Crunchy Chicken Cooks

Creating seasonal recipes that are inspired by my passion for local, organic foods

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Salted Chipotle Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I made a lot of cookies over the holidays. But these aren't your ordinary cookies. These are complex cookies with character. The kind that makes your taste buds report in waves of flavors.

First, I took a standard, chocolate chip cookie recipe that I've had success with in the past (and, more importantly, was quick - I was strapped for time). In this case, it's the Ghiradelli Chocolate Chip cookie recipe. And then I doctored it up with some spices, most notably chipotle, cinnamon and cayenne and then sprinkled some sea salt at the finish for a sweet, salty, spicy (with a hint of smoky) flavor profile.

I recommend getting Ghiradelli bittersweet bars and chopping them into chunks or you can use Scharffen Berger chocolate chunks (it ends up being cheaper than the bars). Just make sure you use good quality chocolate. I would have used Guittard, but didn't want to wrestle with chopping up the bulk chocolate. For the rest, I used all organic ingredients, house made vanilla extract and eggs from our backyard chickens.

These end up being mildly spicy. If I weren't baking these for other people (and eating them myself), I would increase the chipotle and the cayenne. So, if you like things spicy, feel free to double the cinnamon, chipotle and cayenne!

Salted Chipotle Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

2 1/4 cup unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chunks
fleur de sel (or fine sea salt)

Heat oven to 375ยบ F.

Stir flour with baking soda, salt and spices and set aside.

In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time. Mix on low speed until incorporated.

Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in chocolate chunks. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Sprinkle fleur de sel or sea salt on each unbaked cookie.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for three minutes and then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling. Then stuff into mouth.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Blackberry, Rum and Black Pepper Jam

We just ran out of homemade jam. It is quite the horror and I'm wondering if I should bust out the frozen berries to make more jam.

Last summer we didn't do as much canning as we normally do because we were out of town for almost a month during prime canning season. This year, I'm sure I'll more than make up for it, but I wanted to let you all know about my favorite jam that I've come up with so far. It's a fantastic mix of blackberries, spicy and complex flavors.

Last summer, I was trying to figure out what additional flavors would go well with blackberry and decided to give fresh ground black pepper and barrel aged rum a try. I was not at all disappointed.

Blackberry, Aged Rum and Black Pepper Jam


5 cups packed (not crushed) blackberries, preferably organic
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 package Ball (or SureJell) natural fruit pectin
7 cups sugar
1/3 cup aged rum*

Makes 9 half-pints.


Rinse and measure blackberries and add them to a large, non-reactive pot. In the meantime, sterilize 9 half-pint canning jars and lids in a water bath canner.

Heat the berries over high, adding in the grated lemon peel and blending. As the berries start to reduce, freshly grind in about 2 teaspoons black pepper on a medium or coarse grind. As the berries further reduce, gradually stir in the fruit pectin.

Bring mixture to a full boil until it cannot be stirred down. Add the entire amount of sugar and stir. Return to full boil and boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Immediately take mixture off the heat and add in the rum. Stir until the rum is well incorporated and the alcohol is cooked off from the residual heat (it will reboil when you add in the rum).

Fill your canning jars with jam, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Apply lids and process the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (adjusting for altitude as per the instructions that come with your pectin).

Remove jars and allow to cool for 12 - 24 hours and store. Assuming you don't eat it all as soon as it's cool.

*For the rum, I used Barbancourt Rhum Reserve Speciale, aged 8 years in oak.

Photo courtesy of Outdoor Blogging

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eat Your Christmas Tree

A few years back, when my 8-year-old son was an infant, my husband and I visited the (now-defunct) restaurant Cascadia in Seattle, which focused on regional and seasonal ingredients - hence the name. It was before most of my eco-nuttiness, so I wasn't nearly as in tune to the local ingredients thing, but when we went back the second time - whoa doggie - did I ever grill the waiter. Unfortunately, he didn't have many answers to my litany of questions. But I digress.

On that first visit we tried a Douglas Fir Sorbet, mostly because of the uniqueness of it. It was fantastic - one of those flavors that, although you may not want to snack on it daily - has stuck in my mind all these years. And, that's saying something given my ADD.

Anyway, last year my husband purchased a little book called Sips & Apps: Classic and Contemporary Recipes for Cocktails and Appetizers, written by a local author, and one of the cocktails included in this fabulous little gem is a Douglas Fir drink that reminded me of that sorbet from yesteryear.

So, now that you have that fresh Douglas (or Noble) Fir Christmas tree hanging around the house (and I know that you bought an unsprayed one, didn't you?), go ahead and clip a six inch section from the tree where no one will notice it missing and make yourself some Douglas Fir infused gin or vodka and get your holiday spirits on! And, don't forget, little sprigs of Douglas Fir also make for a fantastic drink garnish.

I think a fir or spruce infused gin, vodka or brandy would also make for a nice present, particularly if you hang a drink recipe around the bottleneck.

Douglas Fir Sparkletini
1 1/2 ounce Douglas Fir infused gin (see below)
3/4 ounce white cranberry juice
1 1/2 ounce fresh Lemon Sour (see below)
Splash of dry sparkling wine (preferably local)

For garnishing:
Tiny sprig of Douglas Fir
Fresh or frozen cranberry

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Measure in the infused gin, cranberry juice and lemon sour mixture. Strain into a martini glass and top with a splash of dry sparkling wine. Garnish with a fir sprig and float a cranberry in the drink.

Douglas Fir Infused Gin
1 (5-6 inch) sprig of Douglas Fir branch, rinsed
1 750ml bottle gin

Put the fir branch into the gin bottle and cap and let sit for 24 hours (do not leave it in for longer). Remove the branch and discard. The infused gin can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 year.

Fresh Lemon Sour
Makes 1 cup:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

In a small container with a lid, combine the ingredients. Cover and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Another drink idea is the Pine Needle Daiquiri. If drinking trees ain't your thang, then, by all means go ahead and eat it. Here's a tasty looking recipe: Douglas Fir & Orange Blossom Butter Cookies. And, for the serious tree snacker, check out this post: Douglas fir tips bring the flavor of the forest into the kitchen.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pickled radishes

We came back from our long vacation with a veritable crapton of radishes ready to jump out of the ground. Not too surprising, since the kids planted them a week before we left. Okay, maybe crapton of radishes is a bit of an exaggeration, but 35 radishes I cannot eat in one week.

Henry loves radishes, Emma thinks they are "too spicy", I can only eat a few as they irritate my stomach and my husband, who can plough through them, had the stomach flu last week. So, what's a gardener with a big bowl of radishes to do?

Well, during one of my many hours spent in the garden last week, I remembered an article I read in my new Hobby Farms Home magazine, Oh Yes You Can!, which is all about canning, go figure. Anyway, one of the recipes is for pickling radishes, which didn't strike me at the time as useful, but am glad I remembered it.

So, the radishes, coupled with the garlic I just pulled out of the ground (those little guys that didn't exactly make it to a full head), and some thyme from the garden went into the canning jars (after blanching said radishes and garlic). I poured the hot vinegar/salt/sugar/peppercorn solution in and let them cool before refrigerating.*

I love the combination of the garlic, radishes, pepper and thyme. Adding in the herbs really gives it an extra flavor that makes it taste more complex than just pickled radishes. Another combination that I read online was to use rice vinegar, ginger root and dill.

Since I have a bunch of beets growing for our fall garden, I'm anxious to try something similar with making pickled beets, in addition to roasting them as usual. Anyway, here's an adaptation of the recipe from the magazine. I'm not using exact measurements for stuff being pickled, just for the brine. The brine will be enough for 2 quart jars:

Quick Pickled Radishes

Garlic cloves (about 5 per quart jar, depending on how you like it)
3 thyme sprigs per quart jar

3 cups white vinegar
1 1/8 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1/4 cup water

Wash and stem the radishes, cutting the larger ones so they are all uniformly the same size. In a medium sized pot, boil water. Boil garlic until soft, remove and chill in an ice water bath. Boil radishes for 30 seconds, remove and chill in an ice water bath. While the garlic and radishes are cooling, heat the brine until boiling. Put the drained radishes, garlic and thyme sprigs in quart jars, filling about 2/3 full. Pour boiling brine mixture into the jars and seal, leaving them until they are cool.

Place jars in the refrigerator and consume within 2 - 3 weeks. The pickled radishes can be eaten as soon as they are cold, but you may want to wait a day or so for the flavors to meld.

*These would be considered refrigerator pickles (rather than canned ones) and will only last a few weeks in the refrigerator since there's no hot water bathing going on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spicy Sweet Relish

We've gone a little crazy buying pickling cucumbers. We've made some refrigerator pickles and I just finished up a batch of relish. I've adapted a sweet relish recipe that I found to make it a little more spicy and thought you guys would like to give it a whirl yourselves.

This recipe assumes you understand the basics of canning. Do not experiment with the quantities as you want to make sure you have the appropriate ratio of sugars to acids.

Spicy Sweet Relish

6 cups diced pickling cucumbers
3 cups diced peppers - you can mix it up with hot, mild or sweet depending on how spicy you want it
3 cups diced sweet onion

1/4 cup kosher salt (or pickling salt)
3 cups sugar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 T celery seed
1 T mustard seed

Mix the diced cucumbers, peppers and onion with the salt, cover and let sit for two hours to draw out the moisture. Rinse well and drain. In a stainless steel pot, bring the sugar, vinegar, celery seed and mustard seed to a boil. Add in the cucumber mixture and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Ladle hot relish into hot canning jars and water bath process for 10 minutes. Makes about 8 half-pint jars.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Indian Masala Strawberry Jam

Triple threatI love Indian Masala Chai tea and I've yammered on about making it before. So, what better way to savor the flavors of Masala but in a strawberry jam? Now, this may sound like a very unorthodox combination, but trust me, the resulting flavors are very subtle and they add just enough complexity to the jam without overpowering the strawberry flavor in any way.

Like the other jam recipes on this blog, start with the standard Ball jam recipe (this makes about 11 8-oz jars), this time for strawberry.

Strawberry Jam
5 cups crushed organic strawberries, washed and hulled
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 package pectin
7 cups sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Sterilize your jars, lids, etc. I'm not going to go into food safety techniques here - if you want more information, study the instructions that come with your pectin package.

Masala Strawberry Jam
Strawberry jam - 1 batch (see recipe above)
1 cup red wine (Pinot Noir or something similar can be used)
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
12 cardamom pods, cut in half
1/4 cup Port wine
additional fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Simmer spices in wine for 20 minutes and strain. This will reduce the wine down to about 1/4 cup. Return to the pot and add in the strawberries, lemon juice and lemon zest. Slowly add the package of pectin. I use a wooden spoon, but you can use any non-reactive implement you like. Bring the mixture to a boil on high heat and then add the sugar.

Bring this mess up to a rolling boil, wherein you can't stir down the boiling action and, most likely, are getting bombarded by spattering molten lava strawberry bits. Boil for one full minute. At the end of cooking, add the Port and more fresh cracked black pepper to taste.

Ladle into hot jars. Seal and hot process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Homemade mascarpone

I don't know about you, but I love foods made with mascarpone, even though I inevitably always mispronounce it. It's that triple-cream cheese that's used in making tiramisu and a whole host of very tasty sweet and savory Italian dishes. You can also serve it with fruit or it can be mixed with cocoa or coffee.

Unfortunately, it's also very expensive to buy, that is, if you can find it in stores. However, luckily for us, it's actually quite easy to make yourself.

Homemade mascarpone

16 ounces (not ultra-pasteurized) organic whipping cream
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the water in the skillet.

Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. It will take about 15 minutes of gentle heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. The whipping cream will become thicker and will cover the back of your spoon thickly.

When the cream reaches temperature, keep it at temperature for 5 minutes, then remove the bowl from the water and let the mixture cool for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Pour the mixture into the lined sieve. Once it is cooled completely, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate in the sieve overnight or up to 24 hours. Transfer to a sealable storage container. Or your mouth, whichever comes first.

Yield: about 12 oz

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Homemade rosolio

I'm reading another book by the same author from whom I got the Asparagi alla Milanese recipe. This one is called, Libation: A Bitter Alchemy and, no surprises here, it's about the origins of different drinks, written in a series of essays.

And wouldn't you know it, before you even hit page 50, there's already a recipe I want to try out using my roses. You see, I've already made rose jam and rose potpourri and I'm hankering to try something new. So, when I ran across the recipe for making rosolio, an Italian liqueur made with rose petals, I knew I wanted to give it a whirl. My brother is the master of making his own lemon liqueur, limoncello, and I've always wanted to try doing it. I've never had rosolio, but it sounds rather tempting and, most importantly, super easy to do. There are other recipes online for making rosolio, but this one sounds way more tasty to me.

Here's the instructions from the book (p. 37):
Pick roses at the hottest point of the day - red roses, for they will impart more color and flavor to the alcohol. (If you do not have your own rose garden, I recommend procuring your roses from a friend or a local grower so that you can be certain that the blooms have not been treated with any chemicals.)

Separate the petals from the flower. Trim the white edge at the base with a knife or scissors. Weigh out 1.75 ounces petals, then steep the petals in a jar of 190 proof (95 percent) pure grain alcohol with a vanilla bean in a large canning jar. Close the jar and set aside in a dark place for two weeks. After two weeks, strain the liquid, removing the rose petals and vanilla bean.

Prepare a simple syrup by dissolving 1 pound sugar and 3.25 cups water. Add the simple syrup to the alcohol, return the mixture to the jar, and store for another two weeks. At the end of those two weeks, filter and bottle. After your first tasting, more simple syrup can be added if desired to cut the hotness of the alcohol and suit your taste.

If you get cracking now, you'll have enough rosolio to give away for holiday gifts this year!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Asparagus with Fried Eggs

I've been busy reading this great book, In Late Winter We Ate Pears: A Year of Hunger and Love - Seasonal Recipes and Stories From an Italian Kitchen, and have already run across a couple of fantastic recipes.

Last night I started off making Asparagi alla Milanese and was delighted with the result. I'm usually not a runny fried egg sort of gal, so I cooked them a tad more thoroughly than is probably expected. I also decided to roast the asparagus rather than pan steam them.

Here's my version of the recipe:

Serving: One

2 inch thick bundle of fresh asparagus
2 to 3 teaspoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 eggs
Parmigiano Reggiano

Heat oven to 425 degrees. While the oven is heating up, snap the tough ends off the asparagus, rinse and pat dry. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt to taste. Roast in oven until cooked but still crisp (about 8 minutes).

In the meantime, heat a skillet on medium-low, adding butter when skillet is hot. Crack eggs into butter and season with salt and pepper. Heat until cooked to your preference.

Place the roasted asparagus on a plate and slide cooked eggs directly on top. Top with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and serve immediately.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lavender Honey Lemonade

During one of the stops on our trip to the Kitsap Peninsula last weekend, at the Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse, I had this great Lavender Honey Lemonade. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I found a recipe for lavender lemonade from a local lavender farm and tweaked it to recreate what I had over the weekend:

Lavender Honey Lemonade

1 cup honey
1 tablespoon dried culinary lavender (or 1/4 cup fresh lavender blossoms)
1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, strained
Ice cubes
Lavender sprigs for garnish

Combine honey with 2 1/2 cups water in a medium pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the honey.

Add the lavender to the honey water, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand at least 20 minutes (and up to several hours).

Strain mixture and discard lavender. Pour infusion into a glass pitcher. Add lemon juice and another 2 1/2 cups cold water. Stir well.

Pour into tall glasses half-filled with ice or refrigerate until ready to use.