Caraway Chicken

June 10, 2007


Seasoning with caraway seeds dates at least to ancient Egypt. The ‘seeds’ are actually fruit, and they’re said to be the first herb used in Europe. Like so many old, old seasonings, they started out as a—gulp!—health food, supposedly an to aid digestion. That’s why you find them in traditional Northern European recipes for cabbage, cauliflower, sauerkraut, and rye bread. But don’t hold healthiness against them. Their strong, clean, nutty bite is a perfect foil for rich meat dishes, like this creamy chicken Parmesan. SAM

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh minced parsley
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Dip the chicken breasts in the egg and roll them in bread crumbs. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until a test drop of egg sizzles. Brown the chicken on both sides, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and place in a lightly greased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Combine the half-and-half, Parmesan, parsley, caraway seeds, salt, and pepper and pour over the chicken. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 or 30 minutes or until bubbly.
Makes 6 servings.

Camembert Salad

June 9, 2007

The only tricky part of this salad is remembering to marinate the cheese. Stick a note on the coffee pot so you won’t forget to do it first thing in the morning. That way, when you get home, everything’s ready for a light summer supper. Maybe serve it with a cold cucumber soup. All you need then is a fresh baguette—or, hey, you could make Last-Minute Dinner Rolls—and best of all there’s plenty of room for dessert! Hmmmm … is there any Carrot Cake left? SAM

PS If all you have in the fridge is brie, go for it. It’ll do just fine.

8 ounces Camembert
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, divided
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 head Romaine lettuce, torn
1 head frisée, stripped of stalks

Cut the Camembert into 4 wedges and split each in half horizontally. Place in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Pour the olive oil over the wedges, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon thyme, cover, and marinate for 4 to 12 hours. Drain the oil and reserve. Bake the cheese at 350 degrees F until softened, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly and cube. In a salad bowl, combine the Romaine lettuce, frisée, and cheese. Whisk together the remaining 1/4 teaspoon thyme, vinegar, pepper, and reserved olive oil and pour over the salad, tossing to coat.
Makes 4 servings.

Salsa Aspic

June 8, 2007


I know salsa is not French, but aspic is, and this fresh-tasting, hot-and-cold, spicy salad is the perfect balance for creamy scalloped potatoes. It’ll be the hit of any luncheon or buffet. Get as fancy as you want with the mold—dress it up with parsley or fresh basil—but I usually serve it in bowl with a big spoon. Cream cheese traded out for the goat’s cheese makes the aspic richer and creamier. But I really like the slightly sour, lighter taste of goat’s cheese. SAM

2 (1-ounce) packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup plus 2 ounces cold water, divided
1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes with juice
8 ounces hot salsa
juice of 1 lemon (4 tablespoons)
5 ounces log goat’s cheese

Sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup water and set aside. In a medium chef’s pan over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, salsa, and lemon juice. Roughly chop the tomatoes with a pastry fork or immersion blender and simmer 15 minutes. In a small saucier over very low heat, melt the goat’s cheese in the remaining 2 ounces water, whisking frequently. Temper the gelatin mixture with 3 tablespoons hot tomato juice and add to the melted goat’s cheese. Combine the goat’s cheese mixture and tomato-salsa and pour into a lightly greased 1 1/2-quart serving dish or mold. Chill in the refrigerator until set. Unmold onto a plate or serve in the dish.
Makes 10 servings.

Scalloped Potatoes with Garlic and Rosemary

June 7, 2007


There’s nothing like a creamy potato casserole to make your troubles disappear. This one is a slight twist on an old, old French side dish, guaranteed to sooth the soul and lift the spirits. Soaking the potatoes in cold water removes starch, which allows them to soak up the cream, which makes them divinely creamy. This recipe is supposed to make two generous servings. Then, again, you might want to keep the whole thing for yourself. SAM

1 pound new white potatoes (3 to 4 medium)
1 clove garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1/2 pint heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 1-quart casserole and set aside.

Slice the potatoes 1/8 inch thick, soak for 5 minutes in cold water, rinse thoroughly, and spread out between paper towels to dry. Combine the garlic and olive oil. Layer the potatoes in the prepared casserole, seasoning each layer with the garlic mixture, rosemary, parsley, salt, and pepper. Pour the cream on top and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until liquid is absorbed and the potatoes are tender and browned.
Makes 2 servings.

Cucumber Bisque

June 6, 2007


Butter, cucumbers, chives, sherry, cream … Who wouldn’t love such a cool soup? Tim, maybe? Hmmmm … SAM

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
1 leek, white and yellow parts only, chopped (1 cup)
4 small cucumbers, peeled and chopped (3 cups)
1 medium waxy potato, peeled and finely diced (3/4 cup)
3 (10-ounce) cans chicken broth
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives, divided
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the leek until tender. Add the cucumber, potato, chicken broth, sherry, 1/2 cup parsley, 1 tablespoon chives, mustard, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Set in the fridge to cool, then puree in a food processor fitted with the metal blade or with an immersion blender. Cover and chill. Just before serving, stir in the cream and garnish with the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 teaspoon chives, and paprika.
Makes 6 servings.

NOTE: Don’t puree this while it’s hot. You could seriously burn yourself.

Last-Minute Dinner Rolls

June 5, 2007


Okay, so none of us has time every night to bake baguettes. Here’s a fine alternative. I promise, you’ll have these dinner rolls on the table in 20 minutes. These come with a great story, and it’s not mine—it’s Emily’s. Her HVAC repair guys are dedicated cooks, always arguing about Food Network shows. One hot summer day, they were standing around their truck swapping recipes, when one of them said, ‘You want a killer dinner roll … talk to Dennis.’ Dennis ambled over, hiked one booted foot up on the tailgate, leaned in, and said, ‘I’ll tell it like it is. You gotta use White Lily flour.’ Here’s his recipe. You’ll love it! SAM

1 cup self-rising White Lily flour
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

With a fork, stir the milk into the flour until just blended. Add the mayonnaise and stir until just blended. Do not overwork the dough. Divide evenly among the cups in the prepared muffin tin. Bake for 18 minutes.
Makes one dozen rolls.

French Baguette

June 4, 2007



To make chewy French bread with big bubbles you need two things: high moisture content and good sea salt. Use a high-gluten, hard-wheat, bread flour like King Arthur. The dough will be very soupy. You can knead it by hand, but it’s far easier to use an electric mixer with a dough hook. Your loaves will have a fuller, higher profile, if you bake the dough in a shallow baguette pan, although you can bake it on a baking sheet sprinkled with corn meal. This is not exactly like bread you can buy fresh anywhere in France every four hours, but it’s close. And life will be the better for it. SAM

1 cup warm water
2 cups unbleached, high-gluten, bread flour
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, stir together the water, flour, yeast, and salt until just mixed. The dough will be very thin. Let it rest for 5 minutes, so the molecules can combine. Knead on low speed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl in rope-like strands, about 15 minutes. It will still be very sticky. Remove the dough hook, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. When the top collapses slightly, turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Cut in half, and roll each half into a snake the length of a lightly greased double baguette pan. Lift each snake gently into the pan. Cover with a thin dishtowel and let rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

With a razor or very sharp knife, make three slashes across the top of each loaf, just breaking the surface. Mist the loaves with water and place in the oven, misting the oven before you close the door. Lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, misting occasionally, until baguettes are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Makes 2 baguettes.

NOTE: You might want to check the bread at 40 minutes. Some ovens cook faster than others. See Harold’s comment.