Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Soft Pretzels

Don't let the wordiness of the steps throw you off from making this recipe—it's super-easy and takes only about 45 minutes of hands-on time! This is my version of the original from Alton Brown. After making them a couple of times, I've found some workarounds for problems I encountered with the original. These are best hot out of the oven, so stick to this amount that only makes 8 (unless there is a crowd at your house—if that’s the case, it’s an easy recipe to double). Also, I can't find pretzel salt at my store in the hood, so I just sprinkle my pretzels with kosher salt.
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Vegetable oil
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. water
Kosher or pretzel salt

1. Combine 1 1/2 cups warm water, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer; sprinkle yeast on top. Let stand 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and melted butter, and, with the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium, and beat until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Place the dough in a well-greased large bowl; cover with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place, away from drafts, for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in bulk.
2. Preheat the oven to 450°. Lightly brush two half-sheet pans with vegetable oil. Set pans aside. Bring 10 cups water and baking soda to a rolling boil in a Dutch oven.
3. Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface, and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the half sheet pan. Repeat procedure with remaining dough pieces.
4. Use a slotted spoon to lower each pretzel, one by one, into boiling water; cook for 30 seconds or until pretzel floats. Remove pretzel from water with slotted spoon, and return to baking pan. Repeat procedure with remaining pretzels. Beat egg and 1 Tbsp. water until blended; brush the top of each pretzel with egg mixture, and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 12 minutes or until dark golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Chicken-and-Sweet Potato Stew

This is my version of this stew recipe from The New Southern Garden Cookbook. The flavor combination is unusual—it’s a little Southern, a little African, and a little Asian. Whatever you call, it’s delicious, and it tastes even better as leftovers.
4 bacon slices, chopped
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. peanut or canola oil
1 onion, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. garam masala
2 cups chicken broth
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in cubes
1/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup lite coconut milk (about half a can)
1 tsp. red curry paste
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts
Hot cooked rice
Toppings: additional chopped peanuts; chopped fresh cilantro; cooked, crumbled bacon

1. Cut chicken into cubes, and season with salt and pepper.
2. Cook bacon in Dutch oven until browned and crispy; remove bacon from pot, and set aside to use as a garnish. Sauté chicken in bacon drippings for about 5 minutes or until pieces are lightly browned on all sides. Remove from pot, and set aside.
3. Heat peanut oil in Dutch oven. Sauté onion and next 3 ingredients in pot for 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in flour and garam masala, and cook 1 minute. Gradually add in chicken broth, scraping bottom of pot to remove browned bits and cooking until mixture begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Stir in chicken and sweet potatoes, and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Stir in peanut butter and next 3 ingredients. Cook 5 more minutes or until thoroughly heated. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Serve over hot cooked rice and with toppings.