Cobb Salad

June 17, 2012

Margaux says…

In the summer we eat a giant salad for dinner almost every night.  It’s just too hot to cook, and honestly, too hot to eat anything but salad (in my opinion!).  This salad shows up on our table at least once a month every summer.  It started out being a favorite in our house because it was great for our new little eater, who couldn’t chew lettuce yet.  There’s an abundance of toppings that we could pick off for him, and so it was a complete meal for him as well as us.  Two years later, and it’s still a summer favorite!

I made it for our Father’s Day dinner tonight, served with a crusty bread for soaking up extra dressing, and a summery cake for dessert.  When I called my dad , we discussed our dinner plans (Dad and I are the cooks of the family), and he thought the salad sounded great and asked that I post it.  I’m actually shocked that I haven’t yet, as much as I make it, so I guess it’s about time!  So here you go, Dad…  xoxoxo!

Classic Cobb Salad
from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4 to 6

Dressing (you only really need about half of this…I save it and use it on other salads for a few days after)
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salad
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, cored and shredded
1/2 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 bunch watercress, some of the stems trimmed, chopped
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (we used a Stilton)
6 strips cooked bacon, roughly chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 medium tomatoes, chopped, or 1 pt. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chives, minced

Make the dressing: Combine the canola oil, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, sugar, and garlic in a blender. Purée the ingredients to make a smooth dressing and season with salt and pepper. Set the dressing aside.

Make the salad: On a (very) large platter, combine the iceberg and romaine lettuces along with the watercress. Arrange the blue cheese, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, chicken, and avocado on top of the greens in neat rows. To serve, drizzle salad with dressing, season with salt and pepper, and top with chives. Alternatively, toss everything together in a bowl.

Do ahead: Salad dressing keeps, covered and refrigerated, for up to one week. Individual ingredients (except the avocado, which is too prone to browning) can be prepped and chopped, and kept in separate containers in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the salad. However, no doubt due to sturdiness of 2/3 of the lettuces, I found that the entire assembled salad kept surprisingly well wrapped in plastic in the fridge for a few hours.

Pasta e Fagioli

December 31, 2011

Margaux says…

I think I’ve had enough meat and potatoes to last me a lifetime. I can’t believe those words are coming out of my mouth…I’m a total meat-and-potatoes kind of girl. But we had the most rich food over the holidays (like, for example, potatoes whipped with a stick of butter, 8 oz. cream cheese, and a cup of sour cream!), and then had them as leftovers, and I think I’ve really had enough.

I found this recipe last year on Food 52, and have made it a couple of times. It’s quick and easy, and very heartwarming. And you can easily make it vegetarian by omitting the bacon,  instead using 2 tbsp olive oil to saute the veggies, and vegetable broth or water in place of the chicken broth. We’re definitely going to be eating things like this for the next several weeks!!

Pasta e Fagioli
adapted from “Jenny’s in the Kitchen” blog on Food 52
serves 4-5

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small stalks celery
4 cups chicken broth
2 cans cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dittalini
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
grated Parmesan

1. In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over moderate heat, stirring until crisp. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and transparent. Add celery and cook another couple minutes. Add broth, salt and oregano and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

2. In a bowl mash 1 cup of the beans, then stir them into the onion mixture along with the remaining whole beans, tomatoes, and pasta. Simmer the soup, covered, for 15 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Then remove from heat and let stand, still covered, for 5 minutes.

3. Stir in parsley and grated parmesan (I used about 1/4 cup). Serve with crusty bread.

Chicken Pot Pie

October 27, 2011

Margaux says…

After 15 years in Chicago, I’ve come to really dread winter.  I think it was last winter that did me in, and they say that this winter is going to be even worse.  I used to love winter!  The biggest problem is having to bundle up a toddler in a million layers, and buckle all those layers into a car seat, etc, etc, etc.  Bah humbug, right?  Plus, towards the end, I really start to get those end-of-winter blues, and it doesn’t help that the winters seem to keep getting longer in this town.

The up-side to this sad problem of mine is that I cook A LOT in the winter.  Winter seemed to officially kick-off here last week (60 mile-an-hour winds, temps in the 40s, and rain for 3 days straight), and the serious cooking started: I made beef stroganoff, this amazing turkey stew that I’ve made several times in past winters, brown sugar cookies, Granny’s apple cake (which I promise I will post soon…apples never tasted so good), applesauce, chicken stock (of course!), roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy….and I topped off the week with these chicken pot pies.  I think I gained 10 pounds, (and I kind of felt like Paula Deen with all the butter I used) but the cooking and baking frenzy kept my spirits up!  Luckily we eat a lot of salads to counter-balance all the fat.  Of course, also like typical Chicago, after 4 days of really crappy weather, it was beautiful again for several days…totally teasing me!

These pot pies are nothing like the gross frozen ones of our childhoods (at least my childhood-I had a mother who didn’t like to cook).  Last month’s Martha Stewart has the most beautiful pot pie on the cover, and several more inside, and I decided that this will be the winter of pot pies in our house, starting with this classic.  My husband is totally on board…while eating these he said he wished I made pot pies more often.  Wish granted!

For the chicken, the recipe called for 2 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes. Instead, I made a pot of chicken stock the day before with a whole chicken, and just used the cooked chicken in the recipe, cut into the cubes. It ends up being about the same amount of chicken (maybe a little less, but it still turned out great). And then you have chicken broth on hand for other recipes!

For the pie crust, I found I needed more than a half-recipe of pie dough, so I used the remainder of the dough to make a couple apple hand-pies for our dessert since I happened to have apples on hand.  The unfortunate part about pie dough is that you can’t re-roll out the extra after cutting out the crusts because it will get really tough.  So make sure you’re being very conservative when cutting out the pie circles so that you waste very little dough.  Also, I didn’t make an all-butter crust for this recipe because I thought it would be too rich (can you believe I just said that??), and instead did one stick of butter and 1/2 cup of Crisco.

Chicken and Mushroom Pot Pie

makes eight 4-inch potpies, serves 8
make ahead: you can refrigerate the filling for up to 3 days in an airtight container

for the filling:
1 1/2 oz. bacon, finely chopped (about 2-3 strips)
1 tbsp EV olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered
3 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock
2 1/4 lbs. chicken, cubed
3 tbsp heavy cream

for the topping:
1 recipe pie dough (but using 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup Crisco in place of the 1 cup of butter and 1/4 cup Crisco, and omitting sugar)
1 large egg, for egg wash (which I forgot to do, and it turned out just fine)

1. Make the filling: Cook bacon in a large skillet over low heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to a plate using a slotted spoon. Raise heat to medium, and add oil. Add onion, and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms, carrots, and celery, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in flour.
2. Add stock, and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and cream. Simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 5 minutes (if using cooked chicken, there’s no need to cook 5 minutes). Return bacon to saucepan. Let cool.
3. Divide filling among 8 4-inch (12 oz.) ramekins.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make the topping: Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 8 circles that are 1 inch wider than the ramekins. Top ramekins with dough, and crimp edges with a fork to seal. Brush dough with egg wash.
5. Bake until toppings are golden and fillings are bubbling, about 40 minutes.

I can’t let good pie dough go to waste, so I made a couple apple hand pies with it (luckily I had apples on hand).

Peel, core and slice a good baking apple, like Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Macintosh or Granny Smith. Place apples on one side of the pie dough, leaving about an inch or so on the edge for crimping. Cover apples with about 2 tablespoons of sugar, and about 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Dot with about a tablespoon of butter, cut into small pieces. Fold dough over the apples and crimp the edges (it should be pretty full and packed in there…the apples will shrink when baked). Sprinkle sugar on top, and cut a few small holes in it. Bake for about 30 minutes or so…keep a close eye on it because baking time will vary based on the size of your pies. Take out and cool completely before eating!