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Truffle and Brie Potato Croquettes

May 25, 2013

April, and then May and soon to be June, showers make me crave comfort food. There’s just something about mashed potatoes  that makes a full week of rainy/gloomy weather a little less miserable. Enter Truffle and Brie Potato Croquettes, a fried and fancified version of mashed potatoes. I got the fantastic idea to make truffle croquettes from my friend Dan, who works in the kitchen at Parish Hall in Brooklyn; check it out for a truly amazing restaurant experience.

Fried mashed potatoes. Best. Snack. Ever.

Fried mashed potatoes. Best. Snack. Ever.

Croquettes are basically fried up little cylinders of mashed potatoes. I’ve eaten the majority of my croquettes in tapas bars across Spain, usually as cod croquettes, but they’re popular throughout the rest of the world, sometimes stuffed with meat or veggies. You can put whatever you want into these and I obviously wanted to stuff mine with cheese- in this case Brie. The tangy brie pairs so well with the musky earthy truffle. I used a combination of truffle oil and truffle salt to achieve the iconic taste, but you can also sub in some truffle butter for the oil. If at this point in my post you’re judging me for using truffle oil, let’s be real, when beautiful black truffles fit in my budget I don’t think I’m going to be tossing them into my potato croquettes. Just saying.

In this version I used my stand mixer to puree the potatoes so that they’re super light and supple (strange requirements, yes, but it all adds to the general velvety deliciousness of the potatoes). It’s more the delicate French-style of pommes puree than the traditional American chunky, rustic mashed potatoes that we all know and love. Here’s a video showing the stand mixer process. If you don’t have a stand mixer or the patience, just mash up potatoes in your usual fashion, stick them in the fridge and re-join my recipe after I pull the potatoes out of the fridge.

Truffle and Brie Potato Croquettes
Yield: about 50 croquettes

2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes), peeled and cubed
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons truffle oil
Kosher salt
4 ounces brie cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 cup AP flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs, seasoned with truffle salt and ground pepper
Canola oil
Truffle salt

Put potatoes in a medium pot and cover with water, then cover the pot. Over medium heat, bring the pot to a simmer and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 20 minutes.

Potatoes in mixer. Check.

Potatoes in mixer. Check.

Drain the potatoes and put them in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. While the potatoes are still warm, start mixing on a low speed, gradually increasing it until they are broken down into pea-size pieces. Switch the paddle attachment out for the whisk attachment. While the whisk is moving at a low speed, add in the milk and then the truffle oil and continue mixing until you reach a smooth consistency. Season with some salt and mix thoroughly. Spread the potatoes out on a sheet tray and let them cool completely in the fridge, about 30 minutes.

Super supple, creamy and rich potatoes. Check.

Super supple, creamy and rich potatoes. Check.

Scoop a tablespoon of mashed potatoes and gently roll into a cylinder shape with your hands. Then poke a hole partway through the middle of the potato cylinder. Place in a bit of Brie. This is going to be messy, just go with it. I like to enlist the help of others at this point (A big thank-you to Dean who helped me create these puppies). Rolling out 50+ croquettes can get a little tedious so have one person rolling out the croquettes and have another fill them with your little bites of Brie makes life a lot better. Just a heads up, you will probably eat a lot of the Brie during this portion– this is respectable and even encouraged. You may want to take this a step further and wash it all down with a glass (or 4) of wine.

After a while this almost becomes therapeutic.

After a while this almost becomes therapeutic.

After all of your croquettes are pretty and filled with cheese, start the breading process. Dip a croquette into the flour, then the egg wash and finally coat with the seasoned breadcrumbs. Repeat for the remaining croquettes. (I also like to work with the buddy system on this step to avoid creating a huge mess on your fingers. It’ll still be messy but this will help.)

Rows and rows of what will soon become a delicious and addicting snack.

Rows and rows of what will soon become a delicious and addicting snack.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees F. Drop a few croquettes in at a time– don’t overcrowd the pan. Fry until golden brown and the potatoes are heated through, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the croquettes from the oil. Season immediately with some truffle salt. Repeat until all of the croquettes are cooked. Then, dig in.

Done! All of this effort was sooo worth it.

Done! All of this effort was sooo worth it.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

April 13, 2013

Everything tastes better in single-serving cupcake form (thank you Buzzfeed for collecting all of these mouth-watering ideas that I cannot stop looking at) especially cake. I had a request for carrot cake from a friend who was in town for a few days–  Dean gets all the credit for this fantastic idea– and my lack of a cake pan combined with my love of adorable single servings led me to create these carrot cake cupcakes. They’re delicious; just do it and then devour them.

Carrot Cake Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot Cake Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting

A few words on the fat you choose while baking: oil will make a dense, but moist cakes (perfect for biting into without crumbling apart) and butter will make a lighter, richer cake (think Devil’s Food Cakes that have the perfect crumble as you stick your fork in it).

So much deliciousness.

So much deliciousness.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield:about 18 cupcakes

Cook’s Note: You may remember from my Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cupcake recipe, but there is a correct way of measuring flour and you should learn how to do it.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes:
2 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
One 7-ounce container Greek yogurt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 lemon, zested
3 cups shredded carrot, about one 10-ounce bag pre-shredded
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, plus more to garnish

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
4 ounces cream cheese
1 ounce unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon, juiced

Rows and rows of carrot cake cupcake happiness.

Rows and rows of carrot cake cupcake happiness.

For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, add the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use a whisk to thoroughly combine the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the yogurt, granulated sugar, oil, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs and lemon zest. On a low speed, mix to combine the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet a little bit at a time, mixing as you go. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and make sure everything is mixed together. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold in the shredded carrots and nuts.

Fill the prepared muffin tin three-quarters of the way to the top. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown on top and completely cooked through, about 45 minutes. You’ll know they’re cooked when you tap the top and it bounces back a little bit. Cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Add the lemon juice to taste. Mix until it forms a semi-loose frosting; if your frosting gets too watery, add more powdered sugar until you achieve the correct consistency.

Using a spoon or a small offset spatula, frost all of the cupcakes. Garnish with the reserved chopped nuts. Now eat and enjoy. I won’t judge if you stuff your face right now.

NOMNOMNOM

NOMNOMNOM

Easy Cheesy Arancini

March 1, 2013

Arancini are Italian fried rice balls, usually filled with meat or cheese, and make a delicious side dish or appetizer depending on how big or small you make them. I usually add whatever smallish-size food I have in the house to the rice, like peas, chopped up crispy bacon or pancetta. And I like to fill them with cheese that melts down creamy and stringy, like mozzarella and fontina.

Cheesy, gooey happiness in a ball of fried rice. You're welcome.

Cheesy, gooey happiness in a ball of fried rice. You’re welcome.

My arancini feature Wheat Thin breadcrumbs on the outside and Easy Cheese (yes, that’s the stuff that comes in the spray can) on the inside because I entered these puppies into a recipe contest at the ad agency Digitas for their client Mondelez (who own the Kraft and Nabisco brands). Although I didn’t win the recipe contest, I made it into the top 10 out of more than 100 other recipes, not too bad for my first go at the recipe contest world. This version is delicious but feel free to substitute the Wheat Thins with Italian or plain breadcrumbs and the cheese with anything else you’re in the mood for (a small cube of mozzarella works really well here).

A note on Easy Cheese: I love this stuff. Sorry I’m not sorry. Hand me a gorgeous block of fresh artisanal goat cheese with ashy veins running throughout and I’ll go to town with a piece of bread and a bottle of wine. But nothing really beats indulging in the occasional cheese-product, whether it’s straight up on a cracker or in a queso dip. Now onto the recipe.

Leaning Tower of Cheeza. Thank you Goofy Movie.

Leaning Tower of Cheeza. Thank you Goofy Movie.

Easy Cheesy Arancini
Yield: 16 arancini

3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup thawed frozen peas
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Easy Cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 1/2 cups Wheat Thin breadcrumbs (about 3 cups whole Wheat Thins)
Canola oil, for frying

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Bring the broth and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the rice, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until tender, 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and mix in the peas. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Spread the rice on the baking sheet and cool completely in the refrigerator, 30 minutes.DSC_0226

Combine the mozzarella and Easy Cheese in a bowl, set aside.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then stir in the cooled rice, parmesan and 2/3 cup of the Wheat Thin crumbs. Pack a 1/4 cup measuring cup with the rice mixture. Take half of the rice mixture and make a patty with it. Make a little indent in the middle of the rice patty. Place 1 teaspoon of the cheese mixture in the indent you created. Place the remaining rice that you measured out on top of the first to create a ball of rice, encasing the cheese. Repeat for the remaining rice balls.

It's messy, but worth it!

It’s messy, but worth it!

Heat 3 inches of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees F.

Put the remaining breadcrumbs in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Roll the rice balls in the crumbs to coat completely and place on a sheet tray. Allow the rice balls to rest in the refrigerator while the oil heats up.DSC_0232

Working in batches, fry the balls until golden brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Immediately after removing from the oil, sprinkle salt over the top of the arancini. Serve immediately.

They look so fancy you wouldn't even guess that my arancini are made with Wheat Thins and Easy Cheese.

They look so fancy you wouldn’t even guess that my arancini are made with Wheat Thins and Easy Cheese.

Cook’s Notes: You can also make this with 3 cups pre-cooked rice, as long as it’s very sticky. Chinese or Japanese takeout leftovers would be perfect for this.

If you’re making this recipe ahead of time, undercook the arancini slightly and cool completely. Reheat them in a 350 degrees F oven until hot through, 10 to 15 minutes.

Cheesy Love at Big Love

February 14, 2013

Yes people, these are chocolate-chocolate chip cheesecake cupcakes with a mocha ganache. Ridiculous? Possibly. Delicious? Definitely.

So many layers of happiness in this cupcake.

So many layers of happiness in this cupcake.

Instead of throwing a big birthday party for himself, my yoga instructor and friend Jason (here’s his website and Rate My Burn pages) decided to put together a fundraiser/birthday bash for one of my favorite organizations, God’s Love We Deliver. What’s more appropriate for Valentine’s Day than showing love for an amazing cause and an amazing person? Absolutely nothing. (Take note every single person complaining about the holiday, and recognize that showing love on Valentine’s Day isn’t and shouldn’t be restricted to the person you may or may not be dating.)

Jason worked so hard putting together the Big Love Birthday and raised so much money and awareness for a fantastic cause, that I thought I would repay his kindness the only way I know how: cheesy, chocolate-y love.

Cheesy, chocolate-y love.

Cheesy, chocolate-y love.

For those of you not familiar with God’s Love We Deliver, it is a nonprofit that prepares and delivers nourishing meals to those suffering from life-altering diseases. When I was in culinary school and had a day off from class or my job as a line cook at The Meatball Shop, I would volunteer in the GLWD kitchen with some really amazing people. Everyone has a different reason for heading down to the kitchen; peeling and chopping almost infinite pounds of carrots and parsnips would be an intimidating task for any cook, but all of the volunteers step into the kitchen with a positive attitude and turn a mundane task into a laughter-filled morning. It’s such an inspiring atmosphere, especially at the crack of dawn on a Friday. If you’ve never been to GLWD sign up for a few hours of volunteering. If you can’t sign up, donate to the cause– Jason has almost reached his $5,000 donation goal and you can help! Here’s a convenient link to Jason’s donation page.

These cupcakes remind me of Jason because he’s sweet, silly,  a little over the top and filled with energy. Thus ends my sugar-coated, cheesy tribute to Jason and GLWD, and begins my cheesy and sweet recipe.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cupcakes with Mocha Ganache Frosting

DSC_0223Yield: 24 cupcakes
Special Equipment: 24 cupcake liners

Cheesecake Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch fine salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Cupcake Batter:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 cups prepared instant espresso, cooled
2 large eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons white vinegar

Mocha Ganache Frosting:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons instant espresso

Cook’s Notes: You can attempt to do this without the cupcake liners (I did the first time I tested out this recipe because I have a weird aversion to them), but even if you spray the tin with nonstick cooking spray, the cupcakes will stick to the side. Then you will cry and have to eat all of the cupcakes that you break in half. When you’re too full to eat anymore, but you still have cupcakes stuck in the tin, I suggest you pop them all into the freezer and chill until pretty much frozen solid, about 3 hours. At this point you’ll be able to stick a paring knife (your pan might suffer some scratches) down the sides and completely around the cupcakes. Then pry out the cupcakes with the knife.

Also, there is a correct way of measuring flour which is how I always measure flour and how you should measure it if you want this recipe to come out correctly. Check out this video to learn how to do it.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.

For the cheesecake filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, sugar, salt and egg. Mix on a low speed until thoroughly combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and hold in the refrigerator until ready to use.

For the cupcake batter: In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Mix thoroughly with a whisk. In a medium bowl, combine the espresso, eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla and vinegar. Mix thoroughly with a whisk. Add the dry mixture to the (clean) bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. On a low speed, add the wet mixture to the dry mixture a little at a time until fully incorporated. The batter will be very wet and look wrong. It’s not. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, making sure that everything is combined.

Looks wrong, but tastes so right.

Looks wrong, but tastes so right.

Fill the cupcake liners halfway with the chocolate batter. Then spoon 1 flattened tablespoon of the cheesecake filling into the middle of each cupcake liner. Top with more chocolate batter, until the liners are just below full (a little more than three-quarters of the way full).

Bake the cupcakes until hard on top and completely cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool on racks completely before even thinking about frosting them, about 1 hour.

For the mocha ganache: Fill a small pot with about 2 inches of water. Bring the water to a boil. Place a bowl over the top of the pot to create a double boiler, making sure that the bowl isn’t touching the water. Add the chocolate, heavy cream and espresso, stirring until the chocolate is completely melted, about 4 minutes. Take the bowl off of the heat and let it rest and thicken, 5 minutes. Dip the cooled cupcake tops into the ganache, coating completely. Let the ganache cool and harden completely in the fridge, about 1 hour.

Then, enjoy!!

DSC_0188

I hope you know what to do with the leftovers. It involved finding and then eating anything and everything in your house that could potentially be covered in ganache.

Cold Snap Cabbage Soup

February 10, 2013

The combination of a several-week-long cold snap and the recent blizzard Nemo has chilled me straight to the bone. A hearty quick veggie soup is the perfect way to warm up. I know it looks like there is no cheese in this soup, but there is: I tossed some Parmigiano Reggiano rinds (along with lemon peel and some sprigs of fresh parsley) to give my store-bought veggie stock lots of flavor while the soup cooked.

DSC_0155

I love kitchen-sink soups like this because I tossed in anything that has been sitting around in my house for too long, like the beans I added in at the end. Feel free to substitute in leftover cooked or uncooked pasta. (Add in cooked pasta right before you’re about to serve the soup, just to warm it up but not overcook. Add in uncooked pasta and cook to al dente, about 7 minutes before serving.) If you’re using long pasta like spaghetti, cut it up into bite-size pieces before you add it in for a slurp-free, work-appropriate soup.

Cook’s Note: Purple cabbage gives this soup its awesome coloring, but you can use any other kind of cabbage that’s available.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings (about 3 quarts)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus some leaves to garnish
1 lemon, zest peeled with a vegetable peeler and juiced
1 small head purple or white cabbage, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
8 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
One 2- to 3-inch Parmegiano Reggiano rind
2 cups soaked and cooked white beans

Special equipment: kitchen twine

Heat the olive oil with the red pepper flakes in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add in the garlic and onions and saute until cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Using kitchen twine, tie the parsley and peeled lemon zest into a bundle, set aside for later use.

When the onions are cooked, add in the cabbage and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add in the carrots and celery and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

Add in the parsley bundle, stock and cheese rind. Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes.

Right before serving, stir in the cooked beans and lemon juice. Cook until the beans are just heated through. Remove and discard the parsley and cheese rind. Garnish with some chopped parsley and serve.DSC_0172

Mini Calzones, Super Snacks

February 2, 2013

In preparation for the Super Bowl Beyonce’s concert and the Puppy Bowl, I am preparing lots of super snacks like Bier Cheese and even some non-dairy items that don’t really have a place here on this blog. But the super star of my super bowl? Mini calzones.

I’ve had a leftover container of Pillsbury Grands! biscuits in my fridge since the holidays (you don’t want to know which holiday though, let’s just say a questionable amount of time) and I am not about to sit around and eat a batch of biscuits by myself. (It’s been done, but my jeans don’t really have the room to handle that.) So, after seeing a commercial for Grands! Unsloppy Joes  I decided to step outside of the biscuit mold and make some mini calzones for my Super Bowl festivities.

The cheese and broccoli combination in almost any form (omelettes, calzones, etc.) makes me super happy so that’s what I’ve filled mine with, but feel free to mix and match with marinara sauce, pepperoni or chopped cooked spinach (wrung out in a clean kitchen towel) or whatever else you are in the mood for. I would stay away from water-dense veggies like mushrooms because they, like cooked spinach when not wrung out in a towel, will make your calzones mushy on the inside.

Golden brown on the outside, warm cheesiness on the inside.

Golden brown on the outside, warm cheesiness on the inside.

Yield: 16 mini calzones

2 packages Grands! Biscuits
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 pound shredded low-moisture mozzarella
1 pound frozen broccoli, thawed and drained
1 egg, beaten
Marinara sauce, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Separate all of the biscuits and roll them out on a floured (clean) surface. You can use a rolling pin, but I found it just as easy (and way more therapeutic) to squash the biscuit with the palm of my hand and then gently stretch it out. Seriously either way works, I just like squashing things. Each biscuit will stretch out to about a 5 1/2-inch diameter, but it’s ok if they’re a bit smaller.

Next, set up an assembly line of your fillings and egg wash.  On the half of the dough closest to you, place 1 tablespoon of the cheese down and spread it out, leaving a little bit of space around the outside edge of the dough. Then top the cheese with some broccoli (I could usually fit about 4 florets) and finish with another tablespoon of cheese on top.

Yes it's a bit tedious, but so is a 4-hour football game with no snacks.

Yes it’s a bit tedious, but so is a 4-hour football game with no snacks.

Using your finger or a pastry brush, line the outside edge of the dough with the egg wash. Fold the dough over on itself to create a half-moon shape. Push down the edges and make sure that there are no openings. Repeat with the remaining calzones.

DSC_0138

Bake in several batches (depending on your oven size) until golden brown on the outside and warmed through on the inside, 15 minutes. Serve with whatever you like, but I like to go traditional and serve my calzones with warm marinara sauce.

Picky Stuffed Peppers

January 24, 2013
IMG_1693

My friend Lindsay is a self-proclaimed picky eater and these peppers are a win in her book.

I’m a big fan of stuffed vegetables generally (check out my Stuffed Eggplant recipe) and these stuffed peppers are a health-conscious option without losing my essential ingredient, cheese.

This is a great weeknight meal, but takes a while to cook in the oven. For the fastest dinner possible, prepare the peppers the night before, and keep them covered in the refrigerator until dinner time. Take them out of the fridge while you preheat the oven to bring them back to room temperature.

1 pound ground turkey
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small zucchini, finely chopped
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
One 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes or your favorite marinara sauce
3 bell peppers, halved lengthwise and stems and core removed
One 8-ounce package low-moisture mozzarella, such as Polly-O, thinly sliced

IMG_1689

Cook’s Notes: I like to keep a batch of cooked brown rice in my fridge to add to my meals throughout the week. If you don’t have enough time to cook the brown rice before you add it to the mix, buy some pre-cooked rice.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the turkey, onion zucchini, rice, feta, garlic and spinach. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper.

Spread about one-quarter of the crushed tomatoes on the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Fill the pepper halves with the turkey mixture and place them in the baking pan. Pour the remaining crushed tomatoes over the stuffed peppers.

Cook the stuffed peppers in the oven until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and turn on the broiler. Top each with slices of mozzarella and return the pan to the oven. Cook until the mozzarella is melted and slightly browned, about 10 minutes.

You’re probably really hungry by this point, but let the peppers rest for 5 minutes before digging in. Serve with the tomato sauce from the bottom of the pan.IMG_1691

Yield: 4 to 6 servings