Ultimate Oven Fries

oven-fries

“The savings in calories and fat are no reason to eat an oven fry – it has to taste good.”

This is the quote from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, and I agree completely.  If you’re a food aficianado and not a regular reading of Cook’s Illustrated, it really would be worth your while to buy an issue and read it through.  I’m constantly amazed by the writing, and I’ve never seen anything like it.  They won’t just give you a recipe, they’ll tell you exactly how they tested the recipe, and what factors needed to be in place to really make it work.  It’s an invaluable magazine for the day when you truly want to understand what’s happening in the kitchen, and why your food works.  Or, perhaps, why it doesn’t.

Like most people, we enjoy comfort foods.  Oven-fries are a great option to accompany burgers and chicken, and this recipe delivers a crunchy crust with a creamy smooth interior, the sort of fries that melt in your mouth and make you smile.  Even my daughters decided they tasted pretty good, which means I’m going to have to begin buying more potatoes.  That’s the kind of problem I like to have.

The content below is as it appears in the magazine.  Give this one a try, and enjoy!

Take care to cut the potatoes into evenly sized wedges so that all of the pieces will cook at about the same rate.  Although it isn’t required, a non-stick baking sheet works particularly well for this recipe.  It not only keeps the fries from sticking to the pan, but, because of its dark color, encourages deep and even browning.  Whether you choose a nonstick baking sheet or a regular baking sheet, make sure that it is heavy duty.  The intense heat of the over may cause lighter pans to warp.

Ingredients:

  • 3 russet potatoes (about 8 ounces each), peeled, each potato cut lengthwise into 10 to 12 evenly sized wedges
  • 5 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Adjust oven rack to lowest position; heat oven to 475 degrees F.  Place potatoes in large bowl and cover with very hot tap water; soak 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, coat 18 x 12-inch heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with 4 tablespoons oil, and sprinkle evenly with the 3/4 teaspoon salt and and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Set aside.

Drain potatoes.  Spread potatoes out on triple layer of paper towels and thoroughly pat dry with additional paper towels.  Rinse and wipe out now-empty bowl; return potatoes to bowl and toss with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.  Arrange potatoes in single layer on prepared baking sheet; cover tightly with foil and bake 5 minutes.  Remove foil and continue baking until bottoms of potatoes are spotty golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating baking sheet after 10 minutes.  Using metal spatula and tongs, scrape to loosen potatoes from pan, then flip each wedge, keeping potatoes in a single layer.  Continue baking until fries are golden and crisp, 5 to 15 minutes longer, rotating pan as needed if fries are browning unevenly.

Transfer fries to second baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, if necessary, and serve.

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Cranberry Scones

 cranberry-scones

One of Cath’s coworkers surprised her with a holiday treat of organic, dried cranberries, and they were the inspiration for this simple, delicious treat.  It was less than 30 minutes of preparation and baking, and we enjoyed a tasty scone as the ending treat for a delicious meal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 tbsp chilled butter
  • 1/4 cup dried, organic cranberries
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half (as always, we used our in-house stache of fat free half-and-half)
  • 1 tbsp half-and-half
  • 2 tsp sugar

Preparation:

Place dried cranberries in a small bowl, and add very hot water, just to cover.  Allow berries to plump for 10-15 minutes.

Combine flour, the 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.  Cut in butter.  Stir in plumped cranberries.  Combine egg and 1/2 cup half-and-half; add to dry mixture.  Stir just until moistened.

Turn dough onto a floured surface.  Knead 12 to 15 strokes, or till nearly smooth.  Pat or lightly roll into a circle approximately 12 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch in thickness.  (When in doubt, the thickness is most important.)  Cut into 12 wedges using knife or pizza cutter.

Place scones 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  Brush tops with 1 tablespoon half-and-half; sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or till golden.  Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve warm.

Raspberry Balsamic Glazed Chicken Skewers

Raspberry Balsamic Glazed Chicken Skewers 

Ah, somedays running out of time can be a blessing.  We hosted an Dinner by Appetizer for some friends who were visiting from out of town, and we created a number of tasty appetizers, beginning with roasted red pepper dip, crab dip, and various crostini, and worked our way up to a few meatier creations including Tuscano salami and cheeses.  The finishing dish was to be our adaptation of the Cooking Light magazine recipe for Raspberry Balsamic Glazed Chicken.  I’d been reading about Satay dishes for some time, and this seemed like a great candidate to modify to create party finger-food.  Anyway, I spaced out the appetizers so that I could keep bringing waves of new tastes throughout the night, which was perfect except that everyone was basically stuffed before I could cook the chicken and put this last dish on the buffet.  As I mentioned at the start, it was a stroke of good luck for us, as we were able to enjoy this delicious taste for dinner tonight instead.  Winner!

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 4 (4 ounce) skinned, boned chicken breast halves
  • 1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Wooden skewers, approximately 16

Preparation

Wrap one chicken breast between two sheets (or one folded sheet) of plastic wrap.  With a heavy mallet or rolling pin, pound to uniform thickness  of approximately 1/2 inch.  Slice chicken breast into strips about 1 inch wide, 4 per breast.  Repeat with each chicken breast. 

Thread one strip onto a wooden skewer, so that one half the skewer is chicken, and the other half is bare.  When all chicken has been threaded onto skeweres, sprinkle the salt, the pepper, and half the thyme evenly over the chicken.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Coat a small sauce pan with the cooking spray, and heat over medium-high heat on stove.  Add onion, saute gently for 5 minutes.  Add remainder of thyme, stir and saute 1 minute.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Add preserves and vinegar, stirring constantly until the preserves melt.  Set aside.

Heat grill pan on stove over medium-high heat.  Brush extra virgin olive oil evenly over each piece of chicken, place on grill pan.  Grill until brown carmelization appears on underside, then turn and repeat.  Remove from grill pan (hint: have a paper towel handy to wipe any grease from the handle-end of the skewer) and brush with a generous amount of the sauce.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 4 skewers)

Goat Cheese and Grape Crostini

Goat Cheese and Grape Crostini

A surprising burst of flavor!  I originally purchased plain goat cheese rather than herbed, so I chopped fresh rosemary and parsley and combined with the cheese.  The crisp baguette, the savory cheese and the juicy grapes combined to produce an eye-popping treat.  I highly recommend it! 

This recipe brought to us by our friends at Bon Appetit magazine.

Makes 16

Ingredients

  • 1 sourdough baguette
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 8 ounces soft fresh herbed goat cheese
  • 1-1/2 pounds assorted grapes

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Holding knife at a slight diagonal, cut sixteen 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick slices from baguette.  Brush the top of each with a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper.  Arrange on rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.  Cool on sheet for at least 15 minutes.

Spread each crostini with goat cheese.  Cut about 50 small grapes in half; scatter on crostini.  Arrange crostini on platter.  Surround with remaining grape clusters.