Saturday, March 27, 2010

Angel's Eyes Cookies

Yes, you read that right. I am making cookies called Angel's Eyes.

My mom was born and raised in Bremerhaven, Germany. She moved here to America with my older brother about two years before I was born. Sadly I never learned how to speak German but I was fortunate enough to be raised in a home where there was almost always some kind of baked good in the oven. Ironically enough I have never been a big fan of sweets so I didn't fully appreciate the effort that goes into making the types of delicacies she made.

In the past few years I have made an effort to get more into baking, though I am still far away from mastering the tortes and pies that my mom makes! In January I had a milestone birthday (30 but who's counting!?). For that birthday my mom gave me what has to be one of the best presents I have ever received. Behold:

Well, the best present I have ever received not including my beloved Kitchenaid mixer but I digress. She gave me a German cookbook translated into English! I was giddy with glee, giddy I tell ya!

After leafing through the book several times I could not decide what to make first. As you can see I had about two dozen little post it tags flagging the pages with things I needed to try ASAP. Finally deciding to leave it to the person likely to enjoy the treats first, I handed the book over to my fiance and let him pick whatever he wanted me to make. He picked these:
Angel's Eyes. Leave it to us German's to name a delicious morsel after the optical organ of a celestial being.

Angel's Eyes
For the shortcrust pastry:
2.5 cups all purpose flour
1 level t baking powder
1/2 c sugar
3 drops vanilla essence in 1 T sugar
1 pinch salt
yolks of 3 medium eggs
3/4 c soft butter or margarine

In addition:
whites of 2 medium eggs
2.5 oz blanched chopped almonds
4 T redcurrant or other jelly
2 t water
1. To make dough, mix together the flour and baking powder, sift into a mixing bowl, add the other ingredients and stir with a hand mixer with kneading hook, first briefly at the lowest setting, then at the highest setting until the dough is formed. Then form into a ball using your hands. Wrap the dough in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 325 and line the baking sheet with baking parchment (I used wax paper).
3. Mould the dough into 7 cylinders (16 in long), cut into pieces 2 cm/ 3/4 in long them form them into small balls. (This.... is not happening. Something must have been lost in translation because there is NO possible way this recipe makes the 140 cookies it says it will as you will see below).
4. Whisk the egg whites with a fork. Dip one side of each ball of dough in the beaten egg white, then press into the chopped almonds. Then place the balls of dough with the non-almond side down on the baking sheet and make a hollow in each ball of dough using the handle of a wooden spoon. Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake four approximately 15 minutes.
5. When the biscuits are done, remove from the baking sheet with the baking parchment and put on a rack (with the parchment which I obviously missed when reading this and did not do. ::sigh::).
6. Bring the jelly with the water to a boil and fill the hollowed centre of the biscuits using a teaspoon. (I had to make double the amount of the jelly mix even though this recipe only made half of the 140 it was supposed to make.
Here we have the cast. Very simple, not too much involved.

A while back I posted about that fancy new hand sifter I got. Well, yeah. Maybe it wasn't a good idea to buy one for a few bucks at a discount store. That thing doesn't work well at all. So I am back to my tried and true process of sifting it through this metal strainer. It never lets me down.
Toss them in the mixing bowl.
With this cookbook my mom also gave me a whole slew of baking goodies that she knew may be hard for me to find in regular grocery stores. Like this vanilla sugar. You can make your own vanilla sugar by stashing a sliced open vanilla bean in a jar of sugar, or you can make the mix this recipe recommends. 3 drops of vanilla stirred into 1 T sugar. I of course get to cheat because my mom is awesome.
Separate the yolks and the whites. Here I display a classic that never ever let's me down either. That good old Tupperware egg separator. It has a little notch in the side to hang on the side of a bowl and everything.
I add the yolks,
The butter (which is melted because once again I forgot to take it out to let it soften. One day I will get it right).
and remaining ingredients.
When it was transformed into dough I tossed it out onto a floured counter.
Where I formed it into a ball and wrapped it with plastic. Which then went into the fridge for 30 minutes or so.
Which is the perfect time to go ahead and get your oven preheated. And maybe catch up on some Real Housewives episodes you may or may not have DVR'd. I mean, not that I would watch such a show or anything. No! Not me. Not a chance. Hey everyone! Look over there! It's a pink elephant!!
Now after 30 minutes of not watching an addictive reality trash TV show has passed, take the dough out of the fridge.
Shape it into logs and mark where you will cut it to form into balls.
Now, this is where I save you a bunch of frustration and confusion. These little nibs were the size of the tip of my thumb, and as you can see I was nowhere close to getting 140 little balls from it. So I ended up with about half of that amount. These cookies do not rise at all either, so the size they are when you put them in the oven is just the size they will be when they come out.
Dip one side of the ball in the egg white you have beaten with a fork, then dip into the almonds, and place almond side up on your cookie sheet. Like so.
After pressing a little hollow into each ball put them in the oven.
They will come out looking like this. Just slightly browned.
When I put the next batch in, I started on the jelly mix. Where I cheat again. You see, my mom grows currants in her yard. So I just so happened to have some of this fantastic homemade currant and gooseberry jam in the fridge. But of course, not everyone can have their very own Betty Crocker on the German Prairie for a mom, so it is perfectly fine to use store bought jelly of any kind really. I am confident that any kind would taste just as fabulous.
I put the jam and water in a pan, and brought to a simmer to thicken it a bit.
Once it has set, I put a dollop in the center of each cookie. Now these don't look nearly as beautiful as they do in the book but holy cow these have a TON of flavor. It's amazing really how much flavor can be in what turned out to be bite sized cookies.
After telling the fiance that next time I would just triple the batch and make bigger cookies, he asked me to not do that, saying these cookies were perfect just this size. That way you aren't biting a cookie that would crumble and break in your hands. Even if he was just trying to make me feel better, I have to agree. So tiny they will stay.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bertolli Fontina and Bacon Stuffed Chicken Breast

I am in the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, and I will sometimes get emails about products they want people to try. I don't like to be greedy so I told myself I would only opt in to get a product if I really wanted to try it. Well this Bertolli sauce was definitely one I wanted to try. I absolutely love Bertolli products and have never had a bad experience with them. So when I got a box in the mail with this sauce I absolutely took a second to do a happy dance in the kitchen.

Included in the package were some recipe ideas. I wasn't quite sure what to make, when the fiance pointed to this one. Boy am I glad he did. It sounded complex but it really wasn't. On with the show.

4 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes


4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1-1/4 lbs)
1/2 cup shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese (about 2 oz)
2 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
2T finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1T olive oil
1/2 cup Italian dry bread crumbs
4 cups baby spinach leaves
2T water
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 jar Bertolli Four Cheese Rosa Sauce
8 oz fettuccine, cooked and drained

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Make deep 1 inch long cut with knife parallel to cutting board, inside each chicken breast half to form pocket.
3. Combine cheese, bacon, and basil in small bowl.
4. Evenly stuff pockets with cheese mixture, then press edges together to seal.
5. Brush chicken with olive oil, then dip in bread crumbs, turning to coat.
6. Arrange chicken on baking sheet (which I covered with aluminum and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray).
7. Bake 20 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.
8. Meanwhile, cook spinach, water, and garlic in a skillet over medium high heat until spinach is wilted.
9. Stir in sauce and heat through.
10. To serve, arrange hot fettuccine on serving platter (or directly on plate as I did), then top with sauce mixture and chicken.

Now, as you see above, this recipe does not call for any extra seasoning, such as salt. This had me a bit concerned as I think everyone has had their share of bland chicken. I was not confident that the Italian seasoned bread crumbs would be sufficient in flavor to make up for the naturally devoid of flavor chicken breast.

Also, bacon. Yeah. I am some kind of a scientific anomaly, a rare human, one of only .0003% of people on earth who do not like bacon. I could happily live out the rest of my life without ever eating another piece. Also, I rarely eat meat anymore except for when I have company over. I gave in for this recipe with the chicken alone, the bacon was like a whole different level of sin! So I was really really tempted to leave the bacon out, but in the end I am SO Glad I kept it in. For one, surely the fiance would never speak to me again had he found out that this recipe called for bacon and I didn't use any. Secondly, I was still quite concerned with the lack of additional seasoning as I mention above.

As usual, we start with the bit players in this culinary production.
After turning on the oven to pre-heat, I started with the bacon.
Holy dirty stove Batman! Yikes. Sorry about that.
Then I went on to slice the pockets into the chicken breast. This really was not as hard as I thought it was going to be.
Once the bacon was done it was time to put together the filling.
Hahaha half cup of cheese I mock you! Surely a HALF cup of cheese is never enough cheese! So as you see here I went a little over the recommended amount. It's in my DNA. I cannot help it.
That mix was then tossed together into a bowl,
and stuffed into the waiting chicken breasts. Even using almost twice the amount of cheese, I was able to stuff all of the filling into these breasts.
They were brushed with olive oil, doused with bread crumbs, and placed on the baking sheet.
Into the oven they went, while I went to work on the rest of the meal. I got the past in the boiling water and prepped the skillet for the sauce.
Speaking of the sauce, here it is in all it's glory. I am not usually a fan of any jarred pasta sauce outside of the regular tomato based ones. But as always, Bertolli did not let me down. I am telling you folks, if you see this on the shelf, BUY IT. You will not be disappointed.
Put the spinach, water, and garlic in the skillet and cook until just wilted.
Then you add the sauce. Cook until just heated through. If you like you can turn the heat off, or keep it on the lowest setting. At this point everything else is coming together so the sauce shouldn't have time to get cold either way.
Take the chicken breasts out of the oven.
And don't be shy to take an extra moment to admire their beauty. Ahhh the smell of these...
Don't leave your windows open while cooking this unless you want the neighbors to come barging into your house demanding a plate.
I mean, look at these!
Arrange the pasta on a plate, and spoon some sauce over it.
Place one of the breasts over the pasta, and serve. Now this is a huge serving here, but I wanted to use this much to get a nice picture. I need not to have worried, as the fiance devoured this entire plate almost without interruption before sitting back with an expression of bliss on his face.
As I mentioned, I was very impressed with this sauce and would definitely buy it. It was not overly salty as some sauces tend to be. Also, the cheese and bacon add the perfect amount of salt to the breasts. Combined with the fresh flavor of the basil it adds a wonderful taste to the chicken while keeping it moist.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Roasted shrimp and asparagus pasta in lemon sauce

Today's recipe is one that I have been messing with for a few months now. I finally think I have it perfected.

1 lb angel hair pasta (or any pasta of your choosing, I just think angel hair works best)
Olive oil
2T butter
1 lb of asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
1lb large shrimp, peeled & de-veined
Salt and pepper
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
1 large shallot, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 small anchovy fillets
Shredded parmesan (approx 1 handful)

1. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees
2. Lay shrimp in a pile on a baking sheet. Drizzle with approx 3T olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
3. Place a large pot of salted water on the stove, add 2T olive oil, and bring to a boil.
4. Bring a smaller pot of water to a simmer (this will be for your asparagus)
5. In yet another pan/skillet slowly melt the butter with 2T of olive oil.
6. Put the asparagus & pasta into their pots. Cook until done to your liking, which will probably take about the same amount of time as the shrimp will be in the oven.
7. Place the shrimp in the oven, and roast for 6-8 minutes until the shrimp is pink and cooked through.
8. Turn the heat a little bit higher under the butter and olive oil mixture. Medium is perfect.
9. Into the butter add the anchovy fillets & stir until they are dissolved.
10. Add the lemon juice, zest, shallots, and garlic to the butter and anchovy sauce. Cook until the shallots are soft. DO NOT burn this. Cook it over medium or lower heat just until the shallots are soft. Then you can either turn the burner off, or put it on the lowest heat possible. If the lemon zest burns your sauce is ruined.
11. When the timer goes off take the shrimp out of the oven, and check to see if your pasta and asparagus are done. Drain the pasta, and drain the asparagus.
12. Place the pasta in the butter sauce and toss to coat.
13. Add the shrimp, asparagus, and a handful of the shredded parm. Stir together.
14. Plate and serve!

Enjoy this meal. It is very easy, and VERY flavorful. Don't be scared of it because it has anchovy fillets in it. When they are melted into olive oil they take on a rich, nutty flavor. It won't even taste like fish.

Here is the cast of characters:

First the lovely shrimp. You are just going to pile them right on a baking sheet like so.
Then you put 3T of olive oil on it, sprinkle with about 1T each of salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
And trust me, if you must sample the wine to be served with dinner at this point, well I sure won't be telling anyone. Consider it a quality control of sorts. Wouldn't want to serve anyone bad wine would you?
Now shake the pan up so the shrimp are scattered across it evenly.
Place a pot of salted water on the stove top and bring to a boil. Place a smaller pot of water on another burner, and bring to a simmer.
Take a large skillet and put it on ANOTHER burner, at which point I was wishing I had a six burner stove. Melt the 2T butter and 2T olive oil over very low heat. Put the pasta in the boiling water, and the asparagus in the simmering water.
Place the shrimp in the oven and set your timer for 6-8 minutes. I set mine for 7 to check their progress at that point.
Now turn the heat up to medium under the butter and olive oil. Pick three or four fillets out of your anchovies.
Put the fillets in the pan, and stir them until they dissolve. Which is really hard to get a picture of it turns out! Where's my professional photographer when I need him/her?!
Then add the garlic, shallots, lemon zest, and juice. Turn the heat down and cook just until the shallots are soft. Like I said above, be very very careful not to have the heat on too high. Burned lemon zest is the nastiest flavor on earth and you will ruin your sauce if you let it get that far. There is no saving it once it's burned.
Now things will be happening quickly. The shrimp, pasta, and asparagus will likely be done at the same time. Take the shrimp out of the oven.
Drain the pasta, and the asparagus.
Now put the pasta (as much as you can fit) into the sauce and toss to coat.
Now add the shrimp, asparagus, and a big handful of the shredded parm.
Stir this together.
Plate it all pretty like, and serve! I usually give another sprinkle of parmesan at this point.