Archives for January 2010

oatmeal raisin muffins

I must be growing up. Since when do I like raisins? At least I still think green peppers are blech. If that ever changes, I know I’ll be ready to pick up my cane and trade in my real teeth for the kind you take out at night to clean. Oh, and buy one of those plastic bag things to wrap around my head when it rains.

Granted, Dave pointed out that these are particularly good raisins. Even so, these muffins are wonderful – soft and fluffy and tender, and the raisins add some tartness and the pecans a bit of crunch, and all together, kinda sorta perfect actually!

They’re not too bad for you – oats are whole grains, right? I replaced a third of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour, a great trick with muffins. Let’s forget about the butter, okay? You have to pay a small price for muffins this good.

It seems inconceivable, but could oatmeal raisin cookies be my next favorite thing? I did buy yellow peppers for the fajitas we’re making for dinner tonight, instead of the green peppers called for in the recipe, so I feel safe there. Still young! (And picky, apparently.)

Two years ago: Potstickers

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Oatmeal Raisin Muffins (adapted from Morning Food, by Margaret S. Fox and John B. Bear, via recipezaar)

Makes 12

I substituted ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour for an equal amount of white flour, and the muffins were still wonderful.

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup buttermilk
¾ cup (3.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
½ cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
2 eggs, beaten lightly
⅓ cup (2.35 ounces) packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter
½ cup raisins

1. Combine the oats and buttermilk and let stand 30 minutes. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400ºF. Spray the bottoms only of a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with paper liners. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

2. Spread the nuts evenly on a baking sheet. Bake, shaking the pan every couple of minutes, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a small bowl. (If you leave them on the hot pan, they’ll continue to cook and might burn.)

3. Add the eggs to the oatmeal mixture one at a time, whisking thoroughly after each addition. Whisk in the sugar, then the butter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the flour mixture. Once the flour is dispersed, but not completely moistened, gently stir in the raisins and nuts.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean, 13-18 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, then use a thin-bladed knife to remove the muffins from the pan.

butternut squash macaroni and cheese

I don’t think I do too badly with self-control. I can sit at home all day with banana cream pie in the fridge and not even think about it until it’s time for dessert and tea. I don’t drink alcohol on weekdays (those extra calories are saved for dessert), and it isn’t a struggle, even though we have plenty of it around.

But there are two foods that I have no control with – chocolate chip cookie dough and macaroni and cheese. No kidding, I can eat both until I’m feeling not so good, and even that won’t stop me from craving more as soon as I digest a bit. As a result, macaroni and cheese has been allocated to a once-in-a-blue-moon treat.

But…can I make a version of macaroni and cheese that is healthy enough to eat more often, but still worth craving?

Apparently. I’m not saying that this is hardcore health food, but it’s not so bad nutrition-wise. The squash does an admirable job of replacing some of the cream sauce, and it isn’t just a “hide the vegetables” trick, because the flavor is surprisingly complementary. The final dish was sweeter than regular mac and cheese, but that wasn’t a bad thing. And it doesn’t hurt that the golden color of the squash makes the pasta look even cheesier.

I shouldn’t be shoveling this into my maw without abandon any more than I do regular macaroni and cheese, but at least it’s healthy enough to eat more than twice a year.  Tasty enough too.

One year ago: Fish Tacos

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Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese (adapted from Branny Boils Over)

You can adapt this in a number of ways. The easiest is by changing the type of cheese, although if you can, using a combination of cheddar and a good melter will give you consistently great results. Branny adds in a couple ounces of cream cheese, which will make the sauce extra creamy, but I decided I could skip it and make this a little healthier.

Most homemade macaroni and cheese recipes call for a final baking step, which I’ve skipped here simply because I wanted to make this as easy as possible for a weeknight dinner. If you prefer your mac and cheese baked, I recommend pouring it into a broiler-safe 8-inch square pan, topping it with bread crumbs made from fresh bread, and heating it about 5 inches from the broiler for a couple of minutes.

Each serving has about 325 calories.

Serves 8

1 small butternut squash
12 ounces elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon powdered mustard
2 cups milk
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 cup)
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)

1. Adjust on oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and lay the halves cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a butter knife inserted into the flesh meets no resistance. Scoop 2 cups of flesh from the squash and mash it with a fork, or, if you’re willing to put a bit more effort into it (I wasn’t), puree it in a blender or food processor.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Once it boils, add about a tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook the pasta until it’s tender. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.

3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the foaming subsides, add the flour and mustard. Whisk constantly for 1 minute, then gradually whisk in the milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking frequently, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5-6 minutes, until the mixture has the consistency of heavy cream. Add the cheeses, ½ teaspoon table salt, and the squash, stirring until the cheese melts.

4. Pour the sauce over the drained pasta and stir thoroughly. Serve immediately.

coco-nana muffins

I made these, oh, a year and a half ago. And the file’s just been sitting around waiting for someone to choose them for Tuesdays with Dorie. Actually, it was the first recipe I ever made from Dorie Greenspan that was not specifically for TWD. I had told myself that I would only bake from the book with the group, but I realized that was stupid when I wanted to make muffins and happened to have all the ingredients for these.

Obviously they’re not fresh in my mind, plus I usually just eat one muffin per batch. I freeze the rest and Dave takes one to work everyday. I do remember liking these though, and indeed, my notes say “good; great texture; mostly chocolate, hint of banana.” Sounds perfect to me.

Steph has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

banana cream pie

Dave lucked out this year when his annual birthday pie didn’t come out quite right. Because then I made another one, and then when that one wasn’t perfect either, I made another one.

The recipe is Tartine’s, and as usual, they take a classic and kick it up a notch. Their banana cream pie has the traditional flaky crust, pastry cream, bananas, and whipped cream. Then they add caramel and a thin layer of chocolate over the crust to keep the pastry cream from compromising the crust’s crispness.

The chocolate layer in my first pie was way too thick. It was like a Hershey bar on the bottom of the pie. It was impossible to cut. Dave compared it to armor. The second time, I slimmed down the chocolate, but ran out of sugar when I was making the caramel. I thought I’d come up with a way around the sugar issue, but it must not have worked because the caramel layer was hard and chewy. If the chocolate had been like leather armor over the crust, this was chain mail.

I tried one more time. And, finally! A very thin chocolate layer, the added subtleties of caramel, two layers of sliced bananas, Tartine’s wonderful light pastry cream, all topped with sweet whipped cream. Perfection. Although after my third banana cream pie in as many weeks, I am so ready for some cake or something. I’m not sure Dave agrees.

One year ago: Crispy Baked Chicken Strips
Two years ago: Moo Shu Pancakes

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Banana Cream Pie (completely rewritten and slightly tweaked from Tartine’s cookbook)

Full disclosure:

1) The pastry cream pretty much always curdles for me before it boils, but I just pour it into the strainer set over a bowl, whisk like crazy and strain it, and it always ends up smooth and delicious.

2) Working with small amounts of caramel can be tricky, but I had no problems with these quantities. If you see crystals forming when the sugar mixture is bubbling, discard those ingredients and start over. If you’re worried about it working right, you might want to make twice the amount listed here and save half of it for another use.

3) I’m too lazy to set up a makeshift double boiler for 1 ounce of chocolate and I’m biased against microwaves for some reason, so I just melt the chocolate in a very small saucepan over low heat while stirring constantly.

4) The photo of the slice shows only half the whipped cream called for in the recipe, because I ran out of cream.

Pastry cream:
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon salt
½ vanilla bean, cut in half and seeds scraped out
4 tablespoons cornstarch
4 ounces (½ cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes

5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
½ tablespoon light corn syrup
pinch salt
3 tablespoons cream
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter, cut into four pieces

Whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream, cold
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pie crust for single-crust 9-inch pie, fully baked and cooled
1 ounce chocolate, finely chopped
3 bananas, sliced ¼-inch thick

1. For the pastry cream: Pour a bit of water into a medium saucepan and dump it out. I know it sounds strange, but wetting the bottom of the pot before adding the milk really helps keep the milk from forming a browned layer on the bottom. Add the milk, salt, and vanilla seeds to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl, then whisk in the eggs. When the milk boils, pour just a bit of it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Keep whisking and very gradually add the rest of the milk to the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the pot and whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and just starts to boil; it will only take a few minutes (see note #1). Quickly pour the pastry cream into a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl (I use the same bowl I originally mixed everything in). Use a rubber spatula to push the pastry cream through the strainer. Let the pastry cream cool for a few minutes, occasionally stirring it, and then mix in the butter, 2 cubes at a time. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate it until completely chilled, 3-4 hours or overnight.

2. For the caramel: Pour the sugar into the center of a tall, heavy-bottomed medium saucepan (see note #2). Carefully pour the water and corn syrup over the sugar. Gently stir the mixture with a clean spatula. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Before it boils, you can stir it a bit if it seems to be heating unevenly and the sugar isn’t dissolving, but once it starts to boil, stop stirring. You can gently swirl the pan if it seems to be cooking unevenly. Once the mixture becomes a light amber color, remove it from the heat and add the cream. It will bubble up a lot, so stand back. Give it a few seconds to die down, then whisk the cream into the caramel. Add the vanilla extract and lemon juice, then stir in the butter one cube at a time. Pour the caramel into a small dish.

3. Pour about an inch of water into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer (see note #3). Place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl, place the bowl over the simmering water, and heat, stirring pretty often, until the chocolate is melted. Pour the chocolate into the cooled crust and use a pastry brush to spread it evenly. Set the chocolate aside to set for a few minutes.

4. For the whipped cream: Place the mixer bowl and whisk attachment (or beaters for a handheld mixer) in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. When the bowl is cold, add the cream and beat at high speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating at high speed until firm peaks form.

5. Pour the warm-not-hot caramel over the chocolate and spread it fairly evenly. Spread half the pastry cream over the caramel, then arrange half of the banana slices over the pastry cream. Repeat with the remaining pastry cream and bananas. Spread the whipped cream over the bananas. Refrigerate the pie at least 4 hours or overnight, until set.

baked ziti

I am officially out of recipes to share. I am now raiding my “Probably Not” folder – the rejects that either didn’t taste good or didn’t photograph well. I’ll spare you that ones that didn’t taste good.

It seems like I could just make something new and blog about it, right? The thing is though, nothing is working quite right for me lately. My delicious banana cream pies keep coming out with a layer of candy armor over the crust; the southwestern pasta salad recipe I patched together was too similar to and probably not quite as good as this one; I never got the ratios right in my cocktail last weekend (despite many attempts), and I forgot to take final photos of my pesto.

I’m just lucky that the photos of the baked ziti aren’t as ugly as I’d remembered. For this is not in the “didn’t taste good” category. With a mixture of pasta, tomatoes, cheese, and herbs, how could it not be delicious?

And although it’s hard to believe, you can make it halfway healthy without sacrificing much in the way of flavor or creaminess. In my experience, good whole wheat pasta (I like Bionaturae) is hardly different from refined versions. I’m perfectly happy with 1% cottage cheese and skim mozzarella. That just leaves the heavy cream to worry about, and with a slight increase in the cornstarch, you can get away with using milk instead.

And you can make it ahead, and it freezes well, and it reheats well, and heck, it isn’t half bad cold if you’re too impatient to bother heating it up. This is certainly worth pulling out of the reject file.

One year ago: Herbed Lima Bean Hummus
Two years ago: Country Crust Bread

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Baked Ziti (from Cooks Illustrated)

Serves 8-10

Healthy tricks: Use 1% cottage cheese, whole wheat pasta, part-skim mozzarella, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch plus 1 cup milk instead of ¾ teaspoon cornstarch with 1 cup heavy cream.

1 pound whole milk or 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces parmesan cheese (about 1½ cups), grated
table salt
1 pound ziti pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 5 teaspoons)
1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
black pepper
¾ teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces low-moisture mozzarella cheese, cut into ¼ inch pieces (about 1½ cups)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs and 1 cup Parmesan together in medium bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and pasta; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain pasta and leave in colander.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil and garlic in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until garlic is fragrant but not brown. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in ½ cup basil and sugar, then season with salt and pepper.

3. Stir cornstarch into heavy cream in small bowl, transfer mixture to Dutch oven set over medium heat. Bring to simmer and cook until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pot from heat and add cottage cheese mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce and ¾ cup mozzarella, then stir to combine. Add pasta and stir to coat thoroughly with sauce.

4. Transfer pasta mixture to 13- by 9-inch baking dish and spread remaining tomato sauce evenly over pasta. Sprinkle with remaining ¾ cup mozzarella and remaining ½ cup Parmesan over top. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

5. Remove foil and continue to cook until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. Cool for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 3 tablespoons basil and serve.

chocolate oatmeal almost-candy bars

The worst part of not loving the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe for the week is having to tell everyone about it. Not only do I feel like a Negative Nellie, but the flood of “sorry you didn’t like it!” comments starts, and, honestly, it isn’t such a big deal. There are many worse things in life than not getting excited about a dessert.

Plus, I’m not really involved with TWD to eat desserts; I’m in it for the learning experience of baking the desserts. I find out about different baking tricks, and I get to compare my results with everyone else, and I get an excuse to bake every week, and I get to make things I might not ordinarily choose for myself, and I get to interact with other bloggers.

Plus, when you’re making the entire book of recipes, of course there will be a few that aren’t your favorites. I had a feeling about this one from the beginning – I don’t really crave candy bars, so the “almost candy bars” title didn’t bode well.

Plus, it’s all relative. It isn’t like I had to spit it out because it was so bad or anything; it’s just that I found myself eating around the chocolate filling to get to the cookie parts. Mm, cookies.

Besides, everyone else liked it. And I had fun baking it, and I didn’t hate it or anything, and I liked the cookie portion quite a bit. It’s really just an oatmeal cookie base with a chocolate-sweetened condensed milk feeling; if that sounds better to you than it did to me, Lillian has posted the recipe.

One year ago: Berry Surprise Cake

maple oatmeal scones

I got scooped! I was just about to write an entry on these scones a few days ago and decided to go with the apple muffins instead. The next day Michelle posted about them. What are the chances?

Actually, considering that these first appeared on Barefoot Contessa Saturday morning, and by the time I baked them the next day there were already a handful of reviews on the Food Network’s site, the chances might not be so bad. Apparently I wasn’t the only one tempted by maple oatmeal scones.

Maple seems like an underused ingredient, considering how delicious it is. Perhaps the problem is that it’s an easily overpowered flavor once it’s mixed into dough and baked. These scones overcome this problem by adding additional maple in the form of a glaze.

I often think that glazes on scones make them too sweet, but since the scones themselves are only lightly sweetened, these have just the right level of sweetness. They’re also light and tender inside and crisp on top, and really just the perfect way to start out a weekend morning. I can see why Michelle was so eager to post about them!

One year ago: Twice-Baked Potatoes with Broccoli, Cheddar, and Scallions
Two years ago: Lasagne Bolognese

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Maple Oatmeal Scones (adapted just slightly from Barefoot Contessa)

I used traditional rolled oats, which worked just fine.

As always with scones, you can freeze the dough after shaping it, then bake the scones straight from the freezer.

1¾ cups (8.4 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup quick-cooking oats, plus additional for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
¼ cup cold buttermilk
¼ cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. Blend the cold butter in at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Combine the buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs and add quickly to the flour-and-butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough may be sticky.

2. Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is combined. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough ¾ to 1 inch thick. You should see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into 3-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly knead the scraps together and cut more scones.

3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are crisp.

4. To make the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar, maple syrup and vanilla. When the scones are done, cool for 5 minutes, then drizzle each scone with 1 tablespoon of the glaze. For garnish, sprinkle a few uncooked oats on the tops of the scones.

mrs. vogel’s scherben

Michael Pollan made a suggestion that I thought was great: Eat all the fried food you want, as long as you fry it yourself. His hypothesis is that most people wouldn’t want to bother with the hassle more than once in a great while, so fried food wouldn’t be the norm in anyone’s diet.

The members of Tuesdays with Dorie seem to agree, because not many people were excited about the prospect of frying this week. People brought up grease fires, spilled oil, kitchens that smelled for days afterward. Caitlin went so far as to spearhead a bake-the-sherben movement.

Can it be that easy? Can we skip the pot of oil and just throw the sherben in the oven? That would make these cookies downright healthy too, for a dessert at least, since there’s only a pittance of fat in the dough itself.

I tried it. I baked a few sherben dry, a few brushed with oil on one side, and a few brushed with oil on both sides. I fried the remaining dough, and then Dave and I compared.

left to right: oil on two sides, oil on one side, no oil

About the dough baked without any oil, Dave said, “It’s like a breadstick covered in powdered sugar.”  The cookies that had been brushed with oil on one side and on two sides were virtually identical and were just slightly better than the dry dough – a little less chewy and a little more puffy.

But the fried dough, that’s where it’s at. Actually, where it’s at is in my belly, because I couldn’t resist them – light and crisp and coated in powdered sugar. And while there were no fires and no odors, Pollan is right – cleaning up the pot of oil is hassle enough to keep me from frying often. But these cookies were worth it.

Teanna has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins, Caramel-Topped Flan

apple muffins

I don’t know why I feel the need to state this every year, but, again, for the record: I am pro New Year’s Resolution. Yes, we all know that you can resolve to make changes any day of the year. So what? New Year’s Day is the official last day of holiday craziness. It’s the perfect day to start thinking about new routines.

Besides, this year, I also moved from the East Coast to the Southwest; from a suburb of one of the country’s largest cities to a very small, very isolated town; from an apartment to a house; from the subtropics to the desert. Dave is starting a new job; I’ll be starting one new job this week, plus interviewing for two others. I didn’t just make a New Year’s resolution; I made a resolution for this new life.

My goal is, in a nutshell, to be perfect. That sounds obtainable, right? More realistically, it’s to be a person I can be proud of. And, yes, part of that, the easier part actually, involves fitness.

Fortunately, eating healthy isn’t a bit challenging when there are recipes like this one. Nothing about these indicates that they’re better for you than most muffins. But with whole wheat pastry flour substituting for half of the flour and applesauce taking the place of some of the fat, they’re downright wholesome. They’re also fluffy and light and delicious.

Muffins = one small step toward a more perfect me! Now I just need to keep it up for ever or so, plus be more productive, creative, organized, active, outgoing, focused, positive, motivated…

Two years ago: Macaroni and Cheese, Banana Cream Pie

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Apple Muffins (from Ellie Krieger)

12-16 muffins

My batter seemed a little too liquidy. Next time I’ll reduce the buttermilk to ½ cup.

The original recipe says it makes 12 muffins, but I had extra batter.

cooking spray
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
¼ cup chopped pecans
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (4.8 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 cup natural applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup lowfat buttermilk
1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 12-capacity muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, the pecans and cinnamon.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the remaining ¾ cup sugar and oil until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in the applesauce and vanilla.

Whisk in the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Whisk just until combined. Gently stir in the apple chunks.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and sprinkle with the pecan mixture. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of one of the muffins comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and unmold. Cool completely on the rack.

lighter chicken and dumplings

Aargh, I hate when I choose a recipe specifically because of one step that I find interesting, and then I screw up that step! In this chicken and dumplings recipe, Cooks Illustrated uses chicken wings to thicken the broth, instead of starch. I’m always fascinated by how homemade stock is gelatinous when it’s cold, so I was eager to try out the idea of thickening a broth with natural collagen.

But then I didn’t quite buy chicken wings. Drummettes were more easily available, and they’re from wings, so I figured it was close enough. Too late, I read the recipe description closer and saw that they specifically refer to the joints in wings as having a lot of collagen. D’oh! My little drummettes didn’t have joints.

So much for that trick. I ended up dissolving about 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in about ¼ cup of water and stirring that into the broth near the end of cooking. That worked fine, although it wasn’t as fun.

Regardless, the resulting chicken and dumplings were really delicious. I particularly liked the idea of putting a kitchen towel under the lid of the pot while the dumplings cook, so that they’re tops don’t get soggy. I also like that it only has a bit of fat in it, so this meal is light enough to make again soon – correctly this time.

One year ago: Chopped Salad
Two years ago: Oatmeal

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Lighter Chicken and Dumplings (from Cooks Illustrated)


6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2½ pounds), trimmed of excess fat
table salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 small onions, chopped fine (about 1½ cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ¾-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 medium celery rib, chopped fine (about ½ cup)
¼ cup dry sherry
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 pound chicken wings
¼ chopped fresh parsley leaves

2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
¾ cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg white

1. For the stew: Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towels and season with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken thighs, skin-side down, and cook until skin is crisp and well browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken pieces and brown on second side, 5 to 7 minutes longer; transfer to large plate. Discard all but 1 teaspoon fat from pot.

2. Add onions, carrots, and celery to now-empty pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, 7 to 9 minutes. Stir in sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in broth and thyme. Return chicken thighs, with any accumulated juices, to pot and add chicken wings. Bring to simmer, cover, and cook until thigh meat offers no resistance when poked with tip of paring knife but still clings to bones, 45 to 55 minutes.

3. Remove pot from heat and transfer chicken to cutting board. Allow broth to settle 5 minutes, then skim fat from surface using wide spoon or ladle. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard skin from chicken. Using fingers or fork, pull meat from chicken thighs (and wings, if desired) and cut into 1-inch pieces. Return meat to pot.

4. For the dumplings: Whisk flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Combine buttermilk and melted butter in medium bowl, stirring until butter forms small clumps; whisk in egg white. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and stir with rubber spatula until just incorporated and batter pulls away from sides of bowl.

5. Return stew to simmer; stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Using greased tablespoon measure (or #60 portion scoop), scoop level amount of batter and drop over top of stew, spacing about ¼ inch apart (you should have about 24 dumplings). Wrap lid of Dutch oven with clean kitchen towel (keeping towel away from heat source) and cover pot. Simmer gently until dumplings have doubled in size and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 13 to 16 minutes. Serve immediately.