Bête Noire

A dessert to die for. Bête Noire is a flourless chocolate cake that gets its silky, ultrasmooth, almost custard-like texture from the sugar syrup in the base, as well as from gentle baking. This version brings a uniquely complex flavor by caramelizing sugar with black peppercorns before dissolving the caramel with orange juice and bourbon.

A combination of bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolate yields a rounder, richer finish than just one type of chocolate, while Angostura bitters lends a spiciness and depth that balances the sweetness of the dessert.

Milk Street did away with the classic ganache coating and opted to use quickly candied orange zest for a garnish that adds contrasting color and texture. Though the cake requires at least 4 hours of chilling to fully set, it’s best served at room temperature, so don’t forget to remove the cake from the refrigerator at least two hours before serving. For neat slices, dip the knife in hot water, then wipe it dry before each cut.

Don’t use a whisk to combine the ingredients for the batter; a large silicone spatula is better. A whisk incorporates air, which leads to bubbles rising to the surface during baking and marring the smooth, shiny surface. Also, don’t forget to run a knife around the edges of the cake the moment it comes out of the oven; loosening the edges from the sides of the pan prevents the cake from cracking as it cools. Finally, don’t cover the cake before refrigerating, as a cover may trap condensation that can drip onto the cake.

Bête Noire

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) salted butter, cut into 16 pieces, plus more for the pan
  • 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 large navel orange
  • ¾ cup + ⅓ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • 3 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbsp. Angostura bitters
  • 6 large eggs, beaten
  • Whole-milk Greek yogurt, to serve

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 275°F with a rack in the middle position. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with butter. Line the bottom of the pan with kitchen parchment, then butter the parchment. Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. In a large bowl, combine the bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolates and the butter; set a fine mesh strainer across the bowl, then set aside.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler, remove just the outer zest of the orange, not the white pith just beneath, in long strips; set the strips aside. Halve the orange and juice into a liquid measuring cup. Measure 3 tablespoons of the juice into a medium saucepan. Add the bourbon to the remaining juice in the measuring cup, then add enough water to equal 1 cup total liquid; set aside.
  3. Add the ¾ cup sugar to the juice in the saucepan, then add the zest strips and peppercorns. Set over medium-high and cook, without stirring but occasionally swirling the pan, until the sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling the pan often, until the sugar caramelizes to deep mahogany brown and the peppercorns begin to pop, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour in the orange juice–bourbon mixture; the caramel will bubble up and harden. Set the pan over medium, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the caramel has dissolved and the peppercorns no longer stick together, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the bitters.
  4. Immediately pour the hot sugar syrup through the strainer into the chocolate-butter mixture; reserve the strained solids. Jostle the bowl to ensure the chocolate and butter are fully covered with syrup, then let stand for 2 to 3 minutes. Using a silicone spatula, gently stir until the mixture is well combined and completely smooth; it should be barely warm.
  5. Add the beaten eggs to the chocolate mixture and stir with the spatula until homogenous and glossy, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour into the prepared springform pan. Gently tap the sides of the pan to remove any air bubbles, then use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface. Set the pan on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the cake barely jiggles when the pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and immediately run a thin, sharp knife around the edges to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan. Cool to room temperature in the pan, then refrigerate uncovered for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
  7. While the cake cools transfer the zest strips from the strainer to a small, shallow bowl, removing and discarding any peppercorns stuck to them. Sprinkle the strips with ⅓ cup sugar, then toss until the strips are completely coated. Cover loosely and store at room temperature until ready to serve.
  8. About 2 hours before serving, remove the cake from the refrigerator. Remove the zest strips from the sugar and shake off excess sugar; reserve the sugar for another use. Cut the strips lengthwise into thin strips. Remove the sides of the springform pan. Arrange the zest slivers on the cake around the edges. Slice the cake and serve with small spoonfuls of yogurt.

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Recipe by Wes Martin for Milk Street

Instant Pot Whole Chicken with Root Vegetable Mash

From grilling to roasting, cooking a whole chicken typically takes at least an hour. It takes time to get the meat to safe temperatures (165 for the light and 175 for the dark). Combined with preparing the sides, suddenly it’s taking a whole lot longer than an hour to get dinner on the table. 

But with an Instant Pot (or pressure cooker), you can have a whole chicken and a built-in vegetable side dish on the table with just 30 minutes of cooking (plus prep). The controlled moisture and pressure means the chicken takes less time to cook and you don’t have to worry about dry meat or overcooking. The chicken cooks atop an assortment of root vegetables that can later be mashed to serve as a side.

From start to finish, this entire meal will be on your table in just over an hour—that includes completing any prep work, browning the chicken, making the sauce, and mashing the root vegetables. In other recipes, the chicken alone would take that long.

With this complete meal, you can be eating that tender, fall-off-the bone chicken in half the time it would normally take you. What’s the catch you ask? Bye-bye crackly skin, but that rotisserie chicken you pick up from your local grocery store doesn’t have any either, right? However, it will be pull-apart tender and bursting with the fresh flavors of rosemary, lemon, and chives.

The poultry was incredibly juicy and the root vegetable mash was amazing! The leftover broth could be made into a gravy with a touch of butter and a cornstarch slurry if desired.

Instant Pot Whole Chicken with Root Vegetable Mash

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 (4-lb.) whole chicken, giblets discarded
  • 1¼ tsp. table salt, divided
  • ¾ tsp. pepper, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 lb. rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • ¼ cup minced fresh chives
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

  1. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle with ¾ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Tie legs together with kitchen twine and tuck wingtips behind back. Using highest sauté function, heat oil in Instant Pot until just smoking. Place chicken breast side down in pot and cook until well browned on first side, 6 to 8 minutes; transfer to plate. Turn off Instant Pot.
  2. Add rosemary to fat left in pot and cook, using residual heat, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth, rutabaga, potatoes, onion, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper, scraping up any browned bits. Place chicken breast side up on top of vegetables and add any accumulated juices. Lock lid into place and close pressure-release valve. Select high pressure-cook function and cook for 24 minutes.
  3. Turn off Instant Pot and quick-release pressure. Carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you. Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest while preparing vegetables.
  4. Strain broth and vegetables through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator. Return vegetables to now-empty pot and mash with potato masher until nearly smooth. Stir in chives and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let broth settle for 5 minutes, then transfer serving bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Carve chicken and discard skin, if desired. Serve chicken with vegetables, passing broth and lemon wedges separately.

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Recipe by Caren White for America’s Test Kitchen

Christmas Martini

Cheers, here’s to Christmas! For a delicious holiday drink you can quickly whip up, just mix the following ingredients, shake them up and let the party begin! We prefer cocktails that are not sweet, but if you prefer them more sugary, use regular cranberry juice instead of the unsweetened variety.

You can substitute cranberry vodka in place of blood orange vodka if necessary.

Christmas Martini

  • Servings: 2 drinks
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. dried cranberries
  • 3⁄4 cup unsweetened cranberry juice (such as Ocean Spray)
  • 1⁄2 cup blood orange vodka
  • 1⁄4 cup Triple Sec liqueur
  • 1 cup ice

Directions

  1. Place the cranberries and two tablespoons of water in a small bowl, cover and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside and cool completely, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile combine the cranberry juice, blood orange vodka, Triple Sec and ice in a large cocktail shaker, put the lid on and shake for a full 30 seconds.
  3. Place the cranberries in each of two martini glasses and pour in the cocktail mixture. Serve ice cold.

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Thai-Style Braised Duck with Green Beans

If you are a duck fan, then you must put this fabulous recipe on your shortlist. Never tried duck? Then this recipe is a great jumping off point. Keep in mind, the duck anatomy has quite a different bone structure than that of chicken or turkey. If you are unsure how to break one down, watch on a video, ask the butcher, or simply buy 4 duck legs.

On another note, all of the meat on a duck is dark meat, even the breast. But with this method all of the meat comes out juicy and tender—not greasy at all! Duck and goose are poultry and considered “white” meat. Because they are birds of flight, however, the breast meat is darker than chicken and turkey breast.

On the plus side, duck meat’s rich flavor and color provides a red meat eating experience with the health benefits of poultry. Duck meat is rich in iron and protein like beef but is leaner and has fewer calories like its poultry counterparts. Plus, duck fat is healthier with less saturated fat and more omega-3 fat than beef.

Speaking of the fat on a duck, you want to make sure it gets rendered down. The Hubs decided to render the extra pieces of fat and skin in another skillet, and when crisp he removed them from the hot oil on a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkled with salt and ate as a snack once cooled. With the remaining leftover oil (we had 3 cups!), he will freeze the fat and save it to make duck confit sometime in the future.

Once bottom browns, turn the pieces. Eventually liquid will evaporate and duck will cook in its fat only. At this point lower heat and continue to cook duck, turning occasionally, until it becomes tender, about 1 hour. While the skin does look nice and brown, it will not be crispy once it steams with the beans in a covered dish.

Rice would make a fine accompaniment, but we paired ours this time with Roasted Parmesan Potatoes, which were wonderfully crispy on the outside, meltingly tender on the inside. Stock will be made from the unused pieces of the duck, such as the back and wings.

Thai-Style Braised Duck with Green Beans

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

  • 1 duck, quartered, or 4 legs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 2 small chiles, seeded and minced
  • 1 1/2 lbs. green beans, trimmed
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. nam pla (fish sauce) or soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • Cilantro for garnish, coarsely chopped

Directions

  1. Remove excess fat from duck. Season with salt and pepper and put in a skillet or saute pan that will fit it comfortably. Turn heat to medium and cover. Check once you hear sizzling; duck should be simmering in its own fat and exuding liquid. Adjust heat to create a steady simmer.
  2. Once bottom browns, turn. Eventually liquid will evaporate and duck will cook in its fat only. At this point lower heat and continue to cook duck, turning occasionally, until it becomes tender, about 1 hour.
  3. Transfer duck when tender to a plate. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat. Turn heat to medium and add onion; cook until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, garlic and chilies and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add beans and sugar and turn heat to high; cook, stirring occasionally, until beans begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons water and nam pla (fish sauce) or soy sauce. Put duck on top of bean mixture and bring to a simmer, Cover and cook until both beans and duck are very tender, 15 to 30 more minutes, adding a little more water if necessary to keep mixture moist. Uncover and stir in lime juice; taste and adjust seasoning, then sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

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Recipe by Mark Bittman for NYTimes Cooking

Bee’s Knees Snowballs

These delicate, melt-in-your-mouth cookies combine fresh lemon zest and orange blossom honey to play off the flavors of the namesake cocktail. They bring back fond memories of when I’d bake holiday cookies as a teenager, a variation of these were called Russian Tea Cakes, and they were (are?) addicting.

Floral orange blossom honey and fresh lemon zest give these powdered sugar–capped cookies from cookbook author Leah Koenig a delicate flavor and citrusy aroma. Their melt-in-your-mouth texture, with a faint nuttiness from the almond flour, makes them the perfect companion for a coupe of chilled Bee’s Knees; or a glass of chilled milk or cup of hot tea. Use a mild honey such as clover or wildflower to allow the bright lemon to shine. Avoid buckwheat honey, which can overpower the cookies’ subtleties.

Bee's Knees Snowballs

  • Servings: 5 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (8 oz.), at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (about 6 oz.), divided
  • 2 Tbsp. honey (preferably orange blossom)
  • 2 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup almond flour (about 1 3/4 oz.)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (about 8 1/2 oz.)
  • Edible gold luster dust (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in upper third and lower third positions. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.
  2. Combine butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, honey, lemon zest, vanilla, and salt in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low; add almond flour, and beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Add all-purpose flour in 2 additions, beating on low speed and stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed, until dough comes together, about 45 seconds total.
  3. Using a 1 1/2-inch (1-tablespoon) cookie scoop, scoop out cookies, and arrange at least 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake in preheated oven until light golden, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating baking sheets between top and bottom racks after 7 minutes of baking time. Remove from oven. Transfer cookies to a wire rack, and let cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  4. Place remaining 1 cup powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll cooled cookies in sugar until fully coated. Sprinkle with edible gold luster dust, if desired.

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Kleftiko (Greek Lamb Cooked in Parchment)

Neither quick to make, nor just a few ingredients, but if you’re looking for something to knock the socks of your dinner guests, this Greek Lamb Kleftiko recipe delivers on both taste and presentation. To put it simply, kleftiko is a traditional Greek dish of slow-roasted lamb cooked in parchment with potatoes and vegetables. This meal is the ultimate in one-pot cooking.

This foolproof method will give you perfectly tender lamb every time. The secret to succulent lamb and tender vegetables is cooking everything wrapped in parchment paper. And to make it even easier, use boneless leg of lamb. You could also make this in a large braising pot with a sheet of parchment across the pot under the lid.

Why cook in parchment? Not only does parchment protect your pan and for easy clean-up, but when you envelop meat in parchment paper before roasting, it traps the heat and moisture, creating a steam pocket that helps the meat cook gently from the inside. The result is meltingly tender lamb that is never dry!

Kleftiko (Greek Lamb Cooked in Parchment)

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

  • 1 boneless leg of lamb, about 3 ½ lbs., trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 ½ Tbsp. dried oregano, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. dried thyme, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. dried parsley, divided (or dried marjoram)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup white wine
  • Extra virgin olive oil, I used Greek Private Reserve EVOO
  • 4 to 5 large Russet potatoes, about 3 lbs., peeled and quartered
  • 2 large sweet bell peppers, cored and cut into large chunks
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into thick wedges
  • 1 large red onion, cut into large chunks
  • ½ cup vegetable or beef broth
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, cut into blocks, optional

Directions

  1. Season and marinate the lamb. Place the boneless leg of lamb in a large bowl. Using a sharp knife, make a few slits in the boneless leg of lamb. Rub the lamb all over with 2 tablespoons dried oregano and ½ tablespoon each dried thyme and dried parsley. Season well with kosher salt and black pepper on all sides. Then rub with the mustard and the majority of the garlic (reserving 1 tablespoon of the garlic for the vegetables). It’s important to push some of the garlic and seasoning into the slits you’ve cut earlier for best flavor.
  2. Transfer the lamb to a large bowl and add the lemon juice, white wine, red wine vinegar, and about ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil, turning the lamb in the bowl to make sure it is well coated. Set the lamb aside for a few minutes while working on the vegetables. (But if you do have the time, cover the bowl and refrigerate for 4-6 hours).
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F. And position a rack in the middle.
  4. Prepare the roasting pan and parchment paper. Line a large roasting pan with two very large pieces of parchment paper, making a cross shape so that you have long pieces of parchment overhang on all sides of the pan (about 12 inches of parchment overhang on all sides of the pan).
  5. Assemble the vegetables and lamb in the pan. Spread the potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions in the bottom of the pan over the parchment. Season with a good pinch of kosher salt and black pepper and the remainder of the dried oregano, thyme, and parsley. Sprinkle the remainder of the garlic on top and drizzle with a little olive oil. Add the lamb on top of the vegetables and pour the broth in from the side of the pan.
  6. Fold the parchment to cover the lamb and vegetables. Pull parchment paper sides together and tightly crimp them up to fully encase the lamb and vegetables in the parchment parcel.
  7. Roast. Place the roasting pan on the center rack of your heated oven and cook for about 3 ½ to 4 ½ hours or until the meat is tender and falls apart easily at the touch of your fork (you can check partway through and add more broth or water, if needed).
  8. Brown. Uncover the meat and veggies and fold excess parchment paper into the inside of the pan. If using, add the feta cheese at this point. Raise the heat to 425°F and return the pan to the oven (uncovered) for 15-20 minutes until the lamb and vegetables gain some color.
  9. Let rest. Once ready, allow the lamb kleftiko to sit for about 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
  10. Serve. Pull the meat apart using two forks to shred. Serve the lamb in bowls over the vegetables.

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Adapted from a recipe by Suzy Karadsheh

Adobo Chicken & Kale Enchiladas

Not your typical enchilada, this fun meal utilizes rotisserie, or leftover chicken, and is sure to please. Some favorite toppings include cilantro, sour cream, guacamole and pickled jalapeños. The fact that only one pan is used, makes the meal even more appealing.

Not sure I’d go as far as “healthy” enchiladas but with the addition of kale, they are at least moving in the right direction.

We made numerous changes starting with sautéeing the chopped onions in olive oil until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Removed the onions to a side dish then sautéed the kale in olive oil for a few minutes and added the water. Because we are “saucy” eaters, and to suit our own preferences, we doubled the enchilada sauce and included two cups of Mexican cheese blend. All noted in the list below.

Speaking of the sauce, we highly recommend doubling the three ingredients (enchilada sauce, sour cream and chipotles in adobo) because most of it gets sucked up into the tortillas. Those doubled amounts are indicated in the ingredients list below. If for some reason you’d rather stick to the original recipe, just cut those three ingredients in half; and use only 1 1/2 cups of cheese.

Adobo Chicken & Kale Enchiladas

  • Servings: 5-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 8 cups chopped kale
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups shredded or diced cooked chicken
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground pepper
  • 2 10 oz. cans red enchilada sauce
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 4-6 Tbsp. minced chipotles in adobo
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • ¾ cup diced white onion, divided
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large cast-iron skillet (12-inch) over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Remove the onions and set aside.
  3. Add additional tablespoon of olive oil; when hot add kale and water; cook, stirring, until bright green and wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in chicken, cumin, salt and pepper; cook for 1 minute more. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Combine enchilada sauce, sour cream and chipotles to taste in a small bowl. Spread 1 cup of the mixture in the pan. Place 4 tortillas over the sauce, overlapping them to cover the bottom. Top with half the chicken mixture, 1/4 cup onion and 3/4 cup cheese. Layer on half the remaining sauce, 4 tortillas, the remaining chicken, 1/4 cup onion and 3/4 cup cheese. Top with the remaining tortillas, sauce and cheese.
  5. Bake the enchiladas until bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup onion before serving.
  6. Garnish with desired toppings such as cilantro, sour cream, guacamole and pickled jalapeños.

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Recipe sourced from Eating Well Magazine

M&M Christmas Cookies

Thick and chewy M&M Christmas cookies with crispy edges, a soft center and bursting with chocolate flavor. Who can resist? The pops of red and green color from the M&M’s make them the perfect dessert to add to your holiday cookie platter. And the double shot of chocolate with both M&Ms and semi-sweet chocolate chips, well, just see for yourself…

For the dough, start by creaming the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer until creamy and fluffy. Then mix in the eggs and vanilla just until combined. Mix in the dry ingredients, then fold in the chocolate. Chill the dough for 30 minutes if you have the time.

Bake at 375°F for about 10 to 12 minutes. The edges should be barely golden brown when you remove them. Let set on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. When cooled completely, indulge!

Another much-beloved cookie recipe: Many folks were asking me about the recipe for the Olive Oil Sugar Cookies with Pistachios and Lemon Glaze. You can find the post at this kink.

M&M Christmas Cookies

  • Servings: Yield: 2 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (more if desired)
  • 1 cup Christmas M&M’s (more for tops if desired)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars with beaters. Mix for 1-2 minutes, or until creamy and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix just until combined.
  2. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and M&M’s. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes if time allows.
  3. Using a large cookie scoop (about 3 tablespoons), scoop the cookie dough onto the baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Place any extra chocolate chips or M&M’s on the top of the cookies if desired.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes (longer if necessary), or until the edges are barely golden brown. Allow cookies to set on pan for 2-3 minutes, and then remove to a cooling rack.

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Adapted from a recipe by Jamilyn Nye

Margarita Shortbread with Tequila-Lime Glaze

These buttery, lime-infused cookies found in Food & Wine Magazine are topped with a sweet-and-sour glaze and finished with flaky sea salt and lime zest. A nice counterpart to the more typical sweetly-iced Christmas cookies.

Using traditional Mexican flavors and ingredients in nontraditional ways is one of chef Esteban Castillo’s favorite things to do at Chicano Eats, so taking the classic margarita cocktail and turning it into a cookie was a no-brainer. And a very adult-like treat.

The cookies are infused with agave nectar (or in our case, local honey) and fresh lime juice for a sweet-and-sour kiss of citrus and then finished with a glaze that incorporates lime juice and lime zest as well as a touch of tequila to really tie together the signature cocktail flavor.

The high ratio of butter to flour yields a short, or crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Chill the dough well before slicing to allow the butter to resolidify. Cookies may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week. Unglazed cookies can be frozen up to 1 month. Thaw completely at room temperature before topping with tequila-lime glaze.

The end result shape-wise was supposed to be a circle, although I shaped my logs in more oval format. While maybe not the most visually attractive, the taste elevates them to another level. Which got me thinking once they were baked, the ideal shape would be to use a margarita glass cookie cutter! And given the popularity of these cookies, I will be making more…

I doubled the cookie dough recipe, but kept the glaze to a single batch, which was more than plenty to ice the tops, even had some leftover.

Margarita Shortbread with Tequila-Lime Glaze

  • Servings: 5 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

Cookie Dough

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (8 oz.), softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • 2 Tbsp. agave nectar (or a good honey)
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (about 10 5/8 oz.)

Tequila-Lime Glaze

  • 3 cups powdered sugar (about 12 oz.)
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. (1 1/4 oz.) tequila reposado
  • 1 1/2 tsp. grated lime zest plus 3 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)

Additional Ingredients

  • Flaky sea salt, white sparkling sugar, and lime zest, for garnish (optional)

Directions

Make the cookie dough:

  1. Beat butter, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add lime juice and agave; beat on low speed until just combined, about 15 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add flour; beat on low speed until evenly incorporated, about 15 seconds.
  2. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a smooth log (about 9 inches long). Wrap logs individually in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in upper third and lower third positions. Line 4 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Unwrap 1 dough log on a clean work surface (keeping remaining log chilled), and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices (about 36 cookies per log). Arrange cookies 1 inch apart on 2 prepared baking sheets. Transfer to freezer; chill 15 minutes. Bake in preheated oven until edges are just beginning to brown, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating baking sheets between top and bottom racks after 7 minutes of baking time. Remove from oven.
  4. Let cookies cool completely on baking sheet, about 30 minutes. While cookies bake and cool, repeat the cutting, freezing, and baking process with remaining dough log and remaining prepared baking sheets.

Make the tequila-lime glaze:

  1. Whisk together powdered sugar, tequila, and lime zest and juice in a medium bowl until smooth and thick. (Don’t be tempted to add any more liquid; the glaze will be very thick, but that’s the perfect consistency.)
  2. Scoop tequila-lime glaze evenly on centers of cookies (about 3/4 teaspoon per cookie). Using the back of a spoon, spread glaze over cookies, leaving a 1/4-inch border around cookie edge. Before the icing sets, garnish lightly with flaky sea salt to taste, sparkling sugar, and lime zest, if desired. Let cookies stand until glaze hardens, about 30 minutes.

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Recipe by Esteban Castillo for Food & Wine Magazine

Peanut Butter Chip Chocolate Cookies

A favorite combination for many with a sweet tooth: chocolate and peanut butter. Here, the famous duo meld together seamlessly with a chocolate cookie base that replaces one quarter of the butter with a 1/2 cup of smooth-style peanut butter mixed into the dough.

Another twist in the recipe, was the inclusion of some semi-sweet chocolate chips in addition to the peanut butter chips. Then, as if that isn’t enough, even more peanut butter chips were added atop the dropped raw cookie dough before going into the oven.

The double batch recipe shown below yielded 4 dozen cookies.

Peanut Butter Chip Chocolate Cookies

  • Servings: Yield: 4 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup smooth-style peanut butter
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1⁄3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 cups peanut butter chips (more for topping)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease 2 cookie sheets.
  2. Beat sugar and butter with an electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Beat first egg into butter mixture. Beat in second egg along with vanilla extract.
  3. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl; stir into creamed mixture until just combined. Fold in peanut butter and semisweet chips. Drop cookies by heaping teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets. Add 2 or 3 chips to the tops of each cookie mound.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until edges are set, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets briefly before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Adapted from a recipe by Michelle Laverdiere for AllRecipes

Toasted Pepita and Ancho Chile Peanut Brittle

After spending a full afternoon making double batches of dough for 4 different holiday cookie recipes, I still had a little starch left in me and decided to try this intriguing peanut brittle recipe found in Food & Wine Magazine. This giftable brittle from chef LaMara Davidson is loaded with toasty peanuts, pepitas, and smoky, sweet ancho chile powder.

Baking soda reacts with the acidic caramelized sugar to create the tiny air pockets that give the candy a porous and snappy texture. FYI, the molten sugar will bubble up vigorously when adding the baking soda, so be sure to use a long-handled wooden spoon for safe stirring. In place of a candy thermometer, which we didn’t have, use a probe meat thermometer.

Work quickly when spreading the brittle on the buttered baking sheet as the caramelized syrup will begin to thicken as soon as it hits the cold pan. Once completely cooled, the candy can be broken into a mosaic of shards. Speckled with rusty-red chile powder, loaded with nuts and sprinkled with flaky sea salt, this delectable brittle was packaged in small festive bags along with the homemade cookies as a flavorful holiday gift.

Ancho powder is ground ancho (pablano) chile peppers, and is a dark smokey chili with a deep rich flavor and mild to medium heat, with a somewhat sweet flavor. If you like more of a spicy note, add a small amount of either cayenne pepper or pimentón picante. Spanish pimentón can be spicy, sweet, or smoky, but it’s almost always better than the regular grocery store paprika.

Toasted Pepita and Ancho Chile Peanut Brittle

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (4 oz.), cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus softened unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cups dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 1/4 cups roasted salted pepitas
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. ancho chile powder, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Directions

  1. Generously grease a 13- x 18-inch rimmed baking sheet with butter; set aside.
  2. Stir together sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 cup water, and kosher salt in a medium saucepan; attach a candy thermometer to side of pan. Cook over medium, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until mixture reaches 280°F, 18 to 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in cubed butter, peanuts, pepitas, ancho chile powder, vanilla, and cinnamon until mixture is well combined and butter is melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring often, until mixture is golden brown and reaches 300°F, 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add baking soda, stirring until well combined. (Mixture will bubble up vigorously.) Working quickly, immediately pour brittle mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Gently shake baking sheet to smooth brittle into a thin, even layer, or use the back of a spoon to spread brittle into a thin, even layer. (Lightly grease spoon with butter if brittle sticks.)
  5. Sprinkle hot brittle evenly with flaky sea salt; garnish with additional ancho chile powder.
  6. Let brittle cool completely at room temperature, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces.

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Recipe by LaMara Davidson for Food & Wine

Moroccan Lamb Soup with Chickpeas and Lentils

A new one on us, this aromatic Moroccan dish—called harira—traditionally is served during Ramadan to break the daily fast. As Milk Street explains, it’s sometimes vegetarian, other times meaty, and depending on the the cook, its consistency may be thick and hearty, or light and brothy. I personally thought it was too brothy and prefer a thicker base. This could be accomplished be cutting back on the amount of water and/or adding more lentils which absorb liquid.

While the original recipe calls for lamb, you could substitute an equal amount of boneless beef chuck. For convenience and a time-saver, we omitted the step of soaking dried chickpeas and simply stirred in one can of drained chickpeas into the soup at the end. This is noted in the recipe below.

Serve with lemon wedges and a drizzle of grassy extra-virgin olive oil, and offer crusty bread for soaking up the broth. A nice toasted slab of crusty bread with a schmear of garlic butter was the perfect antidote.

Moroccan Lamb Soup with Chickpeas and Lentils

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
  • 6 medium celery stalks, sliced ½ to ¾ inch thick
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
  • ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. sweet paprika
  • 14½ oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 lbs. boneless lamb shoulder or beef chuck, trimmed and cut into ¾- to 1-inch chunks
  • ⅓ cup lentils du Puy (French Lentils)
  • 1 19 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, flat-leaf parsley or a mixture, chopped, plus more to serve

Directions

  1. On a 6-quart Instant Pot, select Normal/Medium Sauté. Add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add the celery, onion, garlic, ginger and 2½ teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the cinnamon, paprika and 1½ teaspoons pepper, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and 4 cups water, scraping up browned bits. Add the lamb, lentils and chickpeas; stir to combine, then distribute in an even layer.
  3. Press Cancel, lock the lid in place and move the pressure valve to Sealing. Select Pressure Cook or Manual; make sure the pressure level is set to High. Set the cooking time for 15 minutes.
  4. When pressure-cooking is complete, let the pressure reduce naturally for 15 minutes, then release the remaining steam by moving the pressure valve to Venting. Press Cancel, then carefully open the pot.
  5. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then stir in the drained chickpeas, parsley and/or cilantro. Serve sprinkled with additional herbs and drizzled with oil.

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Adapted from a recipe by Julia Rackow for Milk Street

Ribollita

Such a thing as too many veggies? This recipe adds a pound of kale—that’s right, a full pound—to softened onions, carrots and celery, combined with beans and tomatoes. It’s simply a matter of bringing the other vegetables to the party in a simmer, then adding the kale and topping with the thick, toasted, crusty slabs of multi-grain bread. The whole dish bakes in the oven for a few minutes to crisp the toast and the Parmesan.

Confession, the supermarket carried kale, but it was lousy looking at best, so we opted for the substitute of escarole. And for a time-saver we used canned cannellinis, in fact we used two cans, about double the original amount!

This might be just the ticket to feast on after indulging in all that rich food during the holidays. Make sure to get a thick crusty multi-grain loaf of bread that is cut into 1-inch thick slices and toasted. Add extra parmesan when serving, if desired.

Ribolita

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked or canned cannellini beans
  • 1 15-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 lb. chopped kale or escarole
  • 4 large, thick slices whole-grain bread, toasted
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

  1. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it’s hot, add onion, carrot, celery and garlic; sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Drain the beans; if they’re canned, rinse them as well. Add them to the pot along with tomatoes and their juices and stock, rosemary and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so the soup bubbles steadily; cover and cook, stirring once or twice to break up the tomatoes, until the flavors meld, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Fish out and discard rosemary and thyme stems, if you like, and stir in kale. Taste and adjust seasoning. Lay bread slices on top of the stew so they cover the top and overlap as little as possible. Scatter red onion slices over the top, drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  4. Put the pot in the oven and bake until the bread, onions and cheese are browned and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. (If your pot fits under the broiler, you can also brown the top there.) Divide the soup and bread among 4 bowls and serve.

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Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman for NYTimes Cooking

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

A perfect time of year for chili, and this tangy, mildly spicy white-bean chili is as warming and comforting as a traditional one, but in a lighter, brighter form. Plenty of green chiles — fresh and canned — provide kick while creamy white beans mellow it all out. To decrease the heat level, remove and discard the seeds from the jalapeño before you mince it.

A large handful of chopped cilantro added at the end brings freshness, but if you don’t care for cilantro, pass it at the table along with the other toppings or omit it entirely. In the spirit of customizing your chili, you can make this in the slow cooker or on the stovetop*. Use 3 cups chicken stock in the slow cooker and 4 cups on the stovetop, where liquid is more likely to evaporate.

On addition to sliced scallions and chopped cilantro, we topped the chili with grated Cotija cheese. It is a Mexican, dry grated cheese, made from cow’s milk and can be compared to the taste of feta and parmesan. BTW, queso fresco means “fresh cheese” in Spanish, the best substitute for cotija if you can find it in stores or happen to have some on hand. It is very close in flavor to cotija but is a little bit milder.

*You can also cook the chili in a Dutch oven on your stovetop. In step 2, add 4 cups stock instead of 3 cups and let the mixture come to a simmer over medium-high. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the chicken is tender, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow or red onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 3 (4-oz.) cans chopped green chiles, hot, mild or a combination
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. ground cayenne
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 (14-oz.) cans great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1½ cups frozen corn
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (about 1 small bunch), optional
  • 1 lime, juiced (about 2 Tbsp.)
  • Pickled jalapeño slices, sliced scallion, cubed avocado and/or sour cream, for serving

Directions

  1. In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeño and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chopped green chiles, cumin, onion powder, oregano and cayenne and stir until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. *Transfer the mixture into a 5- to 8-quart slow cooker. Generously season the chicken thighs with salt and add them to the pot. Stir in 3 cups chicken stock and the beans. Cover and cook on low until the chicken is tender, 4 to 6 hours.
  3. Shred the chicken using two forks. (You can do this directly in the pot, or remove the chicken to a bowl, shred it, then return it to the pot.) Stir in the frozen corn, cover and cook until warmed through, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro, if using, and lime juice. Season to taste with salt. Serve in bowls and pass the toppings at the table.

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Adapted from a recipe Sarah DiGregorio for NYTimes Cooking

Gingerbread Latte Cookies

Spiced cookies are a favorite of The Hubs. So when he spotted this recipe on The NYTimes Cooking site, he immediately sent me a link… of course we had to try them. In fact, I made a double batch, one for an Art Opening we were attending, and one for the house.

“Biting into one of these cookies is like taking the first sip of a festive beverage, and their spiced coffee fragrance gives your kitchen cozy holiday vibes. A combination of fresh and ground ginger adds an extra note of warmth that accentuates the coffee flavor and other spices, while the espresso-sugar coating creates crisp edges that yield to pillowy-soft interiors. Pair it with your milk of choice and you have a gingerbread latte in a single bite.”

My double batch, rolled into 1 1⁄2 inch balls (smaller than the 2″ suggested size) yielded 58 cookies, nearly 5 dozen. After 2 hours refrigeration time, the dough was easily workable. Even though my finished cookies were smaller—2 1⁄2 to 3 inches in diameter—they still took the full 10 minutes to bake, turning the baking sheet halfway through.

NOTE: If you are using a scale to measure amounts, the original recipe called for ¼ cup/158 grams unsulphured molasses. The quarter cup measurement is correct, but the 158 grams is too much and should be 85 grams.

Tip: Portioned dough can be frozen in balls, then coated and baked for about 13 minutes.

Gingerbread Latte Cookies

  • Servings: Yield: 20 cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

Cookie Dough

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup espresso powder
  • 1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground clove
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup unsulphured molasses
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Sugar Topping

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. espresso powder
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium. When it begins to bubble and get foamy, remove from the heat and whisk in the espresso powder, fresh ginger, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Scrape the butter mixture into a medium mixing bowl and set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sugars, molasses and salt to the bowl and whisk vigorously to combine. Add the egg, vanilla and baking soda and continue whisking until the mixture appears smooth and it’s the consistency of thin pancake batter, about 2 minutes. Add the flour and mix until evenly incorporated. Cover and chill the dough for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days before baking.
  3. Heat oven to 375 degrees, with racks on the lower and upper thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Prepare the coating by combining the granulated sugar, espresso powder and ground ginger in a small bowl.
  4. Using a 2-tablespoon (1 ounce) scoop, scoop the dough and, using your hands, roll into walnut-size balls. (Alternatively, for each cookie, use a tablespoon measure to scoop 2 tablespoons dough and roll them into a ball.) Toss in the sugar mixture to coat.
  5. Place the portioned dough 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets and bake, rotating the sheets on the racks halfway through, until the cookies have spread slightly and appear craggy on the surface, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (The cookies will flatten once cooled.) These cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 to 5 days.

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Recipe by Vaughn Vreeland for NYTimes Cooking