Month: November 2012

Knotted Dinner Rolls

I’ve always had a reputation as a good cook and a better baker. I credit that to a childhood spent in 4-H.

4-H has evolved considerably over the past two decades, but even in the 1990s, it was about a lot more than baking, sewing, and livestock. My first public speaking competition was not in high school, but as an 8-year old in a 4-H contest. It’s where I learned about first aid, budgeting, meal planning, and more.

But, when it came town for county and state fairs? Well, those were still forums that showcased more “traditional” skills. Fairs are designed to showcase tangible products for a period of several days: livestock, clothes, vegetables from the garden, model rockets, entomology displays… and yes, baked goods.

I didn’t have a garden, and I didn’t learn how to can foods until I was an adult, but I could sew and bake with the best of them. Somewhere in an attic are the boxes of trophies and ribbons to prove it.

I wish I could say this recipe has been with me since those early 4-H days, but I actually came across it a year ago. Still, it’s exactly the kind of recipe I would have made . The knotted shape makes them look more difficult than they are, and the egg wash gives them a beautiful, golden color. These have purple ribbon written all over them, and they stole the show on my Thanksgiving table.

Measure your flour with a scale if you can; it’s much more accurate than trying to use measuring cups.

Knotted Dinner Rolls

From Fine Cooking, October/November 2011

Makes 18 rolls

1 1/2 cups whole milk; more as needed

1 packet (1/4 oz. or 2-1/4 tsp.) instant or active dry yeast

1/4 cup vegetable oil; more as needed

2 Tbs. unsalted butter

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 lb. 7 oz. (5-1/4 cups) unbleached bread flour; more as needed

1 1/4 tsp. table salt or 2 tsp. kosher salt

1 large egg

For shaping:

Vegetable oil spray

1 large egg

1 Tbs. water

Poppy or sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

In a small saucepan, heat the milk until lukewarm (about 95°F). Remove from the heat and whisk in the yeast until it dissolves. Add oil and butter (the butter may not melt completely), and then whisk in sugar. Let rest until the yeast just begins to float to the surface, about 5 minutes.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl), combine the flour, salt, and egg. Add the yeast mixture and mix on low speed (or with a large spoon) until a coarse ball of dough forms, about 1 minute. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed (or knead by hand on a lightly oiled work surface) until the dough feels soft, supple, and pliable, about 3 minutes; it should feel tacky to the touch, but not sticky, and pull away from your finger when poked instead of sticking to it. If the dough is too sticky, add 1 Tbs. flour at a time, kneading to incorporate. If it’s stiff, knead in 1 Tbs. of milk at a time. Don’t overwork the dough.

Rub a little vegetable oil on a work surface to create an 8-inch circle and put the dough on this spot. Stretch and fold the dough over itself from all four sides to the center, crimping it where the folded ends meet, to form it into a tight, round ball.

Lightly oil a bowl twice the size of the dough. Put the dough seam side down in the bowl; tightly cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature until doubled in size, about 90 minutes.

Line two large baking sheets with parchment or nonstick baking liners and lightly mist them with cooking spray. Divide the dough into eighteen pieces (about 2-1/4 oz. each).

With your hands, roll one piece into a 12-inch-long rope. If the dough starts to stick, mist your work surface lightly with vegetable oil spray or wipe it with a damp towel. Don’t use flour.

Wrap the dough around your fingers into a loose knot; there should be about 2 inches of dough free at each end. Wrap the left end of the dough up and over the loop. Wrap the right end down and under the loop. Lightly squeeze the two ends of dough together in the center to secure them.

Gently squeeze the whole piece of dough into a nice rounded shape. Put the roll, pretty side up, on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Mist the top of the rolls with vegetable oil spray and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Let the rolls sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.

Thoroughly whisk the egg and water; brush all over each roll. If desired, sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.

While the oven heats, let the rolls continue to rise at room temperature, 20 to 40 minutes. They should be 1 1/2 to 2 times their original size before they go in the oven. (Once in the oven, they will rise about 20 percent more.)

Put the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 6 minutes. Rotate the sheets 180 degrees and swap their placement on the racks. Continue baking until the rolls turn rich golden-brown on top and develop some browning underneath, another 6 to 8 minutes. Let the rolls cool on the sheets or on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving.


Turkey and Mushroom Risotto

How was your Thanksgiving? Are you still swimming in leftovers?

Truth be told, I was nearly as excited about making this recipe from last month’s Bon Appetit than the Thanksgiving meal itself. I learned how to make a proper risotto as part of a Sur La Table cooking class a couple months ago, but hadn’t had a chance to play around with it in my own kitchen.

Think of risotto as a blank canvas of rice, stock and  little cheese, amplified by plus whatever suits your fancy, from vegetables and herbs to wine.

The trick to a good risotto is patience (and of course, arm endurance!). Resist the urge to stir in too much liquid too soon. My chef-instructor explained it to me like this: you’re Moses, parting the Red Sea. Pull your spoon across the bottom of the pan, parting the rice. If liquid rushes in to fill the space, keep stirring. When there’s no liquid left to flow back in, you’re ready for another ladle of stock.

The turkey stock is a great complement to the mushrooms. For a true vegetarian option, switch to mushroom or vegetable stock or broth and leave out the turkey.

Turkey and Mushroom Risotto

From Bon Appetit

Makes 4-6 servings

8 cups turkey stock
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cups assorted fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup shredded leftover turkey meat (optional)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Bring stock to a simmer in a medium pot over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium heat until it begins to foam. Add onion. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent and just beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes.

Add mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, and any liquid released has evaporated, 5-7 minutes.

Add rice; stir to coat. Add 1/2 cup warm stock and stir constantly until liquid is absorbed. Continue adding stock by 1/2-cupfuls, stirring constantly, until rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. Add leftover turkey meat, if using; stir to combine and to warm through, adding a little stock or water if necessary to keep mixture creamy, about 3 minutes.

Stir Parmesan and remaining 1 tablespoon butter into risotto. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide among warm bowls. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Chicken Soup with Root Vegetables

It’s been nearly a year since I took possibly the biggest step of my life to date: on November 30, 2011, I become a homeowner. It’s only 600 square feet, but I love every inch of it.

Closing night in my new home

This isn’t just my first time as a homeowner: it’s also my first time living solo. The latter has been a bigger adjustment, but a valuable one for self-discovery and personal growth. Living alone has made me a little more organized and tidy (baby steps!), more social, and a better friend. I am less likely to take my down time for granted, and more likely to say yes to an invitation or extend one myself.

The first homecooked meal I ate in my new home was Chicken with Root Vegetable Soup. I hadn’t actually moved in yet, and the only furnishings that had made the trip so far were a card table and chairs, a lamp, and the living room rug, when I suddenly found myself hosting a Christmakah gift exchange with friends.

No matter! I had made this soup for the first time a few weeks before and loved it, and on this windy, chilly day, this sounded perfect. I made the soup ahead of time at my apartment and picked up good bread and cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches. I packed up the food, a favorite bottle of wine and a corkscrew, the Dutch oven, a grill pan, and enough dinnerware for the group. First dinner party in the new home = a smashing success.

The combination of bay leaves, allspice, and root vegetables gives this soup a very fragrant aroma and flavorful broth.

Root vegetables offer a unique, nutritious twist on traditional chicken soup.

This recipe marks my first foray into celery root. Look for a future post about this mysterious vegetable, but suffice to say, it tastes like celery’s milder, buttery cousin, and it’s definitely worth trying.

Note that this soup doesn’t hold well; the sweet potatoes in particular will disintegrate if left too long, or reheated slowly. If you need to make it advance, I suggest making the stock, roasting the vegetables in the oven, and combining the two along with the chicken when ready to serve.

Root vegetables — plentiful and nutritious in winter — include celery root, carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes.

This winter soup is best eaten immediately.

Chicken Soup with Root Vegetables

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes 6 servings

1 roast chicken (approx 3 1/2 lbs)
1 large onion, halved
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 carrots, cut into chunks
3 celery stalks, cut into chunks
2 Bay leaves
4 large fresh thyme sprigs
4 large fresh Italian parsley sprigs
8 whole allspice
3 or more quarts water (approx.)

1 c chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus additional to taste
6 cups root vegetables, peeled and cut into 1/3 inch cubes as follows:
1 1/2 c carrots
2 c celery root
1 c parsnips
1 1/2 c sweet potatoes
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut meat off chicken and dice. Set aside. Place carcass and all stock ingredients in a stock pot or a Dutch oven with at least 5-quart capacity. The carcass and vegetables should be completely submerged in water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer 1 1/4 hours. Strain broth; return to pot and boil until reduced to 7 cups. Make ahead: Stock can be made up to two days in advance, and stored covered in the refrigerator. Store meat separately in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Alternatively, the chicken can be roasted and prepped one day in advance; store the carcass in a large zip-locked plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Heat oil in another large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, sliced garlic, and 2 bay leaves; sauté 2 minutes. Add broth and all ingredients except sweet potatoes and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 7 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and continue simmering until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Add diced chicken; season with more salt and pepper. Heat through.