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August 2010

Easy Parmesan Cheese Straws

Parmesan Cheese Straws  


  I like to make a bunch of these ahead of time and keep the “straws” in the freezer until I need them. They make a great appetizer or serve them with your favorite pasta recipe. 


½ box Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry (1 sheet), thawed on the counter for 10 minutes

2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, (or Asiago) about 1 cup

¼ teaspoon table salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon paprika (optional)


1.     Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Place the puff pastry on a sheet of parchment and sprinkle it with 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Place another sheet of parchment over the top and, using a rolling pin, press the cheese into the dough by gently rolling the pin back and forth. Without removing the parchment, carefully flip the dough over, cheese-side down. Remove the top layer of parchment and repeat with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Measure the piece of dough and continue to roll it out to a 10 1/2-inch square, if necessary.

2.    Remove the top sheet of parchment. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into fourteen 3/4-inch-wide strips (see photos below). Gently twist each strip of dough and then transfer it to the prepared baking sheets, spacing the strips about 1 inch apart.

To Store: Wrap each baking sheet tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or transfer to the freezer for up to 1 month. (After the straws are completely frozen, about 4 hours, they can be transferred to a zipper-lock bag to save space in the freezer. Transfer back to a parchment-lined baking sheet before baking.)

To bake: Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 425 degrees. When the oven is ready, remove the baking sheets from the refrigerator or freezer, unwrap, and bake the straws until fully puffed and golden brown, 8 to 13 minutes, switching and rotating the trays halfway through the baking time. Let the straws cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving. (The cheese straws, completely cooled, can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.) 

  Parmesan cheese straws dough

Parmesan cheese straws twist

Parmesan cheese straws cooling

Savory Chicken Mushroom Vol-Au-Vent

Chicken Vol au Vent 

I first had this dish when I was about 11 years old and thought it seemed so fancy.  It’s basically just a more elegant version of chicken pot pie, but it does make an impressive entrée. Vol-au-vent (French for “flying in the wind” to describe its lightness) is a small hollow case or box of puff pastry. Round is the traditional shape for vol-au-vent, but you can make any shape you like. (Or buy the premade shells from Pepperidge Farm.)

Serves 8   Download Chicken vol-au-vent recipe

2 sheets puff pastry {13”x9”}, purchased (Dufour if you can find it) or homemade

1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper

5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

16 white mushrooms, stems trimmed flat, quartered

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

3 ½ cups chicken stock

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

18 pearl onions, trimmed and peeled

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons chopped chervil

 1. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Cut chicken into 1” pieces. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until the foam subsides. Brown the chicken lightly on both sides, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer the chicken to medium saucepan.

2. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan. When the butter begins to brown add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the mushrooms are lightly golden, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, thyme, scraping up any browned bits off the skillet bottom; turn the heat to high, bring to a simmer, and cook until reduced by about half, 2-3 minutes.  Pour the mushrooms over the chicken.

3. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet and return to medium heat until melted. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until incorporated, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in chicken stock and bring to simmer, then continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens, about 1-2 minutes.

4. Add the onions to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes until they are tender.

5. Stir in the Dijon mustard and cream, add chicken and mushroom mixture; season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a quick boil and turn off the heat. Up to this point, the filling can be made up to two days in advance and then re-warmed to serve. 

To make the vol-au-vents:

1. Use a sharp knife to cut each sheet of the chilled puff pastry into 8 equal rectangles, about 4 1/2” x 3”. Cut a smaller rectangle out of the center of 8 rectangles, leaving a 1/2 inch border all around so it looks like a picture frame. 

2.  Line up the 8 uncut rectangles on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Place the rectangles cut from the centers alongside. Brush them lightly with egg wash.

3. Place the “pictures frames” on top of the egg washed large rectangles, lining up the outside edges. Brush the picture frame lightly with egg wash. Use a fork to prick the center of the frame well. This will keep the center from over puffing and allow the sides of the box to rise above. Chill for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the chilled vol-au-vent directly into the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the dough starts to puff and turn golden. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and continue to bake 10 to 15 minutes until very golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and press down the centers of the vol-au-vent and place on individual serving plates.

5. Fold the chopped chervil into the filling and spoon into the center of the vol-au-vents. Top with the puffed center rectangles and serve.

Vol au Vent sauteed chicken mushrooms 

 Chicken Vol au vent sauce


Classic Chewy Chocolate Brownies

Brownies plate 

Classic Chewy Chocolate Brownies

Culinary historians have traced the first cake “brownie” to the 1906 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, edited by Fannie Merritt Farmer. This recipe is an early, less rich and chocolaty version of the brownie we know today, utilizing two squares of melted Baker’s chocolate. Food historians don’t know if Fanny Farmer obtained the recipe from another source, printed it as is or adapted it, or provided the name. The second recipe, appearing in 1907, was in Lowney’s Cook Book, written by Maria Willet Howard and published by the Walter M. Lowney Company of Boston. Ms. Howard, a protégé of Ms. Farmer, added an extra egg and an extra square of chocolate to the Boston Cooking-School recipe, creating a richer, more chocolaty brownie

Be sure to test for doneness before removing the brownies from the oven. If underbaked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it), the texture of the brownies will be dense and gummy; if overbaked (the toothpick comes out completely clean), the brownies will be dry and cakey.

Download Classic Chewy Chocolate Brownies

1 cup flour

½ teaspoon table salt

¾ teaspoon baking powder

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into six 1-inch pieces

2 ¼ cups sugar (15 3/4 ounces)

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325°F. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13- by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2.  Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

3. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost--simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.)

4. When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs one at time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.

5. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, and then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

Brownie butter chocolate

Brownie melted chocolate

Brownie batter bowl

Brownie batter pan

Brownies baked

Easy Coconut Cupcakes with Buttercream

Coconut Cupcake 1  

My friend Rosie asked for Coconut Cupcakes for her birthday and I was happy to oblige. This is an easy recipe, and delivers a moist, tender cupcake. Processing the coconut with the flour adds great coconut flavor to the cupcakes.  

Download Easy Coconut Cupcakes recipe

Easy Coconut Cupcakes

1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 ½ ounces)

1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon table salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature

½ cup sour cream

1 large egg, room temperature

2 large egg yolks, room temperature

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ teaspoon coconut extract

 1.    Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin/cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.

 2.    Place flour and coconut in food processor and process for 30 seconds and transfer to bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment.

 3.     Whisk together the coconut-flour mixture, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and extracts; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain.

 4.    Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin using 2-ounce ice cream scoop or heaping tablespoon. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes. Use skewer or paring knife to lift cupcakes from tin and transfer to wire rack; cool cupcakes to room temperature, about 45 minutes.

 Easy Buttercream for Coconut Cupcakes

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar

Pinch table salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon coconut extract

1 ½ tablespoons heavy cream

Sweetened Flaked Coconut for topping

1.    In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add confectioners' sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds.

2.    Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl, add extracts and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

3.    Press flaked coconut into each cupcake 

Coconut Cupcake batter

Coconut Cupcakes Group 3
Coconut Cupcakes Dozen 1

Traditional Chicken Kiev


 I was recently in St Petersburg Russia and had a great lunch at Tsar Restaurant (note: avoid bottled water, each one cost $25). I decided to try the Chicken Kiev, which was pretty common on the restaurant menus in St. Petersburg, and it seemed so “Russian” (though I later discovered that it’s not).  Chicken Kiev is actually French in origin. Russian aristocracy became very interested in French cuisine in the 1700s and they would send their Russian chefs to France to train or bring French chefs into Russia. A French chef called Nicolas Francois Appert invented Chicken Kiev in the early 1800s.. Appert's invention became famous and Russian chefs tried to imitate Chicken Kiev, calling the dish "cotelettes de volaille" instead of Chicken Kiev. Early restaurants in New York City changed the name back to Chicken Kiev, in an attempt to attract the new Russian immigrants and this name stuck. Traditionally, it is deep fried in oil, but I found a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen that achieves the same crisp coating without the frying.


Download Traditional Chicken Kiev recipe

Herb Butter

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened

1tablespoon minced shallot

1tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon leaves

1tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3/8 teaspoon table salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper



4 – 5 slices white sandwich bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (7 to 8 ounces each), tenderloins removed

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard



1. For the Herb Butter: Mix butter, shallot, herbs, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in medium bowl with rubber spatula until thoroughly combined. Form into 3-inch square on plastic wrap; wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.


2. For the Chicken: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 300 degrees. Add half of bread cubes to food processor and pulse until cubes are coarsely ground, about sixteen 1-second pulses. Transfer crumbs to large bowl and repeat with remaining bread cubes (you should have about 3 1/2 cups crumbs). Add 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to bread crumbs. Add oil and toss until crumbs are evenly coated. Spread crumbs on rimmed baking sheet and bake until golden brown and dry, about 25 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. Let cool to room temperature (you should have about 2 1/2 cups bread crumbs).


3. Prepare cutlets: Starting on thinnest side, butterfly breast by slicing lengthwise almost in half. Open breast up to create a single, flat cutlet. With cutlet between sheets of plastic wrap, pound (starting at center) to 1/4-inch thickness. Pound the outer perimeter to 1/8 inch.


4. Unwrap butter and cut into 4 rectangular pieces. Place chicken breast cut side up on work surface; season both sides with salt and pepper. Place 1 piece of butter in center of bottom half of breast. Roll bottom edge of chicken over butter, then fold in sides and continue rolling to form neat, tight package, pressing on seam to seal. Repeat with remaining butter and chicken. Refrigerate chicken, uncovered, to allow edges to seal, about 1 hour.


4. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Place flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in separate pie plates or shallow dishes. Season flour with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; season bread crumbs with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add mustard to eggs and whisk to combine. Dredge 1 chicken breast in flour, shaking off excess, then coat with egg mixture, allowing excess to drip off. Coat all sides of chicken breast with bread crumbs, pressing gently so that crumbs adhere. Place on wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet. Repeat flouring and breading of remaining chicken breasts.


5. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chicken (from top) registers 160 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes on wire rack before serving.

Tsar Restaurant, St. Petersburg - 


Tsar restaurant st petersburg