Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ricotta-Orange Bread With Orange Caramel Glaze

Gentle reader, if you are broke, learn to bake. Whenever you need a stocking stuffer or hostess gift, you can produce a lovely homemade goodie that makes it look like you were super thoughtful when in fact you just couldn’t afford to buy a real present. (I kid, I kid, family members for whom I baked this bread—the two are not mutually exclusive!)

This is a lovely bread for breakfast/brunch or afternoon tea; four of my relatives received a loaf in their stockings this Christmas. It’s pretty simple for a novice baker to whip up and takes less than two hours including baking time. I used the bread in this recipe as a starting point and switched it up. Yes, baking is a science, but once you’ve got some practice under your belt, you should feel emboldened to experiment with tweaking recipes to make them your own!

You can skip the caramel glaze if you like, and the bread would still be pretty darn delicious. I also made an unglazed version using lemon zest and a pint of coarsely chopped fresh blackberries (and no orange juice), all four loaves of which I gave to my grandmother. Grandparents genuinely do prefer stuff you made yourself to real presents—go figure.

A word of warning: If you DO make the caramel, PLEASE be careful since it gets INSANELY hot and will bond to any surface—such as, say, human flesh—instantly. I learned this the hard way and now have a hideous scar on my forearm where a blob of caramel spattered and seared it. Turns out there’s a reason chef coats have long sleeves.

And now, if that little cautionary tale didn’t completely ruin your appetite, here’s the recipe!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Company Chicken, Hold the Company

Everyone knows the Interwebs have revolutionized the life of the home cook, thanks to their bajillions of recipe indexes, how-to-videos, and dime-a-dozen food blogs by pretentious people from Brooklyn who have nothing better to do than take pictures of their meals and tweet about them. But recently, gentle reader, I found yet another way the Interwebs can be a boon to the home cook!

For some reason, The Rob had gone to the Met Foods and brought home three cans of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. I immediately had an overwhelming urge to pour one of those cans over something in a casserole dish, scatter bread crumbs over that something, and bake it. Then I remembered this awesome chicken dish I once watched his aunt make with boneless skinless chicken breasts and slices of Swiss cheese slathered in Campbell’s cream soup mix, which was DUH-licious and super moist. I posted on her Facebook page asking how she made it and her daughter/Rob’s cousin Sara right away snapped a photo of the recipe page in the cookbook and uploaded it to me. See? Awesome use of the Interwebs—and thanks, ladies!

The original recipe is called Company Chicken. It serves 8 and actually calls for cream of chicken, not mushroom, soup; you mix that with 1/2 cup wine white and pour it over the Swiss-topped chicken, then cover with stuffing mix and drizzle with butter before baking. I opted to soup up the recipe (“soup up”—bwaahahahaha! SWIDT?!*), not least because I had the wrong kind of soup. Here is what I came up with—which takes like 10 minutes to assemble! This would probably serve 4… though, ironically, we didn’t actually have company, so we had leftovers.