December 31, 2005

Guest Cooks!

Over the holiday weekend, my sister-in-law and one of my sisters had occasion to make this scrumptious dessert. I still need to ask her which cookbook she was using. Mom also made her famous apple pie and a pumpkin pie. At my father's request, I made another batch of Sweet-Potato and Orange Puree with Almond Streusel to go with the turkey dinner we had earlier that day.

Bittersweet Chocolate Cheesecake

1 cup chocolate wafer crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
3 packages of 8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
12 oz. of bittersweet baking chocolate, melted and cooled
3 eggs
1 cup ( 8 oz.) sour cream
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract


4 oz. bittersweet baking chocolate
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
whipped cream and toasted chopped hazelnuts, optional

In a bowl combine crumbs, hazelnuts, and butter; press onto the bottom of an ungreased 9 inch springform pan. In a mixing bowl beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add chocolate; beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in sour cream, extracts, and salt; pour over crust. Bake at 350 for 60-65 minutes or until center is nearly set. Cool to room temperature. For glaze melt chocolate and cream in microwave or double boiler; stir until smooth. Add vanilla. Carefully run a knife between the cake and the sides of the pan; remove the sides of the pan. Spread glaze over top. Refrigerate overnight. Garnish with whipped cream and hazelnuts if desired. Yields 16 servings.

Notes: I'm told the cooks used 8 oz of semi-sweet and 4 oz of bittersweet in the cake, and wholly substituted semi-sweet in the glaze. Also, there were no hazelnuts in the glaze. Were I to make it, I might give it a try with some really high quality bittersweet chocolate, but this sure did come out rich and creamy enough to satisfy any cheesecake lover.

Posted by Jennifer at 9:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
December 25, 2005

Sauteed Worcestershire Chicken

The not-quite-Christmas dinner.... due to circumstances beyond our control, we've officially moved our family holiday to tomorrow. Actually, some historians suggest that the birth of Jesus did not actually fall in December, so Christmas has been previously adjusted. The early churches celebrated the birth at different times until around A.D. 400, with April being an oft-cited date.

Sauteed Worcestershire Chicken
from Gourmet (April 1995)

2 whole boneless chicken breasts with skin (about 3/4 pound total), halved
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh oregano, or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Pat chicken dry and place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. With a meat pounder flatten chicken lightly to about 1/2-inch thickness and season with salt and pepper.

In a large non-stick skillet heat oil over moderate heat and cook chicken, skin sides down, 6 minutes on each side. Add garlic, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, broth, and oregano and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer chicken with tongs to a platter and simmer sauce until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Pour sauce over chicken. Serves 4.

Notes: Appeared to be well-received by the family. If I make it again in the future, I might substitute something else for the oregano to see if I can get a more vibrant taste. Also, I reduced the amount of Worcestershire and bumped up the garlic slightly.

Posted by Jennifer at 11:05 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
December 24, 2005

Molasses-Brined Pork Chops

I've never hired a personal chef (I have too much fun cooking!), but now I've tried a recipe from one. Chef Nancy Ricks came up while I was searching online for a different sort of brine for pork chops. And if you are interested in reading more about what a personal chef does, there's an association of them: USPCA.

Molasses Brined Pork Chops

1 cup water
4 tsp kosher salt
1 TBSP brown sugar
2 tsp molasses
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
2 boneless pork chops

Rub mixture:
1/2 tsp dry sage
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, minced

2 TBSP flour
2 tsp olive oil

Prepare brine by mixing the ingredients in a large zip-lock and let marinate 8 hours or overnight. Remove chops from brine and discard brine. Prepare the rub mixture (I used a mortar and pestle) and rub over both sides of chops and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Dredge chops in flour. Heat oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and cook chops 8 minutes per side until done.

Served with Campus Oaks Pinot Noir. (The Campus Oaks Zin is a favorite of the house, but the pinot isn't nearly as impressive.)

Notes: This was certainly interesting to try, and the guarantee that the pork chops would stay moist from the brine was, of course, true. I didn't quite buy into the spice rub. It didn't quite have the right balance and blend of flavors. I think I would stick with the one from Julia's Special blend if I were to try this again. But I also came across a balsamic-based brine and a cider-based brine that will probably get a turn first.

Posted by Jennifer at 9:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack