April 29, 2011

English Scones

It’s been almost 30 years since that early morning when I ran down the stairs, determined not to miss a moment of Prince Charles’ wedding to Lady Diana. I can still picture Diana arriving at St. Paul’s Cathedral in her Cinderella glass coach, wearing her elaborate wedding gown with its puffed sleeves and 25-foot train.

And this morning I watched as Diana’s son, William, got married with all the same pomp and circumstance. His bride looked beautiful and elegant, absolutely radiant. And they both looked so happy. I couldn't help but grin when William leaned over and whispered something to Kate, making her smile up there in front of all their guests.

What a wonderful wedding, full of history, pageantry and romance! And what better way to celebrate a British wedding than with some warm English scones?

English scones are smaller and less sweet than the American variety, closer to American biscuits in taste and texture. English scones often contain dried fruits like currants or raisins, and they’re traditionally eaten with jam and clotted cream.

My scones were light and tender, delicious with raspberry jam and homemade butter. They were a lovely accompaniment to a fairytale wedding — hopefully one with a happy ending.

To make these scones, sift the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl. Sifting the flour helps make the scones light.

Cut the butter into the flour with your fingers or a knife.

Then rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a hand mixer until it resembles breadcrumbs. (I used a hand mixer.)

Make a well in the center and add an egg.

Add the milk a little at a time, mixing the ingredients together until the flour is incorporated and you’ve formed a dough.

Place the dough on a floured board or counter.

Roll it out until it is ¾ inch thick. Use a ruler to measure this if you can as the thickness will affect baking time. Cut out 2-inch circles with a biscuit cutter dipped in flour.

Place the scones on the baking sheet and brush the tops with milk.

Bake until the scones are golden brown.

Top with butter and jam and enjoy!

English Scones

Adapted from a recipe on Kitchen Report

The key to making perfect scones is to use self-rising flour. Work quickly and lightly and handle the dough as little as possible.

2 cups self-rising flour (If you don’t have self-rising flour, use 1 teaspoon baking powder for every cup of flour. This is what I did and it worked out fine.)
2 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
¼ cup dried fruit, such as currents, raisins, or cranberries (optional)
5 Tbsp butter, room temperature
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (approximately)

 1.      Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

2.      Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Add sugar, salt and dried fruit (if you are using it). Cut the butter into the bowl with a knife or pastry cutter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. (You can also use a hand mixer to do this.)

3.      Make a well in the center of the mixture and drop in the egg. Adding a portion of the milk at a time, stir the egg and milk into the dough using a spatula. How much milk you use depends on the size of the egg (I ended up using the entire ½ cup). The dough should incorporate all the flour, but it shouldn’t be wet and sticky.

4.      Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Roll the dough lightly with a rolling pin until about 3/4 inch thick. Cut with a 2-inch round biscuit cutter dipped in flour.

5.      Place rounds on the greased or lined baking sheet. Brush milk onto the tops of the scones with a pastry brush. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

6.      Remove the scones from the baking sheet and place them onto a cooling rack covered with a tea towel. Place another tea towel on top of the scones. This traps the steam and keeps the scones from drying out as they cool.

7.      Serve warm with jam and clotted cream, unsweetened whipped cream or butter.

Makes 12 scones.

Note: You can freeze leftover scones for several weeks. To reheat, wrap a frozen scone in a paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds.

April 25, 2011


My husband grew up in Kenya. His family had farm fresh milk delivered to their house every morning. His mother would boil the milk until a thick layer of cream floated up on top. My husband and his brothers would take turns churning that cream until it turned into rich, creamy butter. My mother-in-law would then heat the butter to make ghee, a clarified butter that’s used in Indian cooking.

I grew up in America in the 1970s eating margarine. At the time, we thought it was a healthier choice than butter. Of course, now we know that margarine contains plenty of trans fats, which are even worse than the saturated fats in butter.

So it’s back to butter. And hooray, I say, since butter tastes so much better than margarine.

I’ve always been perfectly happy with the butter I’ve bought at the grocery store. And to be honest, it never really occurred to me to make butter at home.

But then the other day I came across a recipe for homemade butter. It required exactly one ingredient – heavy cream. And no hand churning needed. All the work was going to be done by the food processor.

Ahh, my food processor. 

I got it as a wedding gift, almost 13 years ago. For most of that time, it sat in its box, moving with us from one home to another – or, I should say, from one cabinet to another. I’d think about using it but then I’d get intimidated. It seemed complicated. Not to mention potentially dangerous.

When we moved to our current home, I finally decided to take the thing out of its box and give it some prime real estate on the counter. Well, if it was going to take up precious counter space then I was darn well going to use it. What a revelation! I got over my hang ups and I’ve never looked back. I’ve used it to grind meat for burgers, to puree vegetables for Bolognese sauce and to turn bread into breadcrumbs.

But it never would have occurred to me that a food processor could turn cream into butter. Well, it can. And in under 10 minutes. The result is creamy and delicious. It tastes sweeter and fresher than what you get in the store. And it’s true what they say – food made by your own hands really does taste better.

From here, the sky’s the limit. You can mix the butter with herbs, spices, honey, jams, basically whatever you like, to make compound butters. Spread it on toast, biscuits, vegetables, fish or steak.

I know you can buy butter at any grocery store. But try making it at home just once. I’m guessing your first time won’t be your last.

I started with good-quality heavy cream. If you’re going to make something with one ingredient, that one ingredient better be good.

Pour the heavy cream into your food processor, filling it no more than halfway, and turn the machine on. Within a couple of minutes the cream will thicken into something the consistency of soft serve ice cream.

Then it will thicken even further and you’ll think you have butter. You don’t. Not yet.

Because then the thickened cream will collapse and start to fall apart. You’ll think you’ve ruined it. You haven’t.

The mixture will start to slosh around you’ll notice liquid collecting at the bottom of the bowl. This is buttermilk!

Keep mixing until the fine clumps of butter start to come together into a solid mass while more buttermilk collects at the bottom.

Pour out the buttermilk. (You can drink this.)

Transfer the solid butter to a sieve set over a bowl. This allows more buttermilk to drain out. You can also press it with a spatula and/or squeeze it with your hands to squeeze out as much of the buttermilk as you can. At this point, it's a good idea to “wash” the butter. Just rinse the butter a couple of times with cold water and then squeeze the butter to extract any excess water. Washing the butter apparently keeps it fresher longer.

If you want unsalted butter, leave it as is. Or add salt (I recommend freshly ground sea salt for a delicate flavor) and just mix that into the butter either with your hands or a spatula.

And there you go – butter!


16 oz heavy cream

1.      Place heavy cream in a food processor. Turn on.

2.      Turn the processor off after about 10 minutes when a pool of buttermilk has collected at the bottom of the processor bowl and a mass of solid butter has formed towards the top.

3.      Drain off the buttermilk (you can drink this).

4.      Form the butter into a ball and rinse it with cold water. Transfer the solid butter to a sieve set over a bowl. Squeeze it several times with your hands to squeeze out any excess water. Place it back in the sieve for a little while to let any remaining buttermilk drain out.

5.      Transfer butter to an airtight container.

Makes about 8 ounces of butter.

April 19, 2011

Pork Chops with Black Cherry Balsamic Pan Sauce

“Pork chops and applesauce. That’s schwell.”

Sorry, I just had to indulge in some ‘70s nostalgia!

These aren’t Peter Brady’s pork chops. But he had the right idea. Pork and fruit have a real affinity for one another. Pork chops and applesauce are the traditional combination, and a good one.

But to be honest, that wasn’t what I was thinking when I went to the store. On the Cooking Channel (yes, I admit it, I’m obsessed with food), I’d seen the host of French Food at Home cook pork chops with olives and preserved lemons. But apparently Whole Foods doesn’t carry preserved lemons. Or at least mine doesn’t.

Preserved lemons are made by pickling lemons in salt and their own juices. You see them a lot in Moroccan cooking. You can make preserved lemons at home, but they have to sit for at least three weeks before they’re ready to use.

In the meantime, there was that evening’s dinner to think about. I knew that pork takes well to all kinds of fruit. In the past I’ve made pork chops with a fig and port sauce and also with a pinot noir and cranberry sauce, and both were quite good. But I didn’t have a recipe with me and I knew I was going to be pressed for time that evening. So I grabbed a jar of black cherry preserves and hoped for the best.

I mixed and matched the method and ingredients from a few different recipes and ended up with what turned out to be one of the easiest and most delicious pan sauces I’ve made. The recipe didn’t require any deglazing of the pan or thickening of the sauce. Other than the cherry preserves, the only other major ingredient in the sauce was balsamic vinegar, which I always have on hand.

The black cherry preserves gave the sauce a fruity sweetness. And the pectin in the preserves helped thicken the sauce without the need for any added butter. The balsamic vinegar, which is both sweet and sour, provided a tanginess that balanced the sweetness of the preserves. And the black pepper gave it a little heat.

And the pork chops? They were schwell.

Take the pork chops out of the fridge and let them sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Sear the pork chops for a few minutes on each side until they are a dark golden brown. When you’re searing meat, try not to move it when you first put it down in the hot pan. As it browns, it will loosen and become easy to move. If you try to move it and it sticks, that probably means it needs another minute to properly brown.

Once the pork chops are browned on both sides, place the cover on the pan and stick it in the oven. If your pan isn’t ovenproof, you can transfer the chops to an oven-safe baking dish and cover them with aluminum foil while they bake. It should take about 10-12 minutes for the pork chops to cook through. While the pork chops cook, they will release some liquid that will become part of the delicious pan sauce.

Remove the pan from the oven (use an oven mitt!). Put the pork chops on a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Add the black cherry preserves, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to the juices in the pan. Whisk everything together for a few minutes until the preserves dissolve. (The sauce will thicken as it stands.) If the pork chops have released any liquid into the plate, add it to the pan sauce.

Pour the sauce over the pork chops and serve!

Pork Chops with Black Cherry Balsamic Pan Sauce

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 bone-in pork chops
10 oz black cherry preserves (you can also use regular cherry or any other berry preserves)
1 ½ Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1.   Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2.   Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. Add oil to a pan set over medium-high heat. Sear the pork chops for 3 minutes on each side until they are a deep golden brown. Place the cover on the pan and place them in the oven for 10-12 minutes until they are cooked through.

3.   Remove the pan from the oven. Put the pork chops on a plate and cover them with aluminum foil to keep warm.

4.   Add the black cherry preserves, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to the pan juices. Whisk over medium-low heat for a few minutes until the preserves melt into the sauce. Add any juices that the pork chops have released on the plate.

5.   Spoon the pan sauce over the pork chops and serve.

Serves 2

April 11, 2011

Roasted Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

My husband and I always try to take advantage of Restaurant Week in Boston. It’s a great chance for us to try new restaurants that are normally out of our budget. We meet for lunch while our son’s in school, which means we actually get to go out without paying for a babysitter!

Last year during Restaurant Week we tried out L’Espalier. L'Espalier is a Boston institution known for its New England-French cuisine.

I’d found L’Espalier’s Restaurant Week menu online. I’d studied the menu and considered and reconsidered what I was going to order.

But now, one year later, the thing I remember most clearly is the side dish we ordered on impulse. As soon as we were seated last March, we noticed table after table ordering asparagus with hollandaise sauce. We figured all those people couldn’t be wrong and decided to give it a try.

It turned out to be the most memorable part of our meal. The asparagus spears were thick, but the ends were peeled so that they were tender from tip to stem. They’d been perfectly steamed. They were tender, but with just enough bite to make them interesting.

And oh, the hollandaise. It was thick, buttery, and creamy, with a lemony tang. My husband and I devoured as much hollandaise as we could with our asparagus. Then we shamelessly sopped up the rest with our bread. We only refrained from wiping the plate clean with our fingers because we were in a fancy restaurant!

Sadly, I can’t head over to L’Espalier every time I want some of that delicious hollandaise. So the other day when I noticed some early spring asparagus at the grocery store, I decided to try to make hollandaise sauce at home.

I looked at a number of recipes and finally decided on one by Ina Garten. I’ve made a bunch of Ina Garten’s recipes and they always come out great. So I figured I was in good hands.

One nice thing about this hollandaise recipe is that it’s made in a blender, thereby eliminating the need to whisk (which is how it’s done in more traditional recipes). There are also instructions on making the sauce ahead of time, which is great in case you don’t properly time your asparagus.

The recipe was terrific. The asparagus turned out tender and flavorful. The hollandaise was creamy and buttery and lemony with the tiniest little kick from the cayenne. And since I was at home, I ate the asparagus with my fingers, dipping it right into the hollandaise, and savoring every bite!

In this recipe, the asparagus is tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roasted in the oven. This caramelizes the asparagus a bit and really enhances the flavor.

For the hollandaise you need butter, egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne, salt and pepper. No, it’s not health food.

To make the sauce you melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender and blend them for a few seconds to combine.

Then, with the blender running, slowly add the melted butter to the blender. (I transferred the melted butter to a measuring cup for neater pouring.) Blending the ingredients like this allows them to emulsify and become thick and creamy.

And that’s really it. You place the asparagus on a serving platter, top it with the hollandaise, and enjoy!

Roasted Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

Recipe by Ina Garten

12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
4 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature (I used large egg yolks)
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pinches of cayenne pepper
2 pounds fresh asparagus
Good olive oil

1.      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2.      Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Place the egg yolks, lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3/4 teaspoon pepper and cayenne in the jar of a blender. Blend for 15 seconds. With the blender running, slowly pour the hot butter into the blender and blend for 30 seconds, until the sauce is thick. (You can leave it in the blender at room temperature for up to 1 hour. If it is made in advance, add 1 tablespoon hot tap water and blend for a few seconds before serving.)
3.      Break off the tough ends of the asparagus and, if they're thick, peel them. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, then toss to coat the asparagus completely. Spread the asparagus in a single layer and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender but still crisp.
4.      Pour the hollandaise sauce over the warm asparagus and serve.

Serves 8

April 7, 2011

Meyer Lemon Puddings

As I was walking through the grocery store the other day, a pile of lemons caught my eye. But these weren’t ordinary lemons. They were Meyer lemons.

Meyer lemons have a dark, orangey-yellow skin, the color of an egg yolk. Their skin is thinner, softer, and smoother than that of regular lemons.

Meyer lemons

Regular lemons

Meyer lemons have become more and more popular over the past few years. I’d heard quite a bit about their distinctive flavor, but I’d never cooked with them. So I put some in my shopping cart and brought them home.

Meyer lemons are a cross between lemons and mandarin oranges, and that's just what they taste like. They’re sweeter than regular lemons. And they don’t have the same lip-puckering tartness. 

I’d brought the lemons home not knowing what I was going to do with them. Having tasted how sweet they were, I figured I’d use them in a dessert. I flipped through some cookbooks and magazines until I came across a recipe for Meyer Lemon Budino. (Budino is Italian for pudding.)

The puddings actually turned out more like soufflĂ©s. They were light and airy, sweet and not too tart. If I hadn’t known better, I might have guessed that they were made with clementines or mandarin oranges rather than a type of lemon. The puddings made a great presentation served in individual ramekins.

If you want to try Meyer lemons, now is the time. They’re only available from winter through early spring. If you’ve missed the Meyer lemon season, try this recipe with regular lemons. I think these puddings would taste great with some extra tang.

Start this recipe by combining the sugar, egg yolks, flour, Meyer and regular lemon juice and Meyer lemon peel in a bowl.

Add milk and whisk it all together.

In a separate bowl, mix together the egg whites and salt until they are frothy.

Add the remaining sugar and beat until the egg whites form soft peaks. These whipped egg whites are what gives this pudding its soufflé-like consistency.

Now, gently fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture with a spatula. Do this with a light hand, to avoid deflating the egg whites you’ve just whipped. Remember, the whipped eggs whites are going to make your puddings light and airy. 

Spoon the mixture into ramekins set in a roasting pan. Pour hot water into the roasting pan, halfway up the sides of the ramekins. This is called a water bath, or bain marie. The water bath helps the puddings cook evenly, without forming a crust on the outside. 

Bake for 30 minutes and you will have beautiful puddings! Serve the puddings immediately – they will deflate upon standing (but don’t worry, they will still taste delicious)!

Meyer Lemon Budino

Recipe from Bon Appetit

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh regular lemon juice
2 Tbsp finely grated Meyer lemon peel
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 tsp salt
Whipped cream (optional)

1.      Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter six 3/4-cup custard cups or ramekins.

2.      Combine 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, flour, lemon juice, and lemon peel in large bowl; whisk until well blended. Whisk in milk.

3.      Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in medium bowl until frothy.

4.      Gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until soft peaks form.

5.      Fold beaten egg whites into lemon mixture in 2 additions.

6.      Divide mixture among prepared custard cups. Place custard cups in roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of custard cups. Bake puddings until tops are golden and spring back when lightly touched, about 30 minutes. Remove cups from water.

7.      Serve warm or cold with whipped cream, if desired.

Serves 6

April 4, 2011

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

Technically, it’s spring. But here in Boston we’re still waiting for winter to loosen its grasp on Mother Nature. We’re still bundled up in our winter coats, stepping over little piles of snow from last week’s storm.

The voice in my head is telling me “It’s April! Eat peas! And asparagus! And strawberries!” But then I glance outside at the overcast sky and bare branches. And the truth is, I’m just not ready to give up the warm, comforting foods of winter.

These creamy chicken enchiladas really hit the spot during these chilly days of early spring. Shredded chicken and cheese rolled up in corn tortillas, smothered in a creamy, cheesy sauce spiked with mild, smoky green chilies.

Nothing to jar the senses here. No peppery spices to set off the fire alarms. Just a creamy, comforting sendoff to winter.  

I started by roasting two chicken breasts. If you have leftover chicken or want to use a rotisserie chicken, that would be fine too. If you’re roasting your own, rub the chicken breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast them in a hot oven.

Remove the chicken from the oven after about 40 minutes, when it's just cooked through.

Remove the skin. Separate the meat from the bone and then shred it. I used two forks to shred the meat but you could use your fingers. Place the shredded chicken in a bowl and set it aside.

For the sauce, melt some butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and cook it for a minute, stirring frequently with a whisk, until the mixture becomes a few shades darker and no longer smells of raw flour. (You’ve made a roux!)

Whisk in the chicken broth. Continue to whisk for a few minutes until it comes to a boil and thickens.

Stir in the sour cream and green chilies.

Now stir a cup of cheese into the shredded chicken. Having made this recipe once, I would recommend stirring a ladleful of the sauce into the chicken/cheese mixture to give it a bit more flavor. Place a tortilla on a plate. Put some of the chicken mixture down the center of the tortilla. 

Then roll up the tortilla and place it seam-side down in a baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Cover the tortillas with the green chili cream sauce.

Sprinkle with more cheese.


...and enjoy!

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

Adapted from Taste and Tell

2 chicken breast halves, with bone and skin
Olive oil
10 corn tortillas
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese, divided
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 14-oz. can chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 7-oz. can diced green chilies (I used Ortega fire roasted diced green chilies -- they're smoky, but mild)

1.      Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2.      Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly. Separate the meat from the bones and skin and shred it into strips with your fingers or two forks. 
3.       Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Prepare a 9x13-inch pan by spraying with cooking spray. 
4.       Mix together 1 cup of the cheese and the chicken. Place an equal amount of the mixture into each tortilla.  Roll the tortilla up and place seam side down in the prepared pan. 
5.       Melt the butter in a skillet. Stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. Whisk in the chicken broth. Cook over medium heat, continuing to whisk, until thickened. Stir in sour cream and green chilies. Pour the mixture over the enchiladas and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. 
6.      Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. 

 Serves 4-6