Monday, January 17, 2011


These delicate little shells are basically my favorite cookies (besides my grandmother's pastries), so it's long past time I made them. I bought myself a madeleine pan before Thanksgiving, but hadn't gotten to use it until now. I also got to use the completely amazing zester I got for Christmas. It did such a good job with so little effort that I seriously considered taking a photo of the pile of zest. I used this recipe, because it was the first one I found that used whole eggs instead of just the whites (I never know what to do with leftover yolks, and I hate to waste them). It was very easy and the madeleines turned out beautifully. They even posed prettily for my Martha-Stewart-esque-except-for-crappy-camera-quality photo.

- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (plus another tbsp or two for greasing the pan)
- 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus a bit to dust the pan)
- 4 large eggs
- pinch of fine-grain sea salt
- 2/3 cup sugar
- zest of one large lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- powdered sugar

Brown the butter by cooking it over medium heat until the milk solids and salt turn brown on the bottom of the pan and the butter gives off a nutty smell. Whisk or swirl the pan every so often to make sure it cooks evenly. Strain well (through a very fine sieve or cheesecloth) and set aside to cool. I ended up with a little under a cup full.

Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Butter each hollow in the pan (it's easiest to put the pat of butter on the end of a fork) and dust with flour. Shake off excess flour and wipe off the edges of the pan.

Crack the eggs and use an electric mixer on high speed to beat them with the salt until they've doubled or tripled in volume (three or four minutes). Continue beating and add the sugar in a continuous stream. Continue beating until the mixture thickens a bit and the ripples following the beater last for a second or two.

Gently fold in the lemon zest and vanilla. Sift flour onto the top of the mixture and fold in until just mixed. Follow by folding in the butter mixture and stirring carefully until the batter is even. Use a tablespoon or soup spoon to drop batter into the pan, filling each mold about 3/4 full. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the edges are crispy, remove from the pan immediately (they should come out easily). Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

The recipe made 32 cookies in my pan. I'm going to take most of them in to work tomorrow, and give the rest to some neighbors who keep bringing Kelly and me delicious baked goods. I can't wait to try making these in some other flavors. I also recommend using the madeleine pan to make corn muffins (my mom used to do this) or anything else that needs crispy edges to be perfect.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mushroom and Marsala Pappardelle

This is a Rachael Ray recipe from the February 2011 issue of her magazine that my mother and I made for dinner this evening. We used a mushroom mix along with the portobellos, and it came out very savory and delicious, the kind of vegetarian food you can serve to die-hard carnivores without complaint. Nice and light for something with a creamy sauce, too. There's a similar one on her site, but I think this slightly more complicated one from the print magazine is worth the effort. I've retyped it more or less true to the original.

Mushroom and Marsala Pappardelle

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
~3/4 cup dried mushrooms (such as porcini)
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb pappardelle or other wide, long-cut pasta (we used some Mrs Weiss egg noodles)
6 tbsp butter (recipe called for 4 but there are a ton of mushrooms so we added some more)
3/4 lb portobello (or cremini) mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 large bay leaf
1 bunch swiss chard (the recipe suggest kale as an alternative, but I don't really like kale), stemmed and thinly chopped
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
3/4 cups marsala wine
1 cup heavy cream
a few sprigs fresh sage (we toasted ours so we could crumble it into the dish)
grated parmesan

Place the stock and dried mushrooms in a small saucepan and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the mushrooms are reconstituted. Remove them with a slotted spoon and chop, reserving the broth.

Boil a large pot of water and cook the pasta, reserving a cup or so of the cooking water (we didn't end up needing this, but it can't hurt to save it until the end).

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the fresh mushrooms and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms darken (about 7 minutes).

Add the chard, shallots, and garlic. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cook another 7 minutes, then stir in the wine. Add the reconstituted mushrooms and most of the broth (leave out the last 1/4, which has the grit from the mushrooms in it, according to Rachael). Stir in the cream and cook until the sauce reduces and thickens (took about 10 minutes). Add some of the pasta water if it accidentally gets too thick.

Toss the pasta with the sauce, serve with parmesan and sage as garnish.

This recipe serves about four people if there's a salad on the side, three if you're all very hungry. I think in the future I'd add some sun-dried tomatoes (reconstituted with the mushrooms?) to it for a bit of sweetness, but I add sun-dried tomatoes to everything. This is one of the first pasta dishes I've had in ages that didn't bore me, so I will definitely be making it again. Hopefully I'll be doing plenty of cooking in the near future, as next week I get back to New York and start working on that cooking project I mentioned a few entries ago. I also still need to add the shepherd's pie I made a month ago, so someone please hold me to that.