Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Stuffed Turkish Grape Leaves and Cabbage Rolls

America's Test Chicken consists of two separate chickens, each with her own take on this cooking thing. Check out Chicken One's related blog, A Travel for Taste where she shares travel stories and recipes collected whenever she ventures abroad. And give Chicken Two's new, also-related blog, Poop from the Coop a read. There you can find stories about her personal adventure re-experiencing the kitchen after many years away. Please join our Facebook group to share your own recipes, kitchen practices and know-how. We are also on Pinterest and Instagram.
The complete recipes appear at the end of this post.

From Chicken One:
Stuffed Turkish Grape Leaves 
This was an exciting recipe for me. You know one of the main goals of this blog is to attempt recipes we've always wanted to try. For the first few months, that's exactly what we did. In that process, we've mostly lost our fear! 

A secondary reason for this blog is to explore cuisine from other regions and cultures. Therefore, this recipe fits both objectives nicely!

A little background is in order: I teach English as a second language online. Recently I had a student from Germany whose heritage is Turkish. Through him I acquired his wife's stuffed grape leaves recipe. I love receiving authentic family recipes, so I was eager to try this one. It was not complicated in itself, but the recipe came to me written in German, so I had a little translating to do! 

I had to visit three markets to find grape leaves, which was surprising to me. Maybe I should be more judicious in choosing the markets I visit! Once I did, I soaked them in water per the recipe. 
Then I made a filling of ground beef, rice, tomatoes and a few other goodies. 
Once that was mixed, I tried my hand (first time!) at rolling up the filling in the grape leaves. 

Basically you start with the filling at the stem point of the leaf. then you tuck the sides in and roll it toward the tip of the leaf. It's a tiny, green burrito, really!
The photo above has WAY too much filling, but I reduced it when it squished out the sides as I rolled it! SCAFU (Situation Chicken All Fowled UP!)

Eventually I got on a roll (excuse the pun) and ended up with about three dozen stuffed leaves. 
I'd only ever had the Greek style grape leaves before making these, and the Greek ones are much thicker. 

Language note: Greek ones are dolmades; Turkish style are called either dolma or sarma. For that matter, they are Weinblätter in German. My understanding is that they are essentially prepared the same way anywhere, with small family or regional differences, mostly in the filling.

After resting from rolling up so many of the sarma, I put them all in a pan and poured boiling water over them.
Then I simmered them on top the stove for 45 minutes or so. They tasted wonderful! However, (SCAFU 2) the grape leaves were very chewy and a little tough. I checked with my student and his wife said I should soak them longer next time. Internet sources say to add lemon juice to the soaking water, too, which should help. I'm wondering if a different brand of grape leaves might also make a difference. If any of you know, please leave a comment below.

Two final notes: First, I blanched and peeled my tomatoes before dicing, but you can also use canned peeled and diced tomatoes.

Second, you can make such a stuffed roll with any edible leaf such as chard or even cabbage leaves like Chicken Two's rolls to the right. Cooks mainly use the brined leaves that come in a jar, but if you use fresh leaves you much pickle or cook them before making rolls. 

I'm looking forward to making these again. It's one of those things you can easily make into a vegetarian meal or spice the filling any way you like.

From Chicken Two:
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
When I was growing up, my mother used to make this dish  every now and then. I remember wishing she would make it more often. The fun, besides another cooking adventure with Chicken One, was trying to recreate the smell and taste.

My mom used to make it in a pressure cooker, but since this recipe didn't take long to make and cook, I decided to do it in the oven. The option is up to you, of course. Just remember to reduce the time!
Here I'm browning ground beef, but you can substitute ground turkey, pork or lamb.
This is the tricky part: remove the heavy vein from each cabbage leaf. Trust me, it folds better with that stiff vein gone!
Submerge leaves in boiling water for two or three minutes, just until limp.
Fill the rolls.
Don't forget to put sauce on the bottom before placing the rolls in the pan.
Just like mom made! Sorta! They really tasted great, and my dear hubby ate two of them! Give it a try. 
Stuffed Turkish Grape Leaves
14 ounces pickled grape leaves
½ cup rice, washed
½ pound ground beef
1 onion, minced
½ bunch flat parsley, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
½ teaspoon mint
3 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil

Place grape leaves in large bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Soak 10 to 20 minutes.

Make the filling: Combine rice, ground beef, onion, parsley, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, mint and garlic in a bowl. Mix well.

Make the rolls: place a grape leaf flat on your work surface. Place about 1 tablespoon of filling at the stem point of the leaf. Fold in the sides of the leaf and roll forward toward the tip. Repeat until filling is used up.

Heat a little olive oil in a large pan. Place rolls in pan and cover with boiling water. Cover tightly and bring to a boil. Then immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer about 45 minutes until filling is cooked. Serve hot.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
12 ounces ground beef (or pork or lamb)
1/3 cup chopped onion
1  7 1/2 ounce can tomatoes, undrained, cut up
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup uncooked long grain rice (I used brown rice)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or thyme
8 medium to large cabbage leaves
1/4 cup shredded swiss cheese
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp oregano for sauce
1/4 cup shredded swiss cheese (I substituted sharp cheddar)

1. Cook meat and onion until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat. Stir in undrained tomatoes, water, uncooked rice, 1/2 tsp oregano and 1/4 tsp of black pepper. Bring to boiling, reduce heat, simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.

2. Trim veins from cabbage leaves. Immerse leaves, 4 at a time, into boiling water for 2 or 3 minutes or until just limp.

3. Stir 1/4 cup Swiss cheese into meat mixture. Place about 1/3 cup of mixture on each cabbage leaf. Fold in sides. Starting at an unfolded edge, carefully roll up each leaf making sure the folded sides are included in the roll.

4. For sauce, stir together tomato sauce, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon oregano and 1/4 tsp of black pepper.. Pour half of the tomato mixture into a 2 quart square baking dish. Arrange cabbage rolls and spoon remaining mixture over the rolls. Bake covered in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Let stand about 2 minutes or until cheese is melted then serve!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Coq au Vin and Rosemary Focaccia

America's Test Chicken consists of two separate chickens, each with her own take on this cooking thing. Check out Chicken One's related blog, A Travel for Taste where she shares travel stories and recipes collected whenever she ventures abroad. And give Chicken Two's new, also-related blog, Poop from the Coop a read. There you can find stories about her personal adventure re-experiencing the kitchen after many years away. Please join our Facebook group to share your own recipes, kitchen practices and know-how. We are also on Pinterest and Instagram.
The complete recipes appear at the end of this post.

From Chicken One:
Coq au Vin

Chicken Two and I have finally exhausted our long list of Indian dishes we wanted to try - at least for now. We'll be mixing it up with a few rather unrelated recipes for the next month or so. After that we'll delve deeply into Mexican cuisine. We're in a flurry of reading Mexican cookbooks and gathering needed equipment. For this post, however, we present a French dish (me) with an Italian one (her). And they go together beautifully!

Coq au vin has always intimidated me, which is one of the main reasons I made it. Now, pffft!!!, it's nothing but a thang, man! Ok, maybe it wasn't exactly that easy, but I'm no longer afraid of it.

I went with the extremely classic Julia Child recipe, straight out of the first edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I even included her introductory paragraph because she said it much better than I could have.

Basically, coq au vin is chicken in a red-wine sauce with sauteed onions and mushrooms. But Julia has you making this dish in multiple stages.

First (I actually did these steps out of order, but it doesn't really matter) I rendered out some bacon cubes and set them aside. Then I sauteed small, whole onions:
I set those aside and sauteed some fresh mushrooms:
I set those aside and browned a whole, cut-up chicken in a dutch oven. Then I added herbs, stock and red wine. 

It all looked rather unappetizing at first: 
However, after almost an hour at a slow simmer on the stove, I got this beautiful sight when the lid was raised:
Next I thickened the sauce with a mixture of butter and flour. The recipe below is straight out of Julia's book, so you can see the details there.

Next I added the onions and mushrooms into the casserole. Once it was dished into a pretty bowl for the table, you could see the richness of all the ingredients:
Paired with Chicken Two's fresh, fragrant focaccia and some nice red wine in our glasses, we felt we were on the Continent! Our husbands fell in love with us all over again, too!

After this successful attempt at coq au vin, I'm looking forward to other "complicated" French recipes such as cassoulet. Stay tuned!
From Chicken Two:

I really love the smell of fresh herbs so I was anxious to make this recipe. Actually, I wanted to try my hand at making bread, too, so this, along with using leaves from my giant rosemary bush, really appealed to me!

Almost two years ago, while visiting family in Seattle, Washington, we had the delightful experience of eating at The Herbfarm. If you've never heard of it, click here and discover something truly unique.

I got this recipe from the Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld and admittedly tweaked it a little (I used all rosemary instead of mixing herbs).

Be sure to chop these up well. Nothing worse than picking leaves from between your teeth!
You can see that I didn't exactly chop very small here....lesson learned the hard way! However, this does show how to form the oval by using your fingers and pinching gently.
I thought this was a pretty good oval but it sat for another 10 or 15 minutes to inflate a little more after the forming. Be sure to trim all the excess parchment paper away from the loaf so it doesn't burn when baked.

Bake until golden brown on the top and brown on the bottom. It should feel hard on top. Don't worry, it's just fine inside!
Here it is, ready to serve! Boy, was it wonderful! I think my husband ate the rest of the loaf all by himself. If you know him, you know that's true!

Julia Child's Coq Au Vin
(Casserole of Chicken in Red Wine, Garnished with Onions, Mushrooms, and Bacon)
Coq au vin is probably the most famous of all French chicken dishes, and certainly one of the most delicious, with its rich red-wine sauce, its tender onion and mushroom garniture, and its browned pieces of chicken with their wonderful flavor. Ideal for a party because you may prepare it completely a day or more before serving, coq au vin seems to be even better when done ahead so all its elements have time to steep together.

The Bacon
A 3-to 4-ounce chunk of lean bacon
A 10-inch flameproof casserole or electric skillet
2 tablespoon cooking oil
Remove rind and cut bacon into sticks 1 inch long and ¼ inch across.  Simmer for 10 minutes in 2 quarts of water, drain, rinse in cold water, and dry.  Sauté slowly in the casserole (260 degrees for the electric skillet) with the oil.  When bacon is very lightly browned, remove to a side dish, leaving fat in pan.

Browning the chicken
2 ½ lbs. 3 lbs. cut-up frying chicken
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¼ cup cognac
Dry chicken thoroughly in a towel.  Brown on all sides in the hot fat (360 degrees).  Season chicken with salt and pepper, return bacon to pan, cover pan, and cook slowly (300 degrees) for 10 minutes, turning chicken once.  Then uncover, pour in cognac, ignite with a lighted match, shake pan back and forth for several seconds until flames subside.

Simmering in Red Wine
3 cups Burgundy, Macon, Chianti, or California Mountain Red wine
1 to 2 cups beef stock or bouillon
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
Pour wine into pan, and add just enough bouillon to cover the chicken.  Stir in tomato paste, garlic, and herbs.  Bring to the simmer, then cover and simmer slowly for about 30 minutes, or until chicken meat is tender when pierced with a fork.

The Onions
12 to 24 small white onions
Salt to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons cooking oil
While chicken is cooking, drop onions into boiling water, bring water back to the boil, and let boil for 1 minute.  Drain, shave off ends of onions, peel carefully, and pierce a deep cross in the root end with a small knife (to keep onions whole during cooking).  Heat oil in a frying pan, add onions, and toss for several minutes until lightly browned (this will be a patchy brown).  Add water to halfway up onions and ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt, cover pan, and simmer slowly for 25 to 30 minutes, or until onions are tender when pierced with a knife.

The Mushrooms
½ pound fresh mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
½ tablespoon cooking oil
Trim base of mushroom stems, remove base from stems, wash stems and caps rapidly in cold water and dry in a towel.  Cut caps into quarters, stems into bias chunks (to resemble, roughly, the cut caps).  Heat butter and oil in frying pan; when bubbling hot, toss in mushrooms and sauté over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes until lightly browned.

Sauce and Serving
3 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoon softened butter
When chicken is done, drain out cooking liquid into a saucepan.  Skim off fat and boil down liquid, if necessary, to concentrate flavor.  You should have about 2 ¼ cups.  Remove from heat.  Blend butter and flour together in a saucer; beat into the cooking liquid with wire whip.  Bring to the simmer, stirring, and simmer for a minute or two until sauce has thickened. Scrape onions and mushrooms into sauce and simmer a minute to blend flavors. Carefully taste sauce, adding more sat and pepper if you feel it necessary.  Then pour sauce over chicken. (Chicken is now ready for final reheating, but can be set aside until cool, then covered and refrigerated for a day or two.)

Shortly before serving, bring to the simmer, basting chicken with sauce. Cover and simmer slowly for 4 to 5 minutes, until chicken is hot through.  (Do not overcook at this point!) Serve from casserole, or arrange on a hot platter and decorate with sprigs of parsley. Accompany with parsley potatoes, rice, or noodles; buttered green peas or green salad; hot French bread; and the same red wine you used for cooking the chicken. Serves 4 to 6 people.

Rosemary Focaccia

2 cups lukewarm water 
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped rosemary
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (spoon and level: 20 oz)
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1. Dough and first rise: Pour the water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let sit for a few minutes to dissolve. Stir half of the rosemary into the yeasted water. (refrigerate the rest) Stir the salt and flour into the yeast mixture to form a soft dough. Knead for 8 minutes. (use the paddle attachment on your mixer if you have one). The dough should be very soft and will stick to the bottom of the electric mixer bowl as it's kneaded but if it is too sticky to pull away from the sides of the bowl after 5 minutes of kneading, add another 1/4 cup of flour. If you're kneading by hand, add just enough flour to keep it from sticking. Put the dough in a large bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and then a clean towel, and let it rise at room temp until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

2. Second rise: In another large bowl, stir the olive oil and reserved herbs together and spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the bowl. Punch down the dough and scoop it into the second bowl on top of the herb mixture, cover and let rise again until doubled, about 40 minutes.

3. Forming the loaf: Place a baking stone on the center rack of your oven and preheat to 400F. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet - this will serve as the peel you use to transfer the bread to the stone. Without punching down the dough, turn the dough out onto the paper, letting the herbs and olive oil pour out on top. Shape the dough gently (use your fingers) into an oval about 12 inches long. Keep as much rise as you can. Blot any oil that runs down the sides. Let the dough rise again for 10 15 minutes until its puffiness is restored.

4. Baking: Trim excess parchment paper extending beyond the edges of the dough. (so it won't burn) Carefully grab one end and slide it onto the stone. Bake until golden brown on top and well browned on the bottom, about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.  Enjoy!