13 March 2010

A revolutionary object

A non-stick pan is a revolutionary object. For the past two of three nights, I've relied on mine to make a varaition on the same dinner: eggs and hashbrowns. Jeff's been gone on a work/play trip across the pond, which means that I've had to fend for myself in terms of dinner. I mean, no bigs, but it's not as fun to cook something elaborate if it's just me hanging around the house. But who cares, when hashbrowns are involved?

You may remember my teeny tiny obsession with hashbrowns. And how I feel sorry for myself every time that I go out to brunch and am left with some pathetic, vaguely soggy, flatly spiced home fries. I mean, people, please.

Have I mentioned that I don't like home fries?

But hash browns have always eluded me. I mean, I make a mean latke at Hannukah, but otherwise I have left hashbrowns alone. They have a tendency to not cook through, turn gray, and and are a general pain in the neck. But the NON-STICK PAN.

Hellllooooo, non-stick pan. Hashbrowns come out creamy on the inside and crisp on the outside. No sticking, no turning gray. Just nice, crispy bits and a melting center. They're still a work in progress, but for now, I'm pretty happy about it. Happy enough to keep eating them every other day. Or not. But I make no promises.


So there are a few caveats about this recipe. First, I've been using the shredder attachment of my Cuisinart. You can just as easily use the large holes of a box grater. It does the same thing, but your arm will get less tired if you have a machine. The second thing is that this recipe easily doubles, or triples, according to how many people you are trying to feed. One medium-sized potato is more than plenty for one person, but it's weird to make less than one whole potato. That's how I feel about it, at least. You can also shred some onion into the mix, if you like.

1 potato (Yukon Gold is slightly preferable to Russet, I think)
2 small pats of butter (1 tablespoon total)
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Shred the potato using the shredding attachment of a food processor or using the big holes of a box grater.

2. Using a cheesecloth, wring out the potatoes until it's really, really hard to get out any more water. (Don't skip this step! This helps the potatoes to not turn to mush.)

3. Heat a small, non-stick pan over a medium flame, and melt the first pat of butter. When the pan is hot and the butter is melted, add the potatoes and pat them down into a single layer. Cook, not disturbing, for 10-15 minutes. Adjust the heat so the potatoes don't burn. When the potatoes are brown on the bottom, flip out onto a plate, melt the other pat of butter, and replace potatoes in the pan, browned side up. Cook 10 or so minutes more.

4. Season to taste, serve hot.

Serves 1

08 February 2010

Cookie starts with C!

Here's the thing. Being in pastry school is a game-changer. I still love to bake at night and on the weekends, but it's become somewhat harder to justify spur-of-the-moment baking. In all fairness, though, I don't bring anything home these days, but still...

Anyway. To make a long story short is that I've come to believe that chocolate chip cookies are my true culinary love.

I mean, who doesn't love a chocolate chip cookie? Warm, chewy or crispy, nutty or not, gooey or not, it's useless resisting. I mean, everyone, everyone loves them. I can think of a few particularly fine versions that I have fallen into and out of love here in New York (Birdbath/City Bakery's, Levain's etc.), despite the fact that I haven't lived here all that long.

However, it's more than satisfying an eating craving, right? Making them is equally satisfying, at least, it is for me. (I mean, who doesn't like to eat fresh cookie batter that's been set aside? Or sneak a few chocolate chips before they get thrown in?) If I think about it logically, I can probably say that I have been making chocolate chip cookies dozens of time every year since 1998. (Thanks, Mom, for being so cool about that when I was in high school. It paid off, see?) My standby recipe was on the back of the Nestlé TollHouse package. Pros: yummy, not crispy. Cons: Crisco.

I've been through a few others since then. Amanda Hesser's, King Arthur Four's, Jacques Torres's, etc. But the one that has taken my heart (at least, for the past year or so), is the one from Baked. I know I've talked about them before, so I won't elaborate. Let's suffice it to say that if you add an extra (very large) pinch of salt, a small handful shredded coconut, and a handful of toasted, chopped pecans, the results are divine. It's everything I want in a cookie. It's also everything that I like to make in a cookie. No commentary needed.

Kitchen-Sink Chocolate Chip Cookies, liberally adapted from Baked

When you've got these in the oven, keep a sharp eye, and absolutely do not overbake them. They will get bready and sad, which is no way to eat a cookie. Also, feel free to cut back on the salt and change the kind (though no less than a teaspoon) and remove the coconut and pecans. Just be sure to compensate with plenty of chocolate chips.

Also, there is no law saying that you have to chill your dough. But it makes a nicer-looking cookie, and also helps the egg to absorb some of the dry ingredients, resulting in a dough that's slightly drier and flavors that are more completely melded.

2 cups AP flour
1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
16 Tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans, cooled

1. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

2. Using an electric mixer, or with a wooden spoon, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until completely incorporated. Stir in vanilla.

3. Add the flour all at once and stir in until just combined.

4. Stir in the chocolate, coconout, and pecans by hand.

5. Cover your bowl tightly and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

6. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

7. If you have an ice-cream scoop, use that to scoop and release your cookie dough onto the sheets (you want about two teaspoons in size), or just scoop it out with spoons and round them. Place about 1 inch apart on the baking sheets, and bake for 12 - 14 minutes, rotating the pans once during the cooking time, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown and the tops just starting to darken.

8. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Then remove individual cookies to rack to cool.

Makes about 24 cookies