Knead on medium speed for about 8 minutes, adding flour as necessary.
3.  Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for a minute, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Grease a bowl with butter, put the dough in the bowl, then turn it over so the top is lightly buttered.  Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow it to rise for 1q hour, until doubled in volume.
4.  Grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans with butter.  Divide the dough in half, roll each half into a loaf shape and place each in a prepared pan.  Cover again with the damp towel, and allow to rise again for an hour, until doubled in volume.
5.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  When the dough is ready, brush the tops with the egg white and bake the breads for 40 to 45 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped.  Turn them our of the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Best Hamburgers Ever

*By no means do I assume to be the best at anything...but this was seriously the best hamburger I have ever, ever tasted.  Sorry IN 'N' OUT, you don't come close.  This recipe was inspired by Ina Garten's Blue Cheese Burger from Barefoot Contessa at Home, but lacking her ingredients, I adapted it my own way.  It's different enough that I won't list her recipe, but it just wouldn't be right to not give her a big thank you for her inspiration.  Thank you!  Tonight I was in heaven, this picture doesn't justify it.  

Funny story, over a decade ago some friends and I thought we'd barbecue a few burgers on an old charcoal grill.  None of us really knew what we were doing--I thought we were supposed to put eggs in with the hamburger but was informed, "We're not making meatloaf, silly."  So, I've never again cooked a burger with eggs in, but Ina's recipe called for egg yokes.  Go figure, maybe I was on to something way back then.  I'm not sure if it was the eggs, butter, or just a perfect day, but the result of tonight's meal was magic.  The burger was perfectly seared on the outside, cooked gently through to the middle, and the result was a tender meat both flavorful and oh so enjoyable.  My husband couldn't get enough either.

I know, you'll read the ingredients and wonder if you should really be doing this....the nurse in me says, "What are you doing?!%#?"  But the food lover Montana gal in me says, "Bliss."  My 6 year old said, "This is a great way to celebrate Presidents' Day" (as if it was one of those holidays that couldn't be  passed up without an extra special something).  Now it's your turn...think of something "special" to celebrate.

Finally, I think what really put this burger over the top was the bun.  I'll sum it up in one word...homemade.

2 pounds ground beef, Angus beef if you can
2 T steak sauce
4 extra-large egg yolks
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
2-3 T cold unsalted butter

Yields 8-9 hamburger patties

1.  In a large bowl, use the tines of a fork to mix the beef, steak sauce, egg yolks, salt, and pepper.  Be careful not to mash.  Lightly form into shape.  Press a thin slice of butter into the top of each hamburger, making sure the meat entirely encases the butter.

2.  Prepare grill.  I have a gas infrared grill so I turn it on high for about 10 minutes.  Lightly oil the grill.  Place meat onto grill, then turn grill down to low.  Cook for 4 minutes on one side.  Turn and cook for 3 minutes on the other side, adding cheese if you like.  Remove to a plate and cover with aluminum foil.  Allow the hamburgers to rest for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, toast the buns on the grill, cut side down, for 1 minute.  Serve hot.

*My husband and children like the classic cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce, and condiments.  Rather than cheddar, I like a plain burger with blue cheese, the burger pictured is topped with just a spoon of blue cheese dressing.

Belles Hamburger Buns

*The Bun makes the Burger.  At least that is how I feel with these.  It seems hamburger season usually strikes us in the summer when I don't want to think about baking in my oven, but today they just sounded so good and with the snow falling on and off outside, an occupied oven completed our day.  Now, these are a bit of work--or time rather--but if you have the extra couple of hours, you'll be glad you made your own buns.  

Prep: 2 hours
12 servings

1 cup milk
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 (.25 ounce) envelope active dry yeast ( or 2 1/2 t)
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water


1.  Combine the milk, 1 cup of water, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil then remove from the heat and let stand until lukewarm. If the mixture is too hot, it will kill the yeast.

2.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour and yeast.  Pour in wet ingredients and stir until the dough starts to pull together.  If you have a stand mixer, use the dough hook to mix for about 8 minutes.  If not, knead the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes.  Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat.  Cover and let stand until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Since we usually keep our house about 65 or 66 degrees in the winter, I let mind stand at least 2 hours, just check on it every once in a while, it really is forgiving.)

3.  Punch down the dough and divide into 12 portions.  They should be a little larger than a golf ball.  Make tight balls out of the dough by pulling the dough tightly around and pinching it at the bottom.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  After the rolls sit for a minute and relax, flatten each ball with the palm of your hand until it is 3 to 4 inches wide. You may want to oil your hand first.  Set rolls aside until they double in size, about 20 minutes. (Again, I waited longer than this.  My buns turned out to be a little smaller than what you might think of as a regular size, but I just shaped the meat to fit.)

4.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).  Mix together the egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water in a cup or small bowl.  Brush onto the tops of the rolls.  If using more than one pan, position 2 oven racks so they are not too close to the top or bottom of the oven.

5.  Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove the rolls from the oven and return them to different shelves so each one spends a little time on the top. Continue to bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until nicely browned on the top and bottom.

*I only need 9 hamburger buns, so I made the extra dough into hotdog buns.  Beautiful.