September 21, 2012

Crispy Butterscotch Cookies

Sometimes you want something sweet. Intensely sweet. If that's your mood, this is your cookie. It's a sugar cookie dotted with butterscotch chips and punctuated with the snap! crackle! pop! of Rice Krispies cereal. In other words, sweet, crispy, buttery caramel goodness in a bite.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add vanilla and egg and cream again.

Add flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until the ingredients come together.

Now add the rice krispies and butterscotch chips. 

Stir until just incorporated. Refrigerate dough at least one hour, until firm.

Roll rounded tablespoons of dough into balls. Place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on cooking rack.

Enjoy with a tall glass of milk!

Crispy Butterscotch Cookies

Recipe from The Moonlit Kitchen

1/2 cup butter at room temparature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups rice krispies cereal
1 cup butterscotch chips

1.    Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until very fluffy. Add vanilla and egg and cream again.

2.    Add flour, soda, and salt. Mix until incorporated.

3.    Add rice krispies and butterscotch chips and stir until just combined. Let chill at least one hour.

4.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

5.    Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes until light golden brown.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

September 14, 2012

Seafood Paella

Our Daring Cooks’ September 2012 hostess was Inma of la Galletika. Inma brought us a taste of Spain and challenged us to make our very own delicious Paella!

I'm pretty comfortable in the kitchen. I don't flinch at long lists of ingredients. I figure I can muddle through most techniques. But one thing still scares me. Rice. Yes, rice. I know, it sounds easy. Two parts liquid to one part rice. Bring to boil. Cover and cook. But then why does my rice so often come out soggy and mushy. Or, even worse, "al dente"?

I'm Indian, which means rice is served with most traditional meals. It should be second nature. But it's not. My mom and mother-in-law make perfect rice. Every time. I call them rice whisperers. They both have these intricate little dances they do over the stove, turning the heat up and down, covering the pot, then uncovering the pot at exactly the right moment, adding drops of water and who knows what other magic. 

Me? I bought a rice cooker.

So when I saw that this month's challenge was paella, I freaked out just a little. I knew I'd figure out the seafood part, even though I've only cooked clams once and calamari, never. But I was terrified that I'd over- or undercook the rice, ruining the entire dish.

And I almost did. When it came time to add the clams, the rice in the center of the skillet was tender and cooked. But along the edges, I could see the uncooked centers in the grains of rice. I improvised. I arranged the clams mostly along the edge, hoping they'd spill their juices onto the uncooked rice. I covered the pan tightly with aluminum foil and added a cover for good measure. Then I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

In the end, the rice was a little burned at the bottom and overcooked in the middle.

But overall, the dish was fantastic. The seafood was tender and tasty. The juices from the clams and shrimp and calamari really flavored the rice, helped along by the saffron and paprika.

Still, I admit it, rice still scares me.

Have everything ready to go before you start to cook. That includes cleaning and prepping the seafood (put it back in the fridge until you're ready to use it).

Saute onion in a paella pan (I used a 12 inch skillet) until it's soft.

Add the garlic, tomatoes, sugar, salt, paprika and saffron.

Stir well and cook until the tomatoes break up and dissolve into the onions.

In the meantime, combine the clam juice (or stock) and wine in a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Keep it hot.

When the tomatoes are ready, add the squid to the skillet. Cook for a minute (they won't cook through yet).

Then add the rice and, if you're using them, the peas. Give everything a good stir and make sure the rice is coated.

Pour the hot clam juice over the rice. Add salt. Stir well, making sure the rice is evenly spread over the bottom of the skillet. Don't stir the rice again.

Cook the rice over low heat, uncovered. After about 10 minutes, lay the shrimp on top. 

Continue cooking the rice for another 10 minutes, flipping the shrimp once the bottom are pink.

Finally, lay the clams (or mussels) on top. I arranged mine over the drier areas of the rice.

Tightly cover the pan with a piece of aluminum foil and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the clams open. (The drier parts of the rice will cook further in the clam juices).


Seafood Paella

Adapted from a recipe by Epicurious

1 large onion, finely chopped
5 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste or finely chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp pimentón dulce (or sweet paprika)
A good pinch of saffron threads
4 cleaned small squid, bodies sliced into 1/4-inch-wide rings
2 cups medium-grain Spanish paella rice or risotto rice, such as Arborio or Carnaroli
1 cup peas
3 cups clam juice or fish or chicken stock, plus more if needed
1 cup dry white wine
12 jumbo shrimp in their shells
16 clams, cleaned (or mussels)

1.    Fry the onion in the oil in a 16-inch paella pan until soft, stirring often.

2.    Stir in the garlic, and before it begins to color, add the tomatoes. Add the sugar, salt to taste, pimentón (or paprika), and saffron, stir well, and cook until the tomatoes are reduced to a jammy sauce and the oil is sizzling.

3.    Add the squid and cook, stirring, for a minute or so.

4.    Add the rice and peas and stir well until all the grains are coated. (You can prepare the dish to this point up to an hour in advance.)

5.    In the meantime, bring the clam juice and wine to a boil in a saucepan.

6.    When the tomatoes are ready, pour the mixture over the rice, bring to a boil, and add salt to taste. Stir well and spread the rice out evenly in the pan (do not stir again).

7.    Cook the rice over low heat for 18 to 20 minutes, moving the pan around and rotating it so that the rice cooks evenly. Lay the shrimp on top after 10 minutes and turn them when they have become pink on the first side.

8.    Place the clams on top of the rice. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or with aluminum foil. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the clams open and the rice is cooked through. 

Serves 4

September 9, 2012

Mussels Steamed in White Wine

I went back and forth on what to call this dish. Mussels steamed in white wine. Or white wine steamed mussels.

On the one hand, I do love the chewy, briny mussels. But when it comes down to it, this dish is really just a vehicle for the white wine sauce (preferably delivered to my mouth by a sopping hunk of warm, crusty French bread). I finally gave the mussels star billing, figuring that they are, after all, the main ingredient.

But don’t let the mussels distract you from the sauce. It starts with shallots and plenty of garlic. To that, you add some thyme and white wine. Even if you stopped there, you’d have a 4-star dish. But it doesn’t stop there. Not by a long shot.

Because when you steam the mussels, they open up wide, releasing their salty, briny, fragrant juices into the sauce, making it taste purely of the ocean. You end up with a 5-star dish that takes little effort and even less time.

If you’ve never cooked mussels before, it might seem intimidating. But there are only a few key things to remember. First, you have to clean them. To do this, you place them, one at a time, into a large bowl filled with water and a few tablespoons of flour or cornmeal. The flour/cornmeal encourages the mussels spit out any sand they may have in their shells. As you place the mussels in the bowl, check to see that they’re closed. If they’re open, give them a tap on the counter. Toss any that don’t close.

Then drain, rinse and scrub them. If they have a beard, simply pull it out with your fingers.

Finally, once they're cooked, give the pot a once over and discard any that are still closed.

Once you try cooking mussels at home, you'll make them over and over again. Whether you want to impress your friends or transport yourself to Paris, these mussels will do the trick.

Store your mussels on ice until you're ready to use them.

Soak them in a bowl filled with water and flour for about 30 minutes. This will give them a chance to disgorge any sand they've got trapped in their shell.

Drain and rinse the mussels.

If any of them have a beard, simply pull it out with your fingers.Also, if any of them don't completely close, toss them.

Now start cooking. Sauté shallots in olive oil and butter.

Add the garlic. Sauté until the shallots start to color and you can really smell the garlic.

Add the thyme, wine, salt and pepper and let it come to a boil.

Add the mussels. Give them a little toss, then cover them. Don't peek.

After about 10 minutes, you'll have beautifully cooked, intensely flavored mussels and sauce.

Serve them straight out of the pot, with plenty of good French bread for dipping!

Mussels Steamed in White Wine

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten

3 lbs cultivated mussels
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped shallots (5 to 7 shallots)
1 1/2 Tbso minced garlic (5 to 6 cloves)
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 cup good white wine
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1.    Clean the mussels: Put them in a large bowl with 2 quarts of water and the flour and soak for 30 minutes to let the mussels disgorge any sand. Drain the mussels, then remove the "beard" from each with your fingers. If they're dirty, scrub the mussels with a brush under running water. Discard any mussels whose shells aren't tightly shut.

2.    In a large non-aluminum stockpot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes, or until the shallots are translucent. Add the thyme, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.

3.    Add the mussels, stir well, then cover the pot, and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until all the mussels are opened (discard any that do not open). With the lid on, shake the pot once or twice to be sure the mussels don't burn on the bottom.

4.    Pour the mussels and the sauce into a large bowl and serve hot with a  warm baguette to soak up the juices.

Serves 2 to 3