Tempura

Transforming a beautiful plate of vegetables into a beautiful-in-a-different-way plate of deep fried vegetables has become one of our favorite Christmas Eve traditions. I’m not gonna lie: tempura is not super easy to make because it’s pretty labor intensive.  which is why it is a once-a-year kind of meal. But, it’s so delicious. The recipe comes originally from Alton Brown, and we have modified it over the past couple of years to reflect our family’s tastes. Although we do have chicken, the vegetables are by far everyone’s favorites.tempura

Ingredients

  • the vegetables and protein you’re going to fry–we use 2 small sweet potatoes, sliced; 1 zucchini or yellow squash, sliced; 1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets; green beans (1/2 pound maybe?); 1/2 avocado, sliced; 1 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (heaping) white rice flour
  • 1 1/2 quarts vegetable oil (for each pan that you use to fry; I used two this time, and it worked well)
  • 1 1/2 cups cold seltzer water (or club soda or sparkling water; do not sub tonic water)
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • (ice to line a bowl that you’ll set the batter in)
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Prepare your vegetables and chicken–slice, trim, chop, peel; do what you need to do.
  2. Whisk together the flour and rice flour in a medium glass bowl. Divide in half and then set the flour mixture aside.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven over high heat until it reaches 375 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer (or until bubbles form around the handle of a wooden spoon; every year I have to Google how to tell if oil is hot enough).
  4. When the oil is getting close to ready, whisk the seltzer water, vodka, and egg together and divide the mixture in half. Put half the wet mixture in the refrigerator to reserve.
  5. Pour half the wet mixture into half of the flour mixture and which to combine. (I have generally found we need to add a little more flour to at least half of the batter, sometimes to both halves). It will make a thin (but not watery) batter.
  6. Set the bowl of batter into a larger bowl lined with ice.
  7. Dip the vegetables in the batter and let drain for a few seconds over the bowl, then drop them carefully into the hot oil. Fry 6-8 pieces at a time until puffy and very light golden, about 1-2 minutes (the chicken takes a little longer).
  8. Remove to a cooling rack lined with 3 layers of paper towels, and sprinkle with salt as desired.
  9. When you run low on batter, whisk up the other half of the liquid and the flours.
  10. Tempura may be held in a 200 degree oven to keep warm. Alton Brown said the texture would be compromised, but I thought it was just fine. :)
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Saffron Buns for St. Lucia’s Day

nmb

I made these saffron buns (original recipe here) for our impromptu St. Lucia’s Day celebration this year. They were fairly easy to make (setting the alarm to get out of bed and let the dough rise was the worst part), and they were very tasty. I was pleased to read that although they are traditionally served on St. Lucia’s Day (December 13), they are also served throughout the Advent season. Perhaps in years to come, we can make the celebration more authentic by having Clara serve us the buns in bed.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (or 1 package)
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (or quark if available)
  • 2 large eggs
  • raisins

Glaze

  • 1 egg, beaten
Directions:
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, saffron threads, and 1 teaspoon sugar until the milk begins to steam. Remove from heat and let cool until it’s still warm to the touch but no longer hot (about 3 minutes).
  2. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk in the saucepan and let sit until foamy, 5-10 minutes.
  3. Whisk together 3 1/2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and salt.
  4. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the milk mixture, eggs, butter, and sour cream or quark. Mix until well incorporated.
  5. Knead the dough. You can do this by hand, but the dough hook of a stand mixer works well. Slowly add additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, kneading to incorporate after each addition. Do this until the dough is still a little sticky to the touch, but does not completely stick to your hands when you handle it.
  6. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. (Note: if you are going to let the dough sit in the refrigerator overnight, this is when it goes in.)
  7. (Take the dough out of the refrigerator and) Let the dough sit in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
  8. When the dough has doubled in size, gently press it down and knead it a couple of times. Break off a piece and form it into a ball about 2 inches wide (about the size of a golf ball). Roll the ball out into a snake, about 14 inches long. Then Curl the ends in opposite directions, forming an “S” with spirals at each end. Place on a lined baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.
  9. Let the dough sit for a second rise. Place in a warm spot for 30 minutes to an hour.
  10. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the beaten egg over the tops and sides of the uncooked buns, and place the raisins in the center of the spirals.
  11. Bake for 10 to 11 minutes until the buns are golden brown.

Apple Cider Braised Chicken and Fall Veggies

dinner

I found and saved this recipe on Facebook a few weeks ago. Finding again and then cooking from a recipe on FB? I don’t even know. So I’m putting it here on NMB, and I can have it for always.

This smelled amazing and hit all the right notes. You know a recipe is a keeper when the kids ask for more vegetables and then even after two helpings go pick at the pan for their favorites (garlic! celery!).

This didn’t cook in the time the original recipe said it would (maybe I had too many vegetables?), so I’m going to post it here just like I made it. It’s a little fussy with moving from one pot to two, but not overly so, I don’t think.

Ingredients:

  • 9-10 chicken drumsticks
  • 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch squares
  • 3 medium potatoes, chopped into 1-inch squares (next time I’ll probably double the potatoes–they were a favorite)
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 cup apple cider or spiced apple cider (I used plain apple juice because that’s what I had)
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, peeled (I’ll use more next time, another favorite)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Start by chopping and peeling all the veggies and setting them aside. This doesn’t actually have to be done first, but I bet you’ll be happier getting it out of the way.
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. Next, heat coconut oil in a large dutch oven or oven safe pot with lid. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
  4. Add garlic and chicken to the oil and let chicken cook on each side for about 3 minutes at medium/high heat. Remove and add 1/4 cup cider to the pan to deglaze. Using something soft like a spatula, stir to remove any stuck bits from the pan. After a minute or so, add chicken back in, then cover with veggies and sage, a sprinkle of salt, 1 cup of cider, and cover. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
  5. Now at this point, my chicken wasn’t nearly done, so I moved the drumsticks to a 9×13 glass pan and put the chicken and the veggies (now separated) back into the oven for about 15 minutes. If your chicken is done with the initial bake, great. Proceed to step 6.
  6. Scoop out all the chicken and veggies. There should be some of the cider and fat left in the pot. If its thick, you can use is straight up as gravy. If it’s still too thin, add some of the vegetables back in to the liquid and use an immersion blender to thicken into a gravy to serve atop chicken and veggies.
  7. Plate chicken with veggies, add a drizzle of cider gravy, and enjoy.

Spicy Pasta with Sausage

spicypasta.jpg

Food photography is not my field. Despite the semi-boring photo above, this pasta had amazing flavor. Follow info below for a less-spicy version, as I will next time I make the dish for my pale-skinned Midwestern family.

1lb chorizo sausage**, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
1 onion, chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 C chicken broth
1-10oz can Ro-Tel tomatoes**
1/2 C heavy cream
12 oz penne pasta
salt and pepper
2 C shredded pepper jack cheese

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat broiler. On stovetop cook sausage and onion in a large oven-safe skillet (I used my Le Creuset dutch oven) until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Stir in broth, tomatoes, cream, pasta, 1/2 t salt and 1/2 t pepper and bring to boil. Cover pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring frequently, until pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.

3. Off heat, uncover pan and stir in 1/2 C cheese. Top with remaining cheese and broil until cheese is melted and spotty brown, about 3 minutes. Serve.

**If you want a less-spicy dish or can’t find Ro-Tel tomatoes, substitute 1 1/4 cups canned diced tomatoes. Andouille, linguine or kielbasa sausage can be substituted for the chorizo.

Crispy Chicken with White Wine Pan Sauce

Taken from Good Housekeeping magazine and served to friends tonight, this dish is a winner. That pan sauce…yum!

2 t olive oil
2.5lb chicken thighs
3/4 t salt, divided
2 medium shallots, chopped
2/3 C white wine
1/4 t dried rosemary
3 T sour cream
1/2 C chicken broth
chives

In a 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil on medium high. Season chicken thighs with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, skin sides down, 6-8 minutes or until browned. Transfer to foil-lined baking sheet, skin sides up. Bake in 450 F oven 15 minutes or until cooked through.

To same skillet on medium, add shallots. Cook 2 minutes. Add white wine and rosemary, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Simmer 2 minutes, scraping up browned bits. Whisk in sour cream and chicken broth. Serve chicken with sauce, garnish with snipped chives.

Blue Cheese, Apple & Walnut Deviled Eggs

deviled_eggs

My friend Lisa P brought these to a small group dinner with church peeps and I couldn’t stop eating the eggs. I’m fixing some for our Easter dinner this evening, and I’m 99.5% sure hers taste better than mine. Nonetheless, these are crazy good and I want to save the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 6 hard-cooked eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chopped apple
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, toasted walnuts

Directions

  1. Peel hard-cooked eggs and halve lengthwise; carefully use the tip of a spoon to remove yolk from each egg half. Set whites aside. Place yolks in a small bowl; mash with a fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard, and vinegar; mix well. Add apple, blue cheese, and walnuts; stir well. If desired, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Stuff egg white halves with yolk mixture, using a rounded teaspoon of yolk mixture for each half and using the back of a second teaspoon to carefully push the yolk mixture off the first spoon into the cavity of the egg white. (Or place the yolk mixture in a large resealable plastic bag, snip off one corner of the bag, and squeeze bag to pipe some of the yolk mixture into the cavity of each egg white half.) Cover and chill until serving time (up to 24 hours).

Roast Chicken with Potatoes “By the Wall”

I found this recipe as a newlywed back in St. Louis and looked it up today to use as a mercy meal. This time around I approximated on all ingredients, pouring them into 1- and 2-gallon freezer bags to coat the potatoes and chicken. I purchased a tray of eight thighs, another of 12 (ish?) drumsticks, and used 5 lb of golden potatoes. It gave me 2-9×13 pans and 1-8×8 pan for a total of three meals. Score! And it was delicious to boot.

Ingredients

    • 6 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
    • 2 1/4 pounds white-skinned potatoes, peeled, each cut into 6 long wedges
    • 1 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
    • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I omitted this entirely)

Preparation

    1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush inside of large roasting pan with 2 tablespoons oil. Combine remaining 4 tablespoons oil, garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano in bowl. Add potatoes and toss to coat. Sprinkle potatoes with salt and pepper. Sprinkle chicken with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, salt, and pepper. Arrange chicken in single layer in center of prepared pan. Arrange potatoes around chicken. Drizzle chicken with lemon juice and any remaining oil mixture from bowl of potatoes.
    2. Roast chicken and potatoes until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender, about 1 hour 10 minutes.