And now for something completely different

Dutch ovens are — at least to me — known mostly for two things: their ability to go seamlessly from stovetop to oven, and their ability to maintain heat. So, it wasn’t until I got my Dutch oven cookbook that I realized since it can hold heat, it can also hold the cold.

Heading into Memorial weekend and then summertime, that can come in handy.

I gave it a test with my family’s potato salad recipe, and found it survived traveling in a car without a problem.

Potato salad ingredients.

The recipe is not a particularly fancy way of making potato salad, but it’s easy and nothing store-bought is quite like it.

Chalk that up to the Italian dressing. That, and most recipes typically call for removing the potato skins but I like the added texture. Amounts vary widely as well because different people have different tastes, including me depending on the day. Mostly you just want to coat everything to your desired tastes.

That’s the awesome thing about this recipe; you can make it your way, and even add hard-boiled eggs as you desire. But this is the way my mother taught me.

Cold and delectable.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. potatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ to 1 c. Italian dressing
  • ½ to 1 c. mayonnaise
  • ½ c. yellow mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring water (filled about halfway) to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add the potatoes, and simmer, covered, until they’re cooked through, about 20 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain water, and let the potatoes cool to room temperature.

Chop the potatoes into bite-size chunks of your preference. Add the onions and Italian dressing, and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours and up to overnight.

About a half-hour before serving, add the mayonnaise, mustard, and salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Enjoy with a hot dog or hamburger, and enjoy your Memorial Day!

Breaking babka

During my year of bread, babka — or the similar povitica — was always on my list but I was too afraid to spend the time needed to make this beautiful treat.

Fate tempted me back when I found a wonderful looking babka recipe in my Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen.

I won’t lie, it’s a multi-day affair. That bothers me less now that I work your standard 9 to 5 with weekends free. But it does take some planning, say, when you’re scheduled to have 3 hours of your afternoon spent at the theater with Avengers: Endgame.

Forgot an ingredients photo but here’s my table with the 18 x 24 dough covered in filling, pre-roll.

Even with that, I found it to be worth the effort. So much so that I made it two weeks in a row. (I may have also seen Endgame two weeks in a row.)

Mostly I just wanted to try to redo the recipe with my favorite filling. I know, I know it’s sacrilege to think there’s something better than chocolate, but I frickin’ love cream cheese filling.

The second time worked slightly better in some ways, but I think that’s mostly just the nature of breads. Sometimes the mix needs some tweaking.

My first attempt had the stand mixer get the dough perfectly concocted in well short of the 10 to 12 minutes recommended, so I stopped it. But that meant that I had to let my dough rise for longer because the yeast didn’t activate as well. The second time it was sticky and slow like it was supposed to so everything rose well.

The second time my filling was softer because I probably could have used a little more cream cheese. (I replaced 12 oz. of chocolate chunks/cocoa with 8 oz. cream cheese, and I think 12 oz. may have made a better, thicker consistency, but it still worked.) The first time it was smooth and just stiff enough to spread and keep a nice firm shape.

Either way, as long as you’ve done a handful of breads before, I think anyone can make this one. It wasn’t even *that* hard to make it look pretty.

The creamy cream cheese one.
The gooey chocolate one.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

For Dough

  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. yeast (The recipe calls for instant or rapid-rise, which I didn’t use. If you knead well in the stand mixer, it didn’t seem to matter. I had a good rise the second time.)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. whole milk (I used 2% the second time and didn’t notice any major differences.)
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks (16 T.) butter, softened

For Chocolate Filling

  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter
  • 6 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large egg whites

For Cream Cheese Filling

  • 8 to 12 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick (8 T.) butter
  • ½ c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 large egg whites

For Finishing

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten, with 1 T. water and pinch of salt

Directions

For Dough

Whisk together flour, yeast, and salt, in the bowl of a stand mixer. In a separate bowl (that holds at least 4 c.), mix together the milk, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla, until the sugar has dissolved. Use a dough hook attachment on low, and begin to slowly add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and continue to mix until the dough starts to form.

Increase the speed on the stand mixer to medium-low, and add the 2 sticks of butter 1 T. at a time, until the butter is fully incorporated, about 3 to 4 minutes. Continue to knead in the stand mixer for another 10 to 12 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and clears the sides of the bowls. (Like I said, this happened within a couple minutes the first time, and I should have kneaded by hand for longer instead of stopping when a clump formed, but the second time it was definitely too sticky to handle until about 10 to 12 minutes, and I even added a titch more flour.)

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and knead by hand for about 30 seconds and form a smooth, round ball. Place the dough, seam side down, in a large greased bowl. Cover and let rise by about half for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Once risen, refrigerate dough until it is firm, at least 1 hour to up to 24 hours (an ideal time to go watch a long action-packed superhero movie). Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes if you refrigerate for much longer than an hour.

For (either) Filling

Microwave the chocolate chunks, cocoa, and butter OR the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl for about 3 minutes at 50 percent power, stirring often, until the mixture has melted and a smooth, soft filling forms. Add the confectioners’ sugar, and then let cool for about 30 minutes. Then, whisk in the egg whites, until fully combined and the mixture looks glossy (less noticeable with the cream cheese filling, so mix well).

To Combine

Press the dough down to deflate, and then transfer to a lightly floured counter (I had to use my whole damn kitchen table so make sure you have space). Roll dough into an 18 inch by 24 inch rectangle, keeping the shorter side parallel to the counter. Once rolled out, spread the filling on the dough, leaving about a ½ inch border around the edge.

Roll the dough away from you into a firm, taut cylinder. Pinch to close the seam. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate (on a large baking sheet if possible but mine weren’t big enough so I just cleared a space on a shelf) for about 30 minutes.

To Finish

Meanwhile, make a foil sling for the Dutch oven by folding in half 2 long sheets of aluminum foil, so you have 2 long, roughly 7 inch sheets. Place sheets perpendicular to each other, like a lowercase t, and carefully smooth down into the Dutch oven bowl. Spray with a little bit of oil.

When dough is ready, transfer the log back to the lightly floured counter with the short end facing you. Carefully cut the dough in half lengthwise so that you will have the swirls of filling facing up to you. Pinch together the two dough halves and then braid end over end, as tightly as possible. Pinch the second end together, and then wrap into a spiral with the ends tucked underneath.

Put the dough in the prepared Dutch oven, and let rise for another 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and brush the egg mixture on top of the dough.

Cover pot, and bake for about 20 minutes. Uncover, rotate pot, and continue to bake for another 35 to 45 minutes, until the loaf is a deep golden brown.

Lift dough out of pot using the foil overhang, and let cool completely (about 3 hours) on a wire rack, and then finally, enjoy!

Making homemade bread even better

Like Oprah, I love bread.

I love it in all its forms, but one of my favorites is the one I made earlier this year, since it’s so simple and yet so tasty. I also love the store-bought jalapeno-cheddar bread, but I’d never thought to make it myself.

Then, I came across a recipe from 50 Campfires that pretty much combined the two. It basically took the recipe I used earlier this year, and then just added jalapenos and cheddar.

I forgot to snap a pic before I started, but picture the ingredients from my earlier bread recipe and then picture them mostly combined to look like this floury dough ball.

I decided to give it a shot.

My only concern as I was making it was the sheer amount of jalapenos. I like spicy but I have my limits, and this bread includes two in the dough (and rises for nearly 24 hours with them in it) and then one on top.

Mercifully, if you follow the instructions to remove the seeds from the two that go in the dough and just keep them for the one on top, it’s not overly spicy. There’s a little kick from the top slices but otherwise, it’s pretty mild. I’m sure the yeast and cheese help.

It’s more effort than store-bought but even better, and considering how quickly this stuff disappeared, I’ll be making it again (and again).

The cutest and tastiest little ball of bread ever.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. active dry yeast
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. grated sharp cheddar, divided (I didn’t really measure but this is a good reference amount)
  • 3 jalapeno peppers, divided
  • 1 ½ c. warm water

Directions

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add in all but 4 T. of the grated cheddar cheese. Seed and chop two of the jalapenos, and add into the flour mix. Stir to combine all.

Add the water, and stir until a shaggy, sticky dough forms (a dough scraper works really well for this).

Cover the bowl, preferably with plastic wrap (grease it if you expect it to rise to touch the wrap). Let the dough rise in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator) for 12 to 24 hours.

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Place the Dutch oven in the oven, covered, for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer the dough to a heavily floured surface and shape it into a rounded loaf, but don’t knead it.

When the Dutch oven is ready, carefully remove from oven and remove lid. Carefully place the dough inside, and cover again. Bake covered for 30 minutes.

Carefully remove from oven, and remove lid. Sprinkle the top of the loaf with the remaining cheddar, and the sliced jalapeno (with seeds, if desired) and set slices on top. Bake uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes until the bread and cheese are golden brown.

Carefully remove loaf from the Dutch oven, place on a rack to cool (for at least an hour before slicing), and enjoy!

There will be bread

I love me a recipe that offers shortcuts and still tastes amazing. So, even though I don’t mind kneading bread, I still eagerly bookmarked the no-knead recipe from Jim Lahey as soon as I came across it.

No-knead bread ingredients. No, the Sodastream water is not bubbly.

Then, I discovered the caveat. There may not be kneading, but it still takes time and a little bit of getting your hands dirty (with sticky dough).

After going through it the first time, I shrugged and said I wasn’t really saving all that much so I wouldn’t make it again. That is, until I tasted it. Readers, it’s worth the time and effort.

And the more I’ve made it, the less the time and minor effort bothers me. I just plan better.

This is also a quintessentially Dutch oven dish.

Part of why the crust crunches so well is you preheat the Dutch oven for long enough that your dough goes into a nice and hot container. (I will admit, however, that I have used this recipe to make a couple of baguettes and it turns out well, just not as crunchy.)

It’s also pretty hard to mess up, since there are so few ingredients. The key is using bread flour, but I have — and I did this time on a whim — thrown in some amount of wheat flour and it’s worked. It’s not quite as fluffy but fiber does a body good.

Now, you can time things out how you want, but with a 12 to 18 hour rise time on the first go, my planning schedule is this:

*Before bed: Mix together the yeast, salt, water, and flour, and stir until blended.

*The next day/evening: When I get home from work, or the afternoon on a weekend, scrape the edges of the mixture and ensure it’s risen; then, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a boule, and wrap in a well-floured or cornmeal-coated towel, and let rise another 1 to 2 hours, before preparing to bake.

If you’re an early morning riser or an insomniac, a different schedule may work for you. But I’d rather get it started before bed and then deal with it later in the day. And a few hours extra rise time, if it’s a work day, hasn’t made a difference.

Again, it’s pretty hard to mess this up, even if there is an optimal way to make it that will maximize its awesomeness.

My boule isn’t the prettiest and it didn’t rise as much as I thought it would, but it tastes forking great.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • ¼ t. active dry yeast
  • 1 ⅓ c. cool water
  • 1 ¼ t. salt (I estimate)
  • 3 c. bread flour (OR, 2 c. bread flour, 1 c. wheat flour — which may require slightly more water)
  • Bran, cornmeal, or additional flour, for dusting

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast, and then add the water. Use a wooden spoon, rubber dough scraper, or your hands to mix together until a wet, sticky dough forms, about 30 seconds. If it’s not wet and sticky, add more water or flour as necessary.

Cover the bowl — either a tea towel or plastic wrap or a loose lid will work. Let rise in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, for 12 to 18 hours.

When small bubbles dot the surface of the dough and it’s at least doubled in size, dust a work surface with additional flour. Scrape the dough onto the work surface. Use your hands — lightly floured — to shape the dough into a round.

Dust a (non-terry cloth) tea towel with flour or cornmeal, and then place the dough, seam-side down, in the towel, and then gently wrap together. Let the dough rise for another 1 to 2 hours. (It’s ready when it has almost doubled and/or you can poke it with a finger and it holds the impression.)

About a half-hour before the second rise has finished, heat the oven to 475 degrees with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Place the Dutch oven, covered,  in the center of the rack.

When the dough is ready, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven. Uncover it, and add some cornmeal or wheat bran if desired, to the bottom of the pot. Then, unfold the dough and quickly but gently invert it into the pot with the seam-side up. Cover the pot again.

Bake the dough for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue to bake until the bread is browned but not burnt, another 15 to 30 minutes.

Once the bread is done, carefully remove the loaf from the Dutch oven, and place it on a rack to cool. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing, and enjoy with soup, butter, or all by itself!

My favorite mistake

I’m going to say right up front that I forked this one up royally from beginning to end. So, I can’t say that it was a great recipe, but I do think that it’s salvageable, as in, the blame lies with me.

And, to be honest, I still had a lot of fun making it.

It’s been a stressful week, and I came home grumpy. But once I started to make this week’s poppy seed streusel and listening to podcasts about “Doctor Who” (*nerd alert*), I felt immensely better. I didn’t even really care that I was forking up.

Streusel ingredients. Notably not pictured is the milk I should have used.

I have loved my Amy Thielen “The New Midwestern Table” cookbook, so the fact that this recipe didn’t turn out I think is a fluke. I have made a lot of things from it, including hand pies this year.

And, seriously, it has a butt-ton of butter, sugar, and flour, so it should have been perfect.

Also, while her recipe said to bake for a half hour, I knew it looked done about 7 minutes early, and instead of trusting my gut, I let it go for another 5.

So, the fact that it’s hard as a rock, is on me.

Then, the second page of the recipe really spends a lot of time on the importance of grinding the poppy seeds well. This was after I had, uh, not done that. See, I bought a bunch of cream and figured there was not harm in replacing whole milk with cream. Except that, obviously, cream whips quite quickly. So, when I mixed them together in the blender, there was whipped cream well before poppy seed broke and bruised.

I made up for it by adding water instead of more cream later … but the damage (or lack thereof to the poppy seeds) was done.

So, the fact that the poppy seeds are intact and the innards of the streusel didn’t turn out as expected, is also on me.

Again, though, it was an adventure to make, and I’m pretty sure if I follow the recipe, and trust my gut, I’ll nail it next time.

It doesn’t look that bad until you noticed the blackened edges and that that ain’t *lightly* golden.

Here’s what I did. Actually, scratch that, here’s what I should have done:

Ingredients

  • ¾ c. poppy seeds
  • ¾ c. whole milk (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE)
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 3 c. sugar, divided
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • 2 t. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ t. sea salt
  • 3 sticks butter (the recipe calls for salted; I used un- so hopefully that didn’t mess things up), and more for coating the pan, all at room temperature

Directions

Combine poppy seeds and MILK in a blender and process on high until the poppy seeds have broken down down. Add the raisins, 1 c. sugar, the cream, and the vinegar. Process until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a medium skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir often to prevent it from sticking, and continue reducing heat to keep the mixture at a slow bubble. Keep cooking until the mixture thickens to like jam, about 30 minutes. I’d say a little less but that might just be because I overcooked the thing from top to bottom in the oven.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees, and lightly butter a 9-inch by 13-inch sheet pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, the remaining 2 c. sugar, salt, and the butter. Use your fingers to work the butter into the flour mixture until well combined, and the mixture holds its shape when squeezed together.

Scoop 5 loose cups of the butter mixture onto the sheet pan, and use your hands to spread evenly, and then gently press down. Bake for about 10 minutes, and then let cool for about 10 minutes.

Then, pour the poppy seed mixture on top, and spread until smooth. Then squeeze the remaining butter mixture on top of the poppy seed mix to make decorative nuggets, leaving some space for the filling to show through.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until LIGHTLY golden brown, *checking often*, and then cool in the pan before cutting into squares. Enjoy, if you got this far and succeeded!

 

Beautiful briny bread

The checkout girl at Target told me not to tell anyone that the bread I made this week had anchovies on it. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d be telling everyone through this blog post. So, let me get it out of the way at the front.

This bread is not for the faint-hearted.

If you can think of everything flavorful and potentially off-putting, this bread has it. Anchovies. Capers. Kalamata olives. Onions (lots of ‘em). Garlic.

Briny bread* ingredients. *Actually called “pissaladiere.”

It’s also got tomatoes, a butt-load of olive oil, and a no-knead yeasty bread.

Basically, me and my sweetie thought it would be perfect. And the recipe didn’t let us down. It’s been amazing.

The recipe comes from the cookbook my brother turned me on to about bread: “Bread, Toast, Crumbs” by Alexandra Stafford. I finally got myself a copy.

Unlike last time, my deviations from the original recipe worked just fine. I mostly stuck to it — including all those delicious toppings — but I have regular yeast, not instant, and I figured there was no harm in swapping. Especially since I spent a year making bread.

To correct, I just upped the amount of yeast and added a little honey to get it kickstarted, but otherwise I stuck close to the original.

My only complaint — and it’s expected — is that it took a long time and dirtied quite a few dishes, including the pain-in-the-ass-to-clean food processor. But I knew all that going in, and a lot of the time is pretty passive and a great time to rewatch this amazing season of “Doctor Who.”

It looks so pretty, and it’s tasty too.

Here’s what I did (with notes to use instant yeast):

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 ½ t. active dry yeast (1 t. If using instant)
  • 2 c. lukewarm water
  • 1 T. honey, optional

For the bread

  • 6 T. olive oil, divided
  • 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 anchovies
  • 1 T. capers (I didn’t measure, I love capers)
  • ½ c. kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Directions

Make the dough. If using active dry yeast, mix together the yeast, warm water, and honey, and let sit for about 10 minutes before stirring in the flour and salt. If using instant, the recipe says to mix together the dry ingredients, and then add the water (and honey). Either way, use a rubber spatula to stir until the mixture combined and you have a sticky dough that’s sort of ball-shaped. Cover the mixture with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise for about 1 ½ hours until the dough has doubled in size.

Just before the dough is ready, heat a large pan on high heat. Add 1 T. olive oil, and then add the onions. Cook on medium heat, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

In a food processor, mix together the garlic and anchovies with 2 T. olive oil until pureed. Add the capers and pulse till chopped. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees, and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper, and pour on the remaining 3 T. olive oil. Use two forks to deflate the dough by releasing it from the sides of the bowl and pulling it toward the center until you get a rough ball. Lift the dough with the forks or pour it onto the oiled sheet pan. Roll the dough ball in oil to coat it all over, and then let it rest for 20 minutes.

With greased hands, push the dough to stretch it to the edges of the sheet pan, and use fingers to dimple it. When the dough resists stretching, let it rest for about 5 minutes and then stretch again until it fits most of the sheet pan.

To assemble, spread the anchovy paste on the dough. Scatter on the olives, and then the carmelized onions. Top with the tomatoes. Use fingers again to dimple the dough and stretch more if necessary.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the underside of the dough is golden and crisp. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares, and enjoy!

Meatball mashup

It’s 6 days until Thanksgiving, and so I decided to take it easy this week by going simple and safe. But still delicious.

I’ve already made meatballs this year but they were quite different, and I already made a similar recipe that I turned into individual meatloaves. So, this isn’t a unique recipe to this year; however, it’s a new twist.

Meatball ingredients, minus the garlic I decided to add at the last second. Also, in the background, next week’s recipe and spices!

Mostly, I love this meatball recipe because it’s quick and easy. It takes 5 to 10 minutes of prep, and 15 to 20 in the oven, so it’s quick. And it’s made of things I mostly already have on hand, except the beef, so it’s easy.

But it has the added benefit of being very versatile. It can be made into spaghetti and meatballs, or it can be a meatball hoagie, or just eat them on their own or with a little sauce. My sweetie and I tend to prefer hoagies with cheese and sauce, but I always have spaghetti just in case.

It’s nothing fancy but it’s always a treat.

Many mini meatballs.

Here’s what I did, building off a Betty Crocker recipe:

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. lean ground beef
  • ⅔ c. dry bread crumbs
  • ⅓ c. milk
  • 1 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t. dried basil
  • ½ t. rosemary chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (I used the jarred stuff)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Oil, for coating

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly grease a large rimmed sheet pan.

Mix together all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands, until well combined. Shape into about 1-inch balls, and place on the prepared sheet pan. You should get about 24 with this amount.

Bake the meatballs for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through.

Serve with warmed red sauce of your choice and cooked spaghetti or hoagies with provolone or mozzarella cheese, all to your tastes and liking, and enjoy!

*Programming note: I’ll plan to post early next week for Thanksgiving. If you want to shop in advance so you can have them over the holiday, here’s the ingredients list for pumpkin cookies:

  • ½ c. Crisco
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. Libby’s pumpkin
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 ½ t. cinnamon
  • ½ t. nutmeg
  • ¼ t. ground ginger (I’ll probably use more)
  • 1 ½ c. chocolate chips (I’ll use semisweet)

 

Happy birthday hot wings

It’s my birthday and I’ll make hot wings if I want to.

OK, my birthday was on Tuesday, and OK, I made the wings last weekend for a pre-planned get-together. BUT they were my little treat to myself, that something extra I would normally say is too much time and effort, but it’s my birthday, dammit, and I wanted to treat myself.

I made the sauces separately, so no ingredients photo this week.

Most people may not think of wings as their treat to themselves, but I’ve always had different birthday wishes. Growing up I remember two birthday foodie requests; we’d either go out for Chinese food, or I’d want Mom’s porcupine meatballs (they had rice in them, and weren’t actually spiky, but that was the name). So, hot wings suited me just fine.

Also, I had found two different recipes — one spicy, one mild — from Homesick Texan that I wanted to try, and figured this was as good of a time as any to try out her two recipes. Then, I realized that though they both used wingettes and drummettes, the recipes were vastly different.

So, I meshed them together. Look, it may have been my birthday, but I am not messing around with different oven temperatures and different cooking times, and methods.

And, whew, they both turned out perfectly. I was quite partial to the spicier ones that registered at about a 6 on my scale of spicy, but the milder creamy salsa verde ones also tasted just lovely, and worked well as a sauce to complement either variety.

These may be best served for a crowd if you make both, or pick your favorite.

Speaking of picking your favorite — segues are for amateurs, as my lovely father says — you still have time to VOTE. Please do so. Pick your favorite. Pick the one who’s not the one who you hate. Pick the person who will make it easier for you to vote (*nudge*). But mostly, just get out there and make your voice heard.

Finished, plated product. The spicy ones are in the back but this photo had me drooling for the milder ones.

And now, here’s what I did, adapting the cooking method but little else saucewise, from Homesick Texan’s recipe:

Ingredients

For the wings:

  • 2 lbs. wingettes and drummettes mix (AKA wings from here on out)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • One of the two sauce mixes, below, divided

Sauce 1 Spicy ingredients:

  • 10 chiles de arbol, stemmed and seeded (I didn’t seed much)
  • 6 guajillo chiles or other milder chiles (I used dried Hatch peppers we had on hand, but ancho are easy to find), seeded and stemmed (I didn’t seed much)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. oregano
  • ¼ t. ground allspice
  • ¾ c. water, and more as needed
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • ½ c. white vinegar, plus more as needed
  • Salt, to taste

Sauce 2 Milder ingredients:

  • 2 jalapenos, cut in half lengthwise and seeded (I did seed these)
  • 4-5 tomatillos (I used 5 because they were smaller), husked and cut in half
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ to 1 c. cilantro
  • ½ c. sour cream
  • ¼ c. mayonnaise
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. cayenne

Directions

Sauce 1 Spicy:

Place both types of chiles in a large bowl of boiling water, and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse the peppers well, and place in blender. Add the garlic, spices, and water. Blend for 5 minutes until smooth (it seems like a lot, but you want it to be thin, not chunky). Then, heat the oil in a skillet and add the sauce mixture. Cook for 5 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and add the vinegar. Add more vinegar or water until the sauce reaches desired thickness.

Sauce 2 Milder:

Place the jalapenos, tomatillos, and garlic in a medium saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 7 to 10 minutes until the tomatillos have darkened and softened. Use a slotted spoon to remove the items from the boiling water, and place them in a blender. Add the cilantro, and blend until smooth, adding water if necessary.

Scrape the mixture into a large bowl, and add the sour cream, mayonnaise, and spices. Stir until combined.

For the wings:

Salt and pepper the chicken wings to taste. Place wings in a gallon-sized plastic bag or other large Tupperware. Add ½ c. of the sauce, mix well, and marinate for 1 to 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees, and line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the marinated wings on the sheet pan, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with another ¼ c. of the sauce on both sides of the wings, and return to oven with them turned so that the formerly top side is now on the bottom. Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes until cooked through and the wings seem mostly dried.

Let cool slightly and serve with the remaining sauce on the side, and enjoy!

A mostly muffaletta

I had been thinking about ways of making a grilled sandwich on a sheet pan when I came across the perfect recipe. As in, Delish had a recipe for sheet pan subs.

But, of course, I wasn’t content with the ingredients that made up the Italian submarine. I waffled for a few days over whether to make it anyway or do reubens/rachels instead, or a combination of each since the sheet pan could fit both. That’s when I remembered the Italian meat-using New Orleans favorite that my brother is enamored with: the muffaletta.

Sheet pan muffaletta ingredients.

It was like the Italian sub, what with Italian meats, some pickled relish, and cheese. But, you know, better. And while the bread appropriate for sheet pans wouldn’t be the traditional muffaletta kind, it was at least pressed to mimic the scooped out recipe of the original. Either way, it’d really let the insides of the sandwich shine.

So, with a pound and half of meat, a pound of cheese, and more than enough pickled items, I set about making the sandwich. I otherwise mostly followed the recipe, using a second sheet pan and an oven-proof weight to press the sandwich together.

It turned out almost perfect. I would say in hindsight that the sandwich could have cooked a while longer just to get the tops more browned. But otherwise, the cheese was melted, the meat was warm, and the sammies tasted great.

I did bring it to a friendly get-together because, well, look at how much meat and cheese it used. Even with eight people eating it — admittedly with other snacks and drinks throughout the day — I still took home about half. I’d say you could skimp on some meat, but the whole point of the sheet pan sandwich seems to be overindulgence, so go ahead and live a little.

Oh, but if the muffaletta doesn’t strike your fancy, I do truly believe this would have worked as a reuben/rachel or any grilled sandwich, just replace the meats and cheeses with your favorites and skip the relish or replace it with something more to your liking.

You mostly see bread, but trust me, there’s a whole lotta delicious meat and cheese inside.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of melted butter, divided
  • 1 ½ to 2 loaves of sliced bread, I opted for sourdough but pick what works best with your sammy (like, I’d use a seeded rye if making a reuben)
  • 1 ½ lbs. Italian meats, sliced (I did a combination of salamis, capicola, and mortadella, which is traditional, but I’m already stepping on tradition so who am I to judge?)
  • 1 lb. provolone, sliced
  • 8 oz. (about half a jar) of giardiniera, chopped
  • 6 to 8 oz. mix of capers, sliced black olives, and sliced green olives

Directions

Heat an oven to 400 degrees.

Brush about half the butter onto a large rimmed sheet pan. Top with bread, it can be slightly overlapping like shingles, and use your fingers to press it down slightly. Add the giardiniera to the top of the bread. Add half the cheese on top of that. Top the cheese with the meat slices. Add the remaining cheese on top, and then top with the olive, caper mixture, to taste. Place bread on top until covered, again can be slightly overlapping. Brush the bread with the remaining butter.

Place another large baking sheet on top (mine was slightly smaller, which worked fine), and use a cast-iron skillet or the like on top to press down on the bread.

Bake for about 10 minutes until the sandwich is starting to brown. Then, remove the weight and the top sheet pan. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or so until the top bread is golden too. Let cool slightly and then cut into sandwich-size servings (friends suggested a pizza cutter would work well here) and enjoy!

On S’mores and stupid, stupid ideas

So, one year on a whim, and because it was summer, I made a S’mores pie to share with my sweets-loving family. It was so well received that I decided to do it again the next year.

Since I’m doing sheet pans this year, I wanted to try something different. Pretty early in the year, well before cookout season, I Googled to ensure that sheet pan S’mores recipes abounded. No surprise, they did.

My plan was set. When we had our Crippes clan get together, I would surprise everyone — particularly my cousin Madison who raves about the S’mores pie — with sheet pan S’mores.

Sheet pan S’mores ingredients, except I think I skipped the salt.

When I finally started looking before the mini-family reunion, I of course, saw several recipes that were simply laying graham crackers onto a sheet pan, topping with Hershey’s, and a marshmallow, and calling it good. I couldn’t do that. I had to impress. So, I found something that was a little more effort. A pseudo graham cracker crust, semi-sweet chocolate chips for ease of melting, and a beautiful broil to make the mallows just right.

What an idiot.

I was nervous from the outset. Despite following the recipe — a random site I won’t link to so as not to besmirch a recipe that didn’t work for me or to discredit them where I deviated slightly from the recipe — the crust didn’t seem like it came together all that well. Oh well, I said, once it bakes, it’ll probably be better. I baked it, and it looked fine. So far, so good.

Then, I added the chips, and let them sit. They didn’t melt well. Then, I put them back in the oven to melt better and for ease of spreading. No dice. OK, use up some more mini chips from my Aunt Sue’s supply. Give up on spreading when still nothing worked.

Finally, broil the marshmallows on top. Perfection.

Cut into the monstrosity I’d created, and &#*S@%#, the crust didn’t really work after all.

The good news is that no one cared. My aunt who is a professional caterer and foodie like myself gave encouraging tips and troubleshooting advice. My cousin Maddy couldn’t have been more pleased no matter how messy, and everyone else, enjoyed them as well.

I guess it turns out that no matter how badly you mess up S’mores, they’re impossible to screw up. For that, I’m quite grateful. But next time, I’ll stick to the campfire.

OK, OK, it looks pretty good, and OK, it tastes pretty good too. But it’s even more messy than the ones made by campfire.

Here’s what I did for any adventuring souls, or those who want to figure out what I did wrong:

Ingredients

  • 1 (13.5 oz.) box graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ c. (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ t. cinnamon
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ (~12 oz.) bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 36 marshmallows (they make square S’mores-specific ones now!)

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, butter, cinnamon, sugar, and the two eggs. Pour and press mixture into a large, rimmed sheet pan. Bake for about 10 minutes until golden.

Spread on the chocolate chip pieces, and allow to melt. Perhaps by putting in the oven if spreading isn’t going well?

Let cool for 30 minutes or until close to ready to serve.

Heat oven to broil.

Place marshmallows on top of the chocolate, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the mallows are cooked to desired brownness, watching constantly. Serve immediately, and enjoy the mess!