March 19, 2018

Mozzarella-Stuffed Chicken Parmesan Meatballs

1 lb ground chicken breast
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons mixed Italian dried herbs (I used this)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper
6 mozzarella pearls, halved

breadcrumb coating:
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

olive oil
1-quart marinara sauce
1 lb cooked, hot spaghetti
grated Parmesan for sprinkling


Place the breadcrumb coating mixture in a shallow bowl and whisk to combine.

In a medium bowl, combine the ground chicken, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, egg, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan and spices until well combined. Remove about 1 1/2-2 tablespoons of the mixture. Place half a pearl in the middle, roll into a small ball, taking carefully cover the mozzarella. Roll in breadcrumb mixture. Repeat for remaining chicken mixture to form approximately 12 meatballs.

Meanwhile, heat the sauce in a saucepan.

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan and carefully brown the meatballs on all sides--about 5-8 minutes. They should be nearly fully cooked if not actually cooked through. Add to the pan with the sauce and simmer until fully cooked. Serve over hot pasta.

My thoughts:
I was thinking about making Chicken Parmesan the other day but it is quite an undertaking: frying chicken, making sauce--none of that is difficult but it is time-consuming, especially since there is a limit to how many chicken filets you can fry at a time and I always end up having to do at least two batches. I've been making a lot of meatballs lately for some reason and it occurred to me that I could totally reimagine the dish as meatballs!

It comes together a bit faster, making mozzarella-filled meatballs isn't any more difficult or time-consuming than regular meatballs and you can brown a full dozen at once in a large pan.

I have never done this before but I cheated and used a quart of freshly made marinara sauce I bought at our local Italian grocery instead of making my own sauce and that made making meatballs on a weekday night way less daunting. Feel free to make your own sauce if you'd rather!

I loved the results, it really had the spirit and flavor of Chicken Parmesan but in a more fun (and easier to eat!) way. It was also much lighter than the original. The melty mozzarella in the middle of the meatballs really made the dish, it was unexpected and went a long way to making it feel like Chicken Parm versus just chicken meatballs.

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March 15, 2018

Crispy Old Bay Fried Catfish


2 lb catfish fillets, cut in half length-wise if needed
Old Bay for sprinkling
1 1/3 cup self-rising cornmeal mix
1/4 cup Old Bay (low sodium okay)
1-2 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning
canola oil for frying


Rinse the fish. Place fish in single layer in a shallow bowl or tray, sprinkle a good amount of Old Bay over the fish and rub it in on both sides. Heat 1-2 inches of canola oil in large, heavy-bottomed skillet. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the cornmeal mix, 1/4 cup Old Bay, and lemon pepper. Do not add extra salt! Dredge the fish in the mixture to thoroughly coat.

Fry fish fillets in the oil, for about 4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness.

Make sure the fish is cooked through. Drain on paper towel-lined plates and serve immediately.

My thoughts:
Years ago, someone told me that the secret to super crispy fried fish was self-rising cornmeal mix. I had never bought such a thing before and always made my own mix of flour and cornmeal to make fried fish (like this) but when I saw some self-rising cornmeal mix on sale at Aldi, I picked up a bag. And you know what? It really does work! I don't know if it rose any but it really stuck to the fish while it was frying and when removing it from the pan and dishing up. Maybe it was partially the Old Bay rub that helped too? Who knows? All I know that this was some of the crispest, tastiest catfish I've had ever. And I am a catfish connoisseur.  I will say it was slightly salty (self-rising cornmeal mix has some salt in it, as does lemon pepper and Old Bay) so if you want to use low sodium Old Bay and/or lemon pepper, this is one recipe that they would work perfectly in.

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March 13, 2018

Salisbury Steak Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy


1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 1/4 lb lean ground beef
1 small onion, grated
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 onion, chopped
8 oz  crimini mushrooms, large dice/quartered
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups beef stock
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2-3 tablespoons superfine flour (like Wondra)
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt


In a medium bowl,  mix the breadcrumbs, spices, meat, grated onion, 2/3 of the garlic, salt, and pepper. Form into 3/4 inch meatballs. Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan. Cook the meatballs until quite browned on both sides and nearly cooked through.

Remove the meatballs to a plate and cover with foil. Add the chopped onion, remaining garlic and mushrooms to the pan and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the stock, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper and whisk in the flour. Return the patties to the pan and cook until the sauce has reduced and the patties are fully cooked. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
The other day someone mentioned they were going to make Salisbury Steak meatballs but when I looked at the recipe they were thinking of using, it looked...not good. Lots of ketchup, which really should never be in Salisbury Steak (it is not a tomato-y dish) and which is disgusting in general. Besides the ketchup, the recipe looked really bland.

I haven't made Salisbury Steak in ages (last year when I made this hipster Salisbury Steak with kale)  so I thought I'd try my hand at creating a tastier, more Salisbury Steak-y recipe with proper brown gravy and mushrooms. It was a little more hands-on than making traditional "steaks" and I couldn't use my mini-meatball technique because I didn't want to coat them in breadcrumbs but it the time it took to form the meatballs was made up by the fact that tiny meatballs cook up a lot faster than patties the size of my palm. My husband said he felt like they were a little moister too but who knows?

The end result was well, Salisbury Steak but in meatball form. Very savory, it hits all the nostalgic "American" food notes and is a bit quicker to make and maybe even more fun to eat than the original. If you didn't serve it over potatoes, it could even be an appetizer. I wanted it to be a full meal so I served it over a mash that was half potato and half cauliflower so I didn't feel like I needed to make a second side dish. It would also be good over egg noodles, I suspect. Or even just mashed cauliflower if that is your thing.

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March 09, 2018

Peanut Butter Irish Potato Candy

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon


In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla and confectioner's sugar, until a thick dough forms. Set aside.

Whisk together the cinnamon and cocoa in a small shallow bowl. Set aside.

Use your hands to form 1 1/2-2 inch long ovals out of the peanut mixture. Roll in the cocoa mixture to coat. Repeat for remaining peanut butter mixture. It's okay if they are a little unevenly shaped, they are supposed to look like dirty potatoes!

Store in an air-tight container up to 4 days.

Yield: about dozen candies (recipe can be doubled)

My thoughts:
Three years ago I posted a recipe I created for Irish Potato Candy a treat made in Philadelphia to coincide with St Patrick's Day. The candy isn't made with potatoes but rather is a coconut candy that is formed to look like freshly picked new potatoes. It is rarely found outside of the Philadelphia/New Jersey/Deleware area so if you live further afield, it is great to be able to make your own at home.

While I love coconut (obvi) and that candy is really delicious (especially if you took my suggestion and mixed cocoa in with the traditional cinnamon coating), at the time and in the years since I've had a few people ask if there was a coconut-free version available. Without coconut, the candy would just be a plain buttercream, which while tasty, would make for a pretty bland candy, in my opinion.

Anyway, I was thinking about making a batch of the original version when it came to me that I could easily make a peanut butter version. It was just as tasty as the original recipe but with a more crowd-pleasing peanut butter and chocolate flavoring.  I chose to keep a bit of cinnamon in the mix as a nod to the original candy but straight cocoa would work as well. Very peanut buttery and the sweetness is tempered by the dusting of cocoa and cinnamon.

Serious Eats has a behind the scenes look at the original Irish potato candy factory that is worth a read.

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March 07, 2018

Corned Beef and Cabbage Buns


3 1/2 cups bread flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 oz dry yeast
3 tablespoons cold butter, small dice
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
2 eggs, at room temperature

1 lb corned beef*, small dice
1/2 small cabbage, chopped
1 small red onion, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed

to serve:
wedges of Irish cheddar
grainy mustard


Whisk together the flour, salt, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. Add the butter, water, and milk and using a dough hook, mix until a thick dough forms. Remove to a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and allow to rise 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Meanwhile, saute the filling ingredients until the onion and cabbage are soft. Allow to cool. Remove dough from bowl and place on a clean, floured surface.

Roll the dough out in a large, 1/4 inch thick rectangle about 9x13 inches.

Sprinkle the corned beef and cabbage mixture evenly over the dough to the edges.

Roll dough into a tight log. Cut into approximately nine 1 1/2 inch thick slices. Discard the end slices if they are very small.

Place in a buttered 8x8 inch pan about 1/2 inch apart. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise again for one hour or until doubled in bulk. The buns should be touching each other.

Preheat oven to 400. Bake 20 minutes or until baked through. The edges touching the pan should be lightly browned. Cool in pan 2-5 minutes then cool on wire rack. Serve with grainy mustard for dipping. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

*I purchased an uncooked corned beef brisket and cooked it, in water for 8 hours in a slow cooker. I then cooled it and cubed it for this dish.

Note: I made the corned beef and cabbage expressly for this recipe but if you had leftovers from a previous meal, dice and saute it before rolling it into the dough.

My thoughts:
Every year when corned beef goes on sale, I stock up and freeze it to use in sandwiches (like Baltimore's own Cloak and Dagger or Reuben Sliders) and other dishes the rest of the year. I love making homemade corned beef but it takes a couple of weeks and a lot of real estate in the fridge. 

I also love making creative things out of corned beef and cabbage. It is a staple here in the US for St. Patrick's Day but not in Ireland where the holiday is also celebrated so why not make something different? My favorites have been corned beef and cabbage bao and corned beef stuffed cabbage,  but I've made a few other things over the years

We had watched a Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood Christmas special and in it, Paul Hollywood made a leftover Christmas dinner Chelsea bun with turkey, cranberry sauce and even stuffing. I loved the idea but it seemed sort of heavy what with the stuffing. I mentally filed it away and then this year, it hit me that I could make a corned beef and cabbage version! I'm so glad I did. It turned out so good, I'm already thinking of other savory buns I could make. 

Corned beef and cabbage wrapped up in a soft dough? Yes, please! Super flavorful and while time-consuming, very simple to make. It traveled very well for a workplace lunch the next day.

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March 02, 2018

6-Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies


1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cup self-rising flour
1 1/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment. In a medium-sized sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chips. Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping teaspoon of dough two inches apart (I used this scoop). Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 14 minutes. Slide them out on the parchment paper on to a wire rack and allow them to cool 1-2 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring the cookies to cool directly on the wire rack.

Yield: about 1 1/2-2 dozen cookies

My thoughts:
There is an insane wind storm out today and while normally I love my trusty Toyota Matrix, I do not love driving it out in extremely windy conditions. It's a small yet tall car and the wind really makes it feel like I am driving a toy. So when I thought I'd stay home and bake cookies today, I was momentarily flummoxed when I realized I was out of flour in my canister and my backup flour had bugs in it! Ew! It hadn't even been opened. Gross. Anyway, I thought my chocolate dreams would have to wait but then I found a bag of self-rising flour that I must have bought for some forgotten project.

I honestly don't think I've ever made anything with self-rising flour before so I thought I'd give it a try in cookies. As it turns out, it works pretty well! I feel like the cookies are a little fluffier than when I use baking powder myself but they taste basically the same! I don't know why I am so surprised but I kind of am. I've always thought it was used in savory things like biscuits but if it can be used in cookies, a whole world has opened up. These cookies came together so quickly and needed so few ingredients. Perfect for a cookie emergency!

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February 27, 2018

PB&J Hamantaschen


1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 cup peanut butter powder (I used PBFit)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

 jam (I used elderberry jam)


Preheat oven to 375. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla and egg. Add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix until smooth.

Roll the dough out onto a clean, floured surface. When the dough is about a 1/4 inch thick, cut 2 1/2-3 inch circles out of the dough using a cookie, biscuit or doughnut cutter. Place them on the prepared pans.

Spoon some jam into the middle of each circle. Fold three sides towards the center and press down to form a triangle.

Do not re-roll dough. Cut scraps into small shapes and bake as-is, if desired.

Bake 12 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

My thoughts:
Happy Purim! Another year, another kind of hamantaschen!

This year was a little fraught because I just got back from the IACP conference in NYC which was fun but tiring and my rolling pin broke while I was rolling out the cookies! Oy! I didn't manage to make a whole batch unfortunately but the ones I made were really good. What is a more classic combination than peanut butter and jelly? Of course, for hamantashen, you need to use jam not jelly but the results are just as tasty as the classic sandwich, I promise.

I used peanut butter powder (which is available nearly everywhere now!) instead of prepared peanut butter because I wanted the cookie to have that butter cookie taste and texture and it is hard to do that when using peanut butter as your fat. Peanut butter powder works more like flour so you can have that butter cookie but with the peanut butter flavor.

I wrote an article about Purim and hamantaschen for NPR a while back and since then, I've created recipes for a rugelach-inspired cream cheese based hamantaschen, chocolate hamantaschen, pareve/vegan hamantaschen filled with kiwi jam,  orange ginger hamantaschen, and pareve/vegan fig-orange hamantaschen spiked with butternut squash, and double orange hamantaschen.

Quick note: peanut butter dough is a bit more crumbly and finicky to work with than other rolled cookie dough. Roll to  1/4 inch thick and cut just once. Re-rolling the scraps is not advised. If desired, simply cut out shapes with the scraps.  Do not make the cookies too thick or they will split when you shape them.

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