Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Celebration Dinner

On Friday, my musically-inclined friend defended her honors thesis. The two of us have stuck together throughout the year-long research-and-writing process, and we've established a regular weekly work night -- a time when we know we'll get things accomplished in good company. It seemed only natural, then, to celebrate the completion of her thesis as well as mine. Lending a nice bit of symmetry to everything thesis-related, I chose the recipe for our celebratory dinner from my thesis community cookbook.

The recipe, poppyseed chicken, is from a very good friend of mine who actually works within our honors program here at my school. She had touted it to me as a "great (EASY) dish to serve when your boss is coming to dinner"; having no real boss, at least one that I would be inviting to dinner, I figured our Friday dinner could be reason enough to try out the yummy-sounding recipe.

Now, I for one am not usually a "cream of" cook; I don't normally cook from recipes that include cans of "cream of" soup. This proclivity is for two reasons: 1) recipes including "cream of" soup often result in relatively large yields, and leftovers, not matter how good, aren't really my thing; and 2) many of the "cream of" soups available are not particularly healthy. If this second concern is one of yours also, I'm sure you can find a recipe online to replace canned soup with homemade. You really should consider it.

I cannot tell you how simple this recipe was, and with what great results. My four dinner companions all said they heartily enjoyed it, and that was even before the wine kicked in. Once the wine kicked in... well, that's another story.

Poppyseed Chicken
from Amy Welch

3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and torn/cut into pieces
1 c sour cream (choose your preferred level of fat)
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 tbsp poppyseeds
1 c Ritz crackers, crumbled
4 tbsp butter

Mix the chicken pieces, sour cream, cream of chicken soup, and poppyseeds and dump the mixture into a 9"x13" casserole. Sprinkle the top of the mixture with the Ritz crumbs, and slice the butter evenly over the top. Cover the casserole with foil, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serve over rice.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Fiftieth Post: Breakfast for Dinner

Welcome, all, to my fiftieth post here at Americana Kitchen! I've enjoyed what's been the beginning of this food blog, and I hope you have, too. Seems like I've been chatting about food for quite some time already. And goodness! It's just dawned on me that I should start thinking about a blogiversary post. After all, May 25 is really just around the corner. Yikes.

I've decided to share with you this evening what I've been eating for dinner a lot over the past few weeks. Actually, what I've been eating up until tonight is the meat-free version of this dish, as I started cooking it as a Lenten dinner. Breakfast for dinner is wonderful for that; you really can adjust it to whatever dining situation you have in front of you. And I must say, I was rather happy this evening to have the slight addition of bacon to the mix. Thanks, Kroger, for the coupon for a free package of bacon. =)

I'll admit that, in writing, this recipe doesn't seem like much of anything. When you're eating it, though, it's quite tasty and so comforting. (Or maybe the comfort just comes from me remembering my dad making a weekend breakfast on occasion while I was growing up? Whatever.) Try it!

Potatoes, Eggs, Bacon, and Cheese

Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Cheddar Cheese

Peel your potatoes, cube them, and boil them until tender but not falling apart. While the potatoes are boiling, cook the bacon according to your favorite method. When the bacon is done, set it on a paper towel to drain.
Drain the boiled potatoes. In a large nonstick skillet, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the potatoes to the hot oil, sprinkling them with sea salt and pepper. The point here is to get the potatoes browned and starting to get crispy. Keep turning the potatoes every once in a while until they reach your desired degree of crispiness and color.
When the potatoes are perfect, crack your eggs into the skillet. Scramble them around in the pan with the potatoes until they are fully cooked. Crumble in the cooked bacon, and top the whole thing with cheddar cheese.
Note: I haven't provided precise amounts for ingredients. The beauty of this dish is that you can suit it to your specific tastes. Be free!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My Very Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

I know what it looks like. After a few weeks of mediocre posting, during which I only gave you one (one!) recipe, I am trying to make it up to you with another cookie recipe. The audacity that is me and my food blogging self!

I don't mean to offend, really. And the only reason I'm not sharing a cute and pastel Easter feast with you is that, frankly, I'm not having one this year. But let me assure you of two things before you decide to be mad at me for my food blogging failings: 1) this is the last cookie recipe I'll give you for a while; and 2) this really is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I've ever made. And that's coming from someone who in general doesn't like chocolate chip cookies.

Last summer, finding the consummate chocolate chip cookie was all the rage. After an article in the New York Times, which supposedly had found the chocolate chip cookie recipe to end the decades-old ccc quest, the food blogging community tested the recipe. Yummy noises ensued from practically ever corner of cyberspace. Who even knew that could happen?

So I tried the cookies. My mom took them to a block party. She said people ate them and enjoyed them. I, however, didn't like them.

I prefer to stick with the recipe I adapted from Leah Eskin in her pre-Trib Mag food writer days back in the eighth grade. After all, it's this chocolate chip cookie that I made every week for marching band trips so as to quell my section's frustration with my mellophone anal-retentiveness. It's this chocolate chip cookie that, in all actuality, got me to take cooking seriously.

I'm not promising it'll work such wonders for you, but if, at the very least, you enjoy chocolate chip cookies, you should try this one. My secret is melting the butter. The residual heat from the butter causes the chocolate chips to start to melt in the batter, making the cookies a blend of brown-sugary goodness and chocolate instead of smooth cookie with chunks of hard chocolate. I think this balance makes all the difference.

Amy's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 stick butter
3/4 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
6 oz chocolate chips

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove the pan from heat once the butter is melted. Add the sugar and eggs to the saucepan and blend well. Mix in the flour, salt, baking soda, and vanilla. Pour in the chocolate chips, then mix the batter well. Scoop the still-warm dough onto a parchment-papered or Silpat-ed cookie sheet. Bake each sheet at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for fifteen minutes. Let the cookies cool on the cookie sheet.
Note: This recipe can be easily doubled. I usually get 16-20 cookies from this single recipe depending upon how much dough I can keep myself from eating.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What I've Been Up To

Due to a variety of circumstances including returning from spring break, attending an Easter egg hunt, and turning in my thesis (!), I have not been cooking anything new lately. Oh, I've been cooking, all right, because I can only buy meals to a certain point before I feel badly about myself. But everything I've been cooking I've already posted.

But things are looking up. My thesis defense is Thursday, and then I'm done done done with that baby. Which means, at the absolute least, you should have a tasty chocolate chip cookie recipe come next Sunday. For now, however, all I can do is leave you with a new concept in cooking:

stress baker (n.) - a person who engages in baking activities as a means of lowering stress associated with attention-demanding tasks of all sorts
i.e. How did Amy find time to bake and decorate Easter-themed cookies while finishing her thesis? She must be a stress baker!

I suppose I can leave you with some pictures as well.