Testing Recipes :: The Chocolate Chip Cookie

Glenn and I are on a little getaway in Santa Barbara this week! A dear friend of mine offered up her home while they are out of town! We couldn’t say no, and are already having a blast exploring town and chillaxin. Despite my vay-cay, I HAD to take a minute to post and tell you all about the chocolate chip cookies I made a few days ago.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you already know I was testing out a couple of chocolate chip cookie recipes. I kept seeing this recipe for The NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies come up on fellow food lover’s sites and photo streams, so I wanted to test it out and compare it to my favorite Thomas Keller Chocolate Chip Cookies. Really, I just wanted an excuse to make a ton of cookie dough, so this worked out perfectly.

The ingredients vary slightly.  We’ll start with the Times recipe, which makes a monstrous amount of dough for a monstrous amount of cookies, so I froze about 3/4 of it and will bake them when you come over for dinner. I weighed the ingredients out for this recipe, and I am glad I did. If you have a food scale, I would highly recommend weighing your ingredients so you know your measurements are accurate!

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This recipe has cake flour, bread flour, baking powder, baking soda, light brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, dark chocolate (I used 72%), eggs, vanilla, and sea salt. Don’t mind the tomatoes. Those are from my garden (GLORY! THEY GREW!!) but they don’t taste very good (HEARTBREAK!) so I canned them when I was done with the cookies. Hoping they make a good marinara sauce.  Back to the cookies: the dough came together nicely, and looked very similar to your classic Toll House dough – light and fluffy.

The Thomas Keller recipe makes what I would consider a decent amount of dough for a decent amount of cookies. I learned a few years back that, for a household of two, I could easily freeze half the dough after shaping it into balls, and have cookies at the ready for months! I love this trick.

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This recipe has all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, dark muscovado brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter that has been cut into little pieces, two types of chocolate (72% and 55%), and eggs. The thing that makes these cookies unique is the dark brown sugar. If you haven’t tried dark muscovado brown sugar, I would highly recommend making these cookies at least once. It is a special ingredient, that is for sure.  It can be found at specialty stores like Whole Foods, or online. Pricy, but oh so worth it for the complexity of flavor and depth it adds to a basic chocolate chip cookie. Because of the dark muscovado sugar, the dough is very dark compared to the traditional Toll House dough. Do not be alarmed.

I tasted each dough side-by-side and both were delicious. I liked the blend of chocolate and depth of flavor in the TK recipe, but I loved the creaminess of the Times recipe dough. I think if you were a real cookie-dough fanatic, you would probably lean toward the Times dough over the TK dough…. but you will have to tell me once you try them both.

After a cool 24-hour chill in the refrigerator, it’s on to the baking! Both cookies are baked at 350. The Times cookies require a bit of a longer baking time than the TK ones, so I made sure to bake them separately. Also, as soon as the Times cookies come out of the oven, you sprinkle them with sea salt. I used Fleur de Sel because that’s all I had.

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I mean….these NY Times Cookies look incredible. I’m trying to decide if they would look as good without the salt, and I really don’t think they would. Just imagining the hint of salty aftertaste is making my mouth water.

Here are the Thomas Keller Cookies.

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Wow. Again. Based on the look of these, I feel as though they would be chewy and have that “fresh out of the oven” melty chocolate taste even a few hours later.

Here are both cookies cooling side-by-side so you can compare.

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AND NOW, the most important part : tasting and opinions.

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New York Times Recipe: This cookie is fluffy, buttery, and tastes like an incredible version of a traditional chocolate chip cookie. My favorite part is the salty bite on top and how that blends in with the buttery sweetness. I don’t love the dark chocolate, and would want to try this with a more traditional semi-sweet as opposed to the dark I used.  I also want to try it with walnuts, as I am a walnut-in-my-cookie kind of gal.

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Thomas Keller Recipe: This cookie is soft, chewy, and full of depth. It has similarities to a traditional chocolate chip cookie, but not many. The molasses from that dark sugar, as well as the blend of chocolates, give it something unique that keeps me coming back for more. This cookie does not taste good with walnuts (I have tried), but could use a little added salt – maybe I will double the salt in the recipe next time I make these and see how that goes.

Overall, these are both awesome and delicious versions of the chocolate chip cookie, and I would highly recommend them both! I think my heart is still won by Thomas Keller’s version, HOWEVER, I am going to make a few quick tweaks (mainly lowering the intensity of the chocolate I use and adding walnuts) of the NY Times recipe and could easily see that becoming my new favorite.  For those interested, here are the recipe links:

The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie

Thomas Keller Chocolate Chip Cookie

Hope this was a fun end-of-summer post for you. Let me know if you make either recipe, and what your thoughts are along the way!

~Kristin

Currently Obsessing Over

These are a few of my favorite things.

1. Downton Abbey.

Who isn’t obsessed with this show? I don’t know. What I do know is I LOVE every second!

2. Crushed ice.

It’s just plain better than regular ice. Come to Chick-fil-A Encinitas and you will get all the crushed ice you could ever want.

3. Picfx – the app.

You can add “light spots” and hearts and all sorts of fun things to photos. Here is our glamour shot from a wedding we attended a few months back. Fancy pants!

4. Navy blue.

My love affair with navy blue has been a constant since about tenth grade. It’s just so darn classy. If I could, I would wear something navy every day. I would probably also decorate my entire house in shades of blue, and maybe even paint all of my furniture blue. But then, if I did that, I would undoubtedly decide there was TOO much blue in my life, and have to pick another color to obsess over.

5. Making Things from Scratch

I spent a few hours on pizza dough last week, made a big batch of granola yesterday morning, tempted fate with Thomas Keller’s Chicken Mar i Muntanya last night, and turned a whole chicken into ten {not quite} perfect pieces. The Kristin that spends a lot of time in the kitchen is back!

6. And finally, something I am obsessed with but don’t own {yet}. Superga sneakers. I’ve had my eye on these for about a year and am finally pulling the trigger. I am debating between light pink or a neutral green. Which do you prefer?

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Talk to you soon — hopefully sooner than a month!

~Kristin

Mom’s Enchiladas

These are my Mom’s enchiladas. They aren’t your mom’s enchiladas, they aren’t some restaurant’s enchiladas, they aren’t a basic ole recipe for sour cream enchiladas… they are Mom’s Enchiladas.  Always have been, always will be. Legend has it these enchiladas are what opened up my Dad’s eyes to the awesomeness that is my Mom, and only a few months after making them for him, they were engaged.

Let’s start with the most essential part of any enchilada: the tortilla. Growing up, we didn’t have access to tortillas so my Mom made her own. They were awesome. They were also a lot of work. When we moved back to the US we found these fabulous things: RAW tortillas. So good. Tastes like a little Mexican lady just spent the entire day rolling dough in your kitchen, but it only takes 45 seconds per side. I have yet to find a place that sells raw tortillas other than California, so if you don’t live there I sincerely apologize. It’s probably worth having a friend mail or bring them to you {that’s how I got them here to AR!}, or moving to the other side of the country just so you can buy these every time you are at the grocery store.

Once all of your tortillas are cooked {or if you are using pre-cooked tortillas} it’s time to make the filling. Cook up a few chicken breasts – I chose to roast three bone-in chicken breasts and then pull apart the meat – chop or shred the meat into bite-size pieces, and mix it with 2 cups of shredded cheddar {the sharper the better!} and a good dose of taco seasoning. If you are so inclined, you can also add in green chilis. I didn’t have any on hand, so I obviously wasn’t so inclined.

Next up, combine a tub of sour cream with a can of cream of chicken soup. This will be your enchilada sauce. I had accidentally purchased the fat-free cream of chicken soup {gross!} but it still turned out just fine. I also added a few dashes of Taptatio hot sauce. It gave it a light and delicious kick that I was very happy with.

Spread a thin layer of the sauce onto the bottom of the pan, and now it’s time to assemble the enchiladas. Add a couple tablespoons of the filling, then roll up the tortilla and place it, seam side down, into the pan. Each pan will fit approximately 8 enchiladas. I was able to get two full pans out of this.

Top with the remaining sour cream sauce, and a nice dose of shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for approximately 25 minutes. Serve alongside beans, rice, and homemade guacamole {of course!} for the perfect Americanized Mexican Dinner: Mom’s Enchiladas.

This is a delicious and super easy meal that everyone will enjoy – the perfect contrast to all that crazy prepping and cooking we will all be doing next week for Thanksgiving.

I hope you have a great weekend, and I’ll see you next week for loads of Thanksgiving fun. Yaaaay! 🙂

~Kristin

Marseille Style Shrimp Stew

I have a little bit of an obsession with France.

Not with the French Prime Minister, who so rudely dissed Israel’s leader along with our own President the other day… but with the bread, the cheese, the wine, the countryside, the crepes, the fashion, the snootiness of it all. I love it!

Since I am far, far away from France or from any kind of trip to France, sometimes I try to bring France to me. Like with this Marseille Style Shrimp Stew, featured in the October issue of Food & Wine. Deee-lish.

I served this along with a lovely, crisp French Rose {Also recommended by Food & Wine. Thanks F&W. So helpful in my menu planning!} as well as a baguette {of course}, and a small salad of mixed greens and vinaigrette.

Easy. Fresh. Light. Delicious. Here’s the recipe from Food & Wine. Hope you enjoy!

~Kristin

Dear Internet: A Letter From Me to You

Hi Internet! It’s been a couple of days since we’ve talked, and there are oh so many things I need to update you on.

1. Everything in my life is somehow pushing me toward France.

It all started with the French Dinner Party. Then I read The Vintage Caper which was set in Marseilles and Paris. After I had finished reading The Vintage Caper,  the next book that came up in my library queu was Lunch in Paris. I’ll go ahead and let you guess what that book is about and just how much I drool over every chapter. Guess what happened next, Internet? The October issue of Food & Wine came in the mail, and what is the entire magazine devoted to? All things French! I mean really! What could this possibly mean?

I have realized that the only logical conclusion here is that I need to get myself to France immediately. Extravagant vacation dreaming, anyone?

2. I ran 8 miles. EIGHT. MILES. I know I’ve ran more than that before, Internet, but it’s been a while. And I ran it pretty fast, especially considering it’s still kind of hot here in the Rock of Little.  I’m totally ok patting myself on the back about it. This weekend I am attempting 10 miles. Eeep!

3. I made these ridiculous ice cream sandwiches.

They were so good. They made me nauseous. The good nauseous, obviously, but still nauseous. Here’s how I made them:

Start with your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. I added chopped pecans to mine. Mmm.

Let the cookies cool. Eat a couple to make sure they aren’t poisonous. Heaven forbid you poison your family, Internet, we wouldn’t want that.

Once the cookies are cool, grab a couple of them and smear a heck of a lot of Nutella on each side. Nutella has been my friend for a long long time, Internet, but I’m kind of embarrassed to talk about it nowadays because I feel like everyone out there is Nutella-obsessed, which makes me feel like I’m jumping on a bandwagon any time I mention it.  Oh well. I need to get over myself. It’s good. That’s why we’re obsessive bandwagons. Right?

Scoop a lovely heap of vanilla frozen yogurt onto one of the Nutella-smeared cookies, then top with the second cookie. Frozen yogurt is the only reasonable option for these ice cream sandwiches. If you decide to use that Haagen Daaz Madagascar Vanilla Bean Ice Cream instead of frozen yogurt, I wash my hands of you. There’s only so much decadence one dessert can handle. I mean really.

This dessert is the easiest thing ever, and it will knock the socks off of everyone you know. Make it as soon as you get home today!

Love love love and more love to you, dearest Internet.

~Kristin

Simple Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is one of my favorite things to make. It is easy, economical, and delicious. It makes the apartment smell delicious. It gives me the chance to make homemade chicken stock. I just love it.

I have heard stories of ladies who roast a chicken for the gentleman they are dating and are engaged the following week. I would not suggest something so manipulative, but it does prove a point: roast chicken is powerful.

As with many things in life, the simplest form of roast chicken is usually the best. Here is the Kristin Eats way to roast a chicken. Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 whole frying chicken, 5-6 pounds {you can get a “roasting” chicken as well, but the fryers are often smaller which I like}

olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 head of garlic, fresh herbs, 1-2 lemons, or any other combination you have lying around the house

For this particular roast chicken, I used nothing more than a head of garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil. I think my favorite combo is garlic, lemon, and rosemary — but the point is you can really use ANYTHING and your chicken will be delicious.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 425.

Remove the innards from the chicken, set aside for homemade chicken stock, or grill them up for your cat. Cats love grilled chicken innards.

Stick the aromatics you are using into the cavity of the bird. If you are using a head of garlic, cut it in half. If you are using a lemon, cut it into quarters.

Set the bird, breast side up, on a baking sheet or into a roasting pan. Drizzle olive oil all over the bird, then sprinkle with a good amount of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Place the chicken into the oven and allow it to roast for approximately 80 minutes, or until the juice is clear when you cut between the leg and thigh.

Allow the chicken to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, then cut it up – or bring it out to the table whole and tear off pieces with your hands like cavemen used to do.

Hope you roast yourself a yummy chicken today!

~Kristin

True Love

I have a new love. A tried and true love. A love that will stand the test of time.

LARD. It’s that good.

I had never purchased or used LARD before, but last week {when my family was squished into my tiny apartment} I wanted to make a pie. My mother has made several delicious peach pies in her time, and since the Arkansas peaches have been ripe, sweet, and plentiful lately we decided to whip up a pie to put them to good use.

I wanted to try a different pie crust recipe, just to switch things up. I typically make a crust that involves both butter and shortening, in addition to slowly drizzled-in ice water. The recipe I found and decided to try {from the ever-amazing Gourmet cookbook} involved my new best friend LARD as the only fat.

Based 100% on the success of this crust, I now give my full endorsement of LARD in any product. And yes, I feel the need to capitalize each letter in LARD every time I type it out. It’s a very important ingredient/word/friend of mine.

Go buy yourself some LARD. It’s particularly good for practicing those lattice-top crusts.  I think next time I’m going to try to make like twenty really thin pie crust strips to make a super fancy lattice-top.

That is all I came here to say.

Love,

Kristin

ps. Don’t worry, I’m still tracking my calories… and believe me when I say a slice of LARD peach pie was not in my weight loss plan… I had 3 bites. Boy were they delicious bites!

Paula Deen’s Zucchini Bread

I had a couple of rather large zucchini in the refrigerator, needing to be used up. Kimbo came over for a visit, because that’s what she does these days – she visits us! Just for a little while, since she has a big grown up life of her own with a big grown up apartment of her own, but she still visits, and we like her visits.

Kimbo asked me if I remembered  when she made loaf after loaf of zucchini bread last summer. I did, in fact, remember. It was good zucchini bread that Kimbo had made last summer, and she had used just one zucchini for about 10 loaves.

It was a really big zucchini.

The zucchini I used was not quite so large, but still a biggie. I shredded it up, 2 cups total.

I combined the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Flour, baking soda, a little salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a LOT of sugar. This is a Paula Deen recipe, after all. No butter, but a LOT of sugar.

I combined all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Zucchini, eggs, water, vegetable oil.

I poured the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stirred it up. Then the batter was ready. Ooooh yum!

All these ingredients make enough for 2 loaves of zucchini bread. Or 8 mini loaves. Or a heck of a lot of muffins.

The aroma of zucchini bread baking filled the house. I kept opening the oven door just to take a whif. Mmmm. Sugar and flour and oil. My oh my.

Two days later, this is all that is left of my two loaves of zucchini bread. About enough for 3 slices.

Don’t worry, I didn’t eat it ALL. I gave the rest away. It was simply too tempting to keep around! Right Julie?

Here’s the link to the recipe. And yes, convincing yourself it’s healthy because there are green vegetables in it is completely acceptable.

Happy Weekend, everybody!

~Kristin

Homemade Chicken Stock: A Step by Step Guide

Step by step…ooh baby… gonna get to you giiiiirrrrllll.

Oh, pardon me, I just had a flashback to 1991 and the NKOTB pajamas that were all over JC Penney when all I wanted was something pink with Disney characters. I was not ready to be an Amerian Tweenager at the ripe age of nine.

Back to 2011, and how to make homemade chicken stock.

Making homemade chicken stock is something I always thought was insane. Even for someone with a lot of time on their hands, it just seemed like such a waste. I mean, why make it when you can buy it for just $3.50 a carton?

I’m here to tell you: MAKE YOUR OWN CHICKEN STOCK! It’s so much better, and it’s actually a lot less expensive! Oh, and it’s super easy. Just follow these ten steps.

Step 1: Buy a whole chicken (mine was a 4.5 pound fryer that I bought for $5).

Step 2: Remove the chicken from the plastic, and shake out the gizzards. I know this kind of grosses some people out, but you don’t have to reach all the way into the chicken, just shake it out over the sink and the gizzards will fall right out.

Step 3: DO NOT THROW THE GIZZARDS AWAY! Set them aside, or set them into the large pot you will be using to make the chicken stock, like I did. The gizzards are full of flavor and we want all that goodness in our stock!

Step 4: Place the chicken in the oven based on whichever chicken-roasting method you prefer. The recipe I was using called for my chicken to lay on its side. Awkward. I mean really, doesn’t this chicken look like it’s posing nude for Picasso or something? #Uncomfortable.

Step 5: Gather the rest of the ingredients for the stock.

Step 6: Remove the roasted chicken from the oven, then remove the cooked chicken meat from the roasted chicken. You could serve this to your family for dinner, or pluck off chunks of perfectly crisp skin with perfectly moist meat and shovel them into your mouth. Not that I would know anything about that…I also pulled the rest of the meat from the bones and placed it into little ziploc baggies so I could have a healthy helping of protein whenever I wanted.

Step 7: Place the chicken carcass, gizzards, and other stock ingredients into a large pot. Cover it all with water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer for 3-4 hours while you ruin your nails.

Step 8: Walk by the stove often, breathing in the wonderful aromas.

Step 9: Allow the stock to cool {I stuck mine in the fridge overnight!} then scrape the fat off the top {there isn’t much, but this helps make the stock virtually fat free}. Strain the stock into a large bowl, then into freezer containers or ziplocs!

Step 10: Store the homemade stock in the freezer and remove whenever a recipe calls for chicken stock. You will not be disappointed.

Love to you all!

~Kristin

Wednesday Night Dinner: Party in My Mouth

This meal was inspired by a magazine, but one I don’t think I have ever purchased before: Every Day with Rachael Ray.

Here’s the thing about Rachael Ray; her TV personality kind of annoys me.

I have come to the realization that, were I to meet her in real life, I think we would be the best of friends. However, on camera, I just can’t make myself like her. I know all of America thinks she’s the greatest, and I am not trying to argue because I am sure she really IS the greatest… I just have a tendency to stay as far away from her television programs as possible. Unless, of course, she is interviewing a Kardashian, in which case I’ve DVR’d it and watched it 5 times already.

I used to stay as far away from Rachael Ray’s magazine as possible, too, but just last week I decided to give it a try. The meals listed on the cover intrigued me. And I liked what Rachael was wearing. She really is pretty cute.

This is what came to our dinner table Wednesday night, thanks to Ms. Ray.

It’s a little blurry. Sorry. I was really, really, really hungry. I am also still trying to figure out how to use my point-and-shoot camera. I think the phrase “point-and-shoot” is misleading, because when I point and then shoot, the pictures don’t look anything like they do in magazines.

At any rate, this meal was delicious. It was in a section of the magazine called “Five Ingredient Recipes” and here is how I did it:

Recipe by Rachael Ray, featured in August 2011 EveryDay Magazine. Silly comments and paraphrasing by Kristin Murdock.

Ingredients:

1. steak {it called for new york strip or ribeye, but I used the must less expensive chuck eye and it was still delicious.}

2. queso fresco

3. corn {i used fresh, frozen is also fine}

4. medium salsa or salsa verde

It’s a pretty simple idea: Pat dry and then season the steaks with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy {cast iron would be the best, but I don’t have cast iron yet} skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle some olive oil in the pan. When the pan and oil are hot, throw in the steaks. Cook on one side for 5 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side for 4 minutes {this will get you the perfectly pink-in-the-middle medium doneness.} Set the steaks aside.

Using the same skillet, throw in all the corn {I used 4 ears} and let it sit there without stirring it for 1 minute, allowing the kernels to brown on one side.  Season with salt and pepper, then twirl the corn around the skillet for another 1-2 minutes. Remove the corn from the heat.

Now it’s time to plate! I sliced the steaks, but you can also just plop a whole steak down on a plate if that’s more your style. Pour a good helping of the corn on top of the steak, then top it with a crumbling of queso fresco, as well as a nice spoonful or two of salsa.  I served this with a few of Ree’s Crash Hot Potatoes because I had potatoes I needed to use up, too.

Totally simple, totally delicious, totally healthy {only a tablespoon of olive oil is used in the entire dish!} — totally reason enough for me to consider liking Rachael Ray.

Happy Friday, friends!

~Kristin