"Melissa Clark’s effervescent, inexhaustible enthusiasm for all things edible is wonderfully infectious. She really makes you want to drop everything, head for the kitchen and whip up an Upside-Down Polenta Plum Cake or Carroty Mac and Cheese."
That's what our BookPage cookbook columnist Sybil Pratt had to say about Cook This Now. These season-friendly recipes, arranged by Clark (food writer and columnist for the New York Times Dining Section), are the type of delicious meals you can't wait to make.
This is one of both our favorites. It’s comforting, crusty topped, soft centered, and very cheesy—but not at all sophisticated. Just simple, kid-friendly, homemade food with the added grown-up appeal of lots of healthful carrots tossed into the mix.
I got the idea from a chef’s recipe in a glossy food magazine. The chef called for cooking carrots in butter and orange juice, pureeing them, and using the puree as a sauce for mac and cheese. I tried the recipe as written and was disappointed. It was a lot of work, and I didn’t like the sweetness of the citrus fruit interfering with my cheesy goodness.
So I decided to come up with my own simplified and ultra-Cheddary version. It was a huge hit with the under-three crowd and their parents, too.
It’s a straightforward recipe that comes together without much fuss, other than having to grate some carrots. But to make up for that, I’ve eliminated the need to make a cheese sauce on the top of the stove. Instead, I toss the hot pasta with grated cheddar, butter, sour cream for creaminess, and eggs to hold it all together. The grated carrots get boiled along with the pasta, so cooking them isn’t an extra step. And the tiny orange shreds look so much like the cheddar that your kids might not even notice they are there. Dahlia certainly hasn’t, and while I’ve never lied to her about their inclusion, I might have left out the word carrot in the dish description—accidentally, of course.
Makes 6 servings
2. Cook macaroni according to package instructions in a large pot of salted boiling water; add carrot 3 minutes before pasta is finished cooking; drain well.
3. While pasta is hot, stir in all but 1/2 cup of the cheddar and the butter. In a bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, salt, mustard powder, and pepper. Fold mixture into the pasta.
4. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar and the parmesan over the top. Bake until the casserole is firm to the touch and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Our Cookbook of the Month celebrates one of the great chefs of our time--Jacques Pepin! Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food honors Pepin's 60 years in the kitchen with the best recipes.
BookPage cookbook columnist Sybil Pratt had only good things to say: "From golden oldies to the here-and-now, from the classic French to the all-American, everything in Jacques’ repertoire carries his unique stamp and approach—unpretentious yet elegant, pragmatic yet sophisticated."
The following recipe is exactly that:
I cook the apples with the skins on to give a chewier texture. Dried currants (raisins can be substituted), slivered almonds, and dried apricots fill the gaps between the apple chunks and additional apples on top create a flat surface for the pastry to sit on, which gives the tart a nicer shape when it is unmolded.
The tart should be served at room temperature or slightly warm. If you make it ahead, keep it in the skillet. The caramel may stick to the bottom, but the dough on top will stay dry. Then, at serving time, put the tart on the stove over medium heat for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan to melt the caramel, so the tart will unmold easily.
Combine the sugar, 2 tablespoons of the water, and the lemon juice in a 12-inch ovenproof non- stick skillet and cook until the mixture becomes a caramel, about 4 minutes. Add the almonds and cook for 10 seconds. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes, so the caramel hardens. Arrange the apple quarters on top of the set caramel, placing them side by side and skin side down in one layer, making two concentric circles, with a piece of apple in the center. Sprinkle the butter, apricots, and currants on top.
Slice the remainder of the apples thin. (You should have about 3 cups.) Arrange on top of the circles of apples to fill the skillet completely. Add the remaining 1?2 cup water, bring to a boil, cover, and boil gently for 10 minutes. The object here is to soften the apples so they sink down and form a flat surface. Remove the lid and continue cooking over medium heat for 7 to 8 minutes, until there is no liquid visible when you incline the pan slightly. This indicates that most of the water and juices have boiled away and what remains is the sugar and butter, which are beginning to caramelize again. Set aside. (The apples can be made several hours ahead.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, with a rack in the center.
Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and place it on a board. Sprinkle with a little flour and roll out to a very thin circle (no more than J inch thick). Trim the edges and then fold the dough in on itself to form an edge that is a little thicker all around.
Place the circle of dough on top of the apples. Press it down with your hands so it lies completely flat. Pierce all over with a fork and sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons sugar, which will caramelize and glaze the dough during cooking.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until nicely browned. Let cool until warm or at room temperature.
At serving time, if the tart has cooled beyond lukewarm, place the skillet back on medium heat and cook, shaking the pan lightly, until the caramel melts. To unmold the tart, place a flat serving dish on top of the skillet and turn the tart out onto the plate.
Beat the heavy cream until firm but not too stiff (no sugar is needed, since the apples are sweet).
Cut the tart into wedges and serve with a good spoonful of whipped cream per serving.
The American casserole is back on center stage "with a healthy helping of retro-chic and gourmet flair," thanks to The Casserole Queens Cookbook by Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock! Featured in our September Cooking column, the cookbook by two Austin gals shares recipes for "one-dish wonders" for weeknight cooking.
2. In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the chicken, bell pepper, and shallots, and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, salt, tarragon, and black pepper. Add the milk and cream, and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, peas, carrots, and potatoes and stir until heated thoroughly, about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer the hot chicken mixture to a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. Place the puff pastry over the top of the casserole dish. Brush the edges of the puff pastry with the egg wash and press against the side of the casserole dish, then cut slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape. Brush the top of the puff pastry with egg wash—this will help the puff pastry brown evenly. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve immediately.
Here are two other great ways to make our chicken pot pie:
Make individual pot pies! Portion out the filling into 6-ounce ramekins. Top each ramekin with some puff pastry and freeze. Cook at 425°F for 20 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown. So cute!
Use store-bought pie dough and make empanadas! Using a 3-inch circle pastry cutter, cut 12 circles out of the dough. Place a large spoonful of filling on one half of each circle. Brush the edge of the pastry with egg wash, then fold in half to make a half-moon shape. Press the edges together firmly and crimp with a fork. Put the empanada on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.
One of our September cookbooks comes from West Texas--but these aren't your everyday ranch-style meals. Louis Lambert shares "haute ranch cooking" in Big Ranch, Big City Cookbook, which "blends the bold, simple flavors of his cattle-ranching heritage with sophisticated cooking techniques, a rustic repertoire touched with elegance."
If you enjoy this recipe, you'll love the rest Big Ranch, Big City has to offer. It's out today! Enjoy!
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream, 3/4 cup of the Parmesan, the salt, white pepper, thyme, and nutmeg. Evenly slice the potatoes 1/8 inch thick and place in the bowl with the seasoned cream, stirring to coat the potatoes.
Arrange the potato slices in the casserole dish, overlapping them like shingles on a roof. Pour the cream mixture remaining in the bowl evenly over the potatoes; the cream should come almost to the top layer of potatoes. Press down on the potatoes to evenly compact them into the cream.
Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup Parmesan over the potatoes and then dot the top of the cheese with small pieces of the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Bake the gratin, uncovered, in the middle of the oven until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden brown, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let the gratin rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.
In case you hadn't noticed, we really love Jeni's ice cream and couldn't be more delighted for our August cooking column's top pick, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home. The following video and this week's recipe are great reasons to fall in love with Jeni's, too:
Without further ado, Jeni brings us the perfect summer treat:
I’ll never forget the day Adam Welly at Wayward Seed Farm cut open his favorite variety of watermelon for me to try. A bunch of folks from our kitchen and I were at the farm one Saturday, picking huckleberries for a winter jam to use in one of our holiday flavors. As Adam hacked into the sun-bloated melon with a large soil-crusted machete, its juice streamed out everywhere. The warm melon tasted of sunburned cheeks, warm sidewalks, and sunshine and all the summertime memories of my childhood. We made watermelon lemonade sorbet as soon as we returned to the kitchen.
This sorbet is perfect on a hot summer day, and we like to toss a few black watermelon seeds back in for fun.
Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
Heartland by Judith Fertig, one of our cookbooks from the August cooking column, celebrates good, down-home American Midwest cooking. Whoever sits at your table -- whether friends, family or just you -- will find bread made from fresh dough to be out-of-this-world. The following recipe is keeping with the spirit of Heartland: a good all-American recipe in half the time, with half the work!
Can bread dough be a pantry staple? Yes, if you consider your refrigerator as “pantry.” With a bowl of this versatile made-ahead dough on hand, you’ll be already halfway to yeasty breads, rolls, and coffee cakes. Busy Heartland farm wives in the early part of the twentieth century had two yeast dough recipes they used regularly. One was for bread and one was for dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, and coffee cakes. This streamlined approach made life easier for them, and it can still make things easier for us today. Plus, there’s also another way to streamline bread baking.
Adding more liquid to a dough eliminates the need to knead. You can simply stir the dough together, keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, and bake when you’re ready. So why not have a baking day, and then wrap and freeze your wares for up to 3 months?
A Danish dough whisk features a mitten-shaped metal mixing end on a wooden handle and makes short work of mixing any dough. Measuring is an important step to assure that your bread turns out right, so follow the directions exactly.
Spoon the flour into a measuring cup, level with a knife or your finger, then dump the flour into a 16-cup mixing bowl.
Add the yeast and salt to the flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon or a Danish dough whisk. Mix the honey, oil, and eggs together in a 4-cup measuring cup. Add enough warm water to reach the 4-cup mark and stir together. Pour the honey mixture into the flour mixture, stir to combine, then beat for 40 strokes, scraping the bottom and the sides of the bowl, until the dough forms a lumpy, sticky mass.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature (72°F) for 2 hours, or until the dough has risen to about 2 inches below the rim of the bowl and has a spongelike appearance.
Use that day in your favorite recipe for sweet bread or rolls, or place the dough, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before baking. If you like, write the date on the plastic wrap so you know the bake-by date for your dough.
We have been excited about Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home (our Cookbook of the Month for August) since May—and one of our editors had some Jeni's ice cream at Hot N Cold the day before the "rapture" (just in case). Making Jeni's delicious ice cream at home takes some careful reading and "a modicum of self-control to keep from becoming a hopeless but happy ice-creamaholic," but it's worth it. The following recipe is for Jeni's signature ice cream flavor.
Danger! This is the dry-burn technique. I don’t add water to the sugar before putting it on the heat, as some chefs do. Caramelizing sugar dry means it goes faster, but you have to watch it more closely and be ready with your cream. Here is an overview of what you are going to do:
Stand over the pan of sugar with a heatproof spatula ready, but do not touch the sugar until there is a full layer of melted and browning liquid sugar on the bottom with a smaller layer of unmelted white sugar on the top. When the edges of the melted sugar begin to darken, use the spatula to bring them into the center to help melt the unmelted sugar. Continue stirring and pushing the sugar around until it is all melted and evenly amber in color—like an old penny. When little bubbles begin to explode with dark smoke, give the sugar another moment and then remove from the heat. Immediately but slowly pour about 14 cup of the cream and corn syrup mixture into the burning-hot sugar. Be careful! It will pop and spit! Stir until it is incorporated, then add a bit more cream and stir, then continue until it is all in.
Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
Mix the cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup with a spout.
Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the milk. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.
Bring back to a boil over medium-high and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. If any caramel flecks remain, pour the mixture through a sieve.
Pack the ice cream into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid.
Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.
Reduce the salt in the ice cream to 1/4 teaspoon, then make and freeze the ice cream. Pack it into the storage container, layering it with 1 cup coarsely chopped smoked almonds.
The books in our July cooking column all have great summer recipes -- but what about soup? This recipe from Eat Greens by Barbara Scott-Goodman and Liz Trovato has a special tartness that makes it summer-friendly. It's the perfect meal to bring to work to enjoy for lunch, especially on a rainy summer day.
Add the broccoli and broth. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the potatoes, celery seeds, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to let cool.
Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. This will have to be done in batches. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. (The soup can be made ahead of time and will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for a day.)
Reheat the soup. Cut the remaining apple into small pieces or thin strips. Spoon the soup into soup bowls and garnish each serving with the apples and chives and serve at once.
Our July cooking column features three fantastic summery cookbooks, including Patricia Wells' 12th book, Salad as a Meal. It includes over 150 recipes that each challenge and expand the definition of a salad, and this recipe is a great example of her creativity and the heartiness of her dishes. For those of us who are trying to eat healthier but finding it leaves tummies a little empty, this book is just great.
Fill the pasta pot with 8 quarts of water and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the salt and beans and cook until crisp- tender, about 5 minutes. (Cooking time will vary according to the size and tenderness of the beans.) Immediately remove the colander from the water, allowing the water to drain from the beans. Plunge the beans into the ice water so they cool down as quickly as possible. (The beans will cool in 1 to 2 minutes. If you leave them longer, they will become soggy and begin to lose flavor.) Drain the beans and wrap them in a thick towel to dry. (Store the beans in the towel in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.)
Prepare a wood or charcoal fire. Set the grill rack about 5 inches from the heat. The fire is ready when the coals glow red and are covered with ash.
Scrub the potatoes but do not peel them. Bring 1 quart of water to a simmer in the bottom of a steamer. Place the potatoes on the steaming rack. Place the rack over the simmering water, cover, and steam just until the potatoes are fully cooked, about 25 minutes. While still warm, place the potatoes in a small bowl and toss with just enough dressing to lightly and evenly coat them.
Season the tuna lightly with salt and pepper. Place the tuna at the 10 o’clock position on the hot grill rack. After 1 minute, rotate the tuna a quarter- turn to the right, to 2 o’clock. One minute later, flip the tuna over to the uncooked side, grill marks up, pointing to 10 o’clock. Grill for 1 minute and rotate to 2 o’clock again, cooking until the tuna is done to your liking. Transfer the tuna to a platter, season again with salt and pepper, and cover loosely with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes.
Place the lettuce in a large bowl. Toss with just enough dressing to lightly and evenly coat the lettuce. Place the tomatoes in another bowl and toss with just enough dressing to lightly and evenly coat them. Place the green beans in another bowl and toss with just enough dressing to lightly and evenly coat them.
Set a tuna steak at the edge of a large dinner plate. Arrange the lettuce, green beans, potatoes, eggs, and tomatoes alongside. Arrange the anchovies in a crisscross pattern on top and sprinkle with the chives. Serve.
WINE SUGGESTION: I never tire of one of our longtime favorite rosés, the legendary Bandol Rosé from the Domaine Tempier, a mineral- scented wine that is as versatile, and pleasing, as they come.