Thursday, October 22, 2009

in the kitchen with sillymortalmama.

after my Gourmet post a friend asked what my "favorite recipe so far" was. and you know, i really can't answer that. there are just too many to choose from. literally too many.

and if we're just keeping it to the magazine, every month in Gourmet there are also too many good recipes to choose from. and they have a pretty crack staff so they are generally foolproof. i've kept all my issues (whatever, reserve your judgment. we all have our 'issues.' no pun intended. keeping magazines is mine) and OFTEN refer back to them. i suppose my absolute all time favorite from Gourmet is actually one sent in from a reader. a red lentil soup that is so simple to make and so delicious. i make it all the time. i wish i could say it was something more exciting, but sometimes there really is nothing better in the world than something warm and good in a bowl.

since i can't really come up with ONE favorite, i thought i would share two recipes that i make ALL the time. for company or just for us. they are foolproof and they are delicious.

and as an added bonus, and so there isn't any room available for fussing, one just happens to be vegan.

and as an added *added* bonus i am also going to throw in two chocolate cake recipes that i make ALL the time. for company or just for us. (mostly for company, though) they are also foolproof and they are also delicious.

and one of them just happens to be vegan! i know. you're welcome.

and if you don't like chocolate then you're just out of luck. i can only please so many people. and frankly, pleasing a vegan is no small task.

so today's recipes are for the omnivores. tomorrow's recipes are for the omnivores, the vegans, the vegetarians, and the veggie adjacent.

one note about the recipes, they are both from cookbooks and more or less are copied here just as they are written there. BUT since i have made both of these so many times i have changed wording here and there for flow or clarification. anything in parenthesis is purely mine.

okay, so this first dish is absolutely flawless. it's perfect, actually. and i don't use that word lightly, or, really ever. except i will in this post. and more than once. and it really is that good. it is full of flavor, sumptuous, and just about as sexy as a chicken dish can be. PLUS, and this is huge, this can be made from start to finish the day before, stored in the fridge overnight, and gently reheated the next day. and it tastes even better doing it that way! so it's perfect for entertaining! i'm getting all excited just thinking about it!

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic (adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris)
serves 6

3 whole heads garlic, about 40 cloves
2 (3 1/2 pound) chickens cut into eighths*
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 TBS butter
2 TBS olive oil
3 TBS Cognac, divided**
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 TBS fresh thyme leaves
2 TBS all purpose flour
2 TBS heavy cream

separate cloves of garlic, leave peels on, and drop them into a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds. drain the garlic and peel. set aside.

dry the chicken with paper towels. season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. heat the butter and oil in a large pot or dutch oven on medium-high. in batches, cook the chicken in the butter/oil, skin side down first, until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. turn with tongs or spatula so you don't pierce the skin. if the butter/oil is burning, turn down to medium. when a batch is done, transfer it to a plate and continue to cook all the chicken in batches.

remove the last chicken piece to the plate and add all of the garlic to the pot. lower the heat and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned.

add 2 TBS of the Cognac and all of the wine, return to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan (that's flavor, don't miss this step!)

return the chicken to the pot with all the juices from the plate and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. cover and simmer over the lowest heat you can keep it simmering at for about 30 minutes until all the chicken is done. (the recipe doesn't call for this but at @ 15 minutes in, i always swap the chicken on the bottom layer with the chicken on the top for more even cooking)

remove the chicken to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

in a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the sauce (from the pot) and the flour and then whisk that back into the sauce in the pot.

raise the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of Cognac and the cream and boil for 3 minutes. add salt and pepper to taste; it should be very flavorful because chicken tends to be bland.

pour the sauce with the garlic over the chicken on the platter and serve hot.

to prepare ahead, refrigerate the chicken with the sauce and reheat over low heat before serving.

cook's notes:
*i use 8 thighs and 8 legs. tastes better and cooks more evenly.
**i've used brandy, vodka, and vermouth before when i haven't had cognac on hand.

this next recipe is a cake i make every single st. patrick's day. it not only uses guinness in the recipe, but when all is said and done, the cake is black and the frosting is white and only on the top and so it LOOKS like a pint of guinness, too! so while it is an understandable st. patrick's day staple, it is also good for a birthday or a dinner party or really any occasion. it is quite a perfect chocolate cake. i don't care for cake, but i always have some of this one because i love to marvel at the perfection. it is moist and dense and tastes good with or without the frosting. i vote for the frosting, though, because the texture of the cake balances so beautifully with the sweetness of the frosting. and if all of that wasn't enough, it's easy to make and easy to frost with no fussiness required. perfect.

Chocolate Guinness Cake (adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast)

1 cup Guinness
1 stick plus 2 TBS unsalted butter*
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups superfine sugar**
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 TBS pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda

8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese***
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

preheat the oven to 350 degrees

butter and line a 9 inch springform pan

pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter in spoons or slices, and heat until the butter's melted. whisk in the cocoa and sugar.

in a bowl, beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the pot with the beer mixture. then whisk in the flour and baking soda. (it's gonna look weird. like the eggs are cooking. i know, trust me though. it will work out)

pour the cake batter into the greased and lined pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. cool completely IN the pan ON a cooling rack. this is important because it's a very damp cake.

to make the frosting;

lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sift the confectioners sugar over the top, then beat them together. add the cream and beat again until spreading consistency.

place the completely cooled cake on a plate or stand and ice JUST the top of the black cake with the white frosting so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

cook's notes:
*i've baked with both salted and unsalted butter most of my life. including this cake. and while there are lots of schools of thoughts on the difference, i basically use what's on hand and don't give it a moment's thought.
**i keep superfine or baker's sugar on hand for baking. but you can blitz regular sugar in a blender to make it superfine, too.
***philly is the best brand for baking. but use any brand you like. just DO NOT go low fat or light. and if you do, just don't tell me about it.

bon appetit! (which they should have folded of instead of Gourmet, but whatever)


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