Chicken Kiev

I thought this would be my first Cook's Illustrated recipe, but I made some oatmeal cookies the other night (highly recommended!), so this is actually my second. I recently started subscribing to Entertaining from Cook's Illustrated because it seemed like a magazine I would enjoy more than the traditional one. It's hard to keep my attention on a food magazine without the glossy pictures to lure me in. But as I read through the first two issues, I found lots of helpful hints and recipes I was interested in making, despite the lack of color photos.

One such recipe was revamped Chicken Kiev. I used to make the Chicken Kiev you can find in a two-pack in the grocery store freezer section but had never made my own before and hadn't had any in a long time. So I decided right away that I would, at some point, try this recipe.

You can find it on Cook's Illustrated's Web site if you're a subscriber -- or get a 14-day free trial if you're not.

The key things to think about when making Chicken Kiev, according to Cook's Illustrated, are the butter, the breading, and the thickness of the chicken.

I started by making the herbed butter -- butter mixed with lemon juice, parsley, shallot, thyme, and salt and pepper. The thyme is my own addition. The regular recipe calls for tarragon, which I don't really like.

You have to form the butter mixture into a square and throw it back in the fridge to harden. Later, you cut it into rectangles, and wrap the chicken around it. I found that my chicken didn't fit well around the rectangles, and I ended up only using half a rectangle in each piece of chicken. (I might have to get Whole Foods' chicken next time. We had bought a huge pack of chicken breasts at Costco to be more cost-efficient, but I find that Whole Foods' chicken has better flavor and is usually bigger.)

Anyways, while the butter hardened, I made my bread crumbs. This was so simple. I don't know why I've never made my own before. Just cube some slices of bread, pulse them in the food processor, mix whatever seasonings and some oil into them, and then throw them in the oven to crisp up and dry out.

Next, butterfly and then flatten boneless, skinless chicken breasts with a meat mallet. Then take the hardened butter, place it on the chicken and wrap the chicken around it, tucking in the sides as you go. The point is to get the butter all tucked in so it doesn't leek out.

I had a lot of trouble with this part. I think I may have done my butterflying wrong because my chicken pieces did not come out as solid sheets of chicken. There were definitely some gaps. But I somehow managed to still get the butter all wrapped up, though not as prettily as I should have.

At that point, I stuck them in the refrigerator for a while. This just helps them hold together better when you bread them. Breading them is the usual dredge in flour, dip in egg wash, and press in bread crumbs. (Okay, maybe there was something added to the egg wash for flavor.)

Lay them on a rack set in a pan, and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. I tried to follow the directions, which say to use a meat thermometer and take them out when they hit 160 degrees. I was already wary of my meat thermometer's accuracy but decided to give it this last chance. It only got up to 120 when the chicken was fully cooked and on its way to drying out. I trust my instincts a little more.

I served the Chicken Kiev with some roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Though mine weren't perfect, I really loved this new rendition. It felt great knowing I had made this myself rather than poured the contents of a box onto a baking sheet. The bread crumb coating was crisp without being greasy, and the herbed butter added fresh flavors without being overwhelming.

You'll notice I left out the ingredient list and a ton of details here. Because Cook's Illustrated doesn't make this recipe readily available online, I don't feel right posting it. I also think it's important to read the story, hints, and suggestions that go along with the recipe. If you're comfortable in the kitchen, I'm sure you could figure out how to make a version of it, but if you have the desire to learn about Chicken Kiev and the best way to make it, then get the full scoop on the Cook's Illustrated Web site.

Do you like Chicken Kiev? Have you ever made your own?


Homemade Mac And Cheese

I love macaroni and cheese. It is one of my ultimate comfort foods. It pairs well with most things -- fish, chicken, hot dogs... I could go on. On this particular night, we decided to have hot dogs with it. I don't know if my recent consumption of a Fenway Frank left me craving more hot dogs or if all the talk in the "blogosphere," on Twitter, and in Bon Appetit put hot dogs in my head, but for some reason I wanted them. I can't even remember the last time I bought a package of hot dogs. I even had trouble remembering the kinds I liked.

We went to the grocery store, and eventually I saw a package of Kahn's, and something just clicked. While I picked out cheese for the mac and cheese, my boyfriend went off to find the hot dog rolls. When he came back, I broached that long-time puzzling topic of why hot dogs come in packages of eight and their buns come in packages of six. I'll never understand it. Do the bun people just assume that two hot dogs need to remain bunless?

Anyways, this post is supposed to be about the mac and cheese -- but feel free to weigh in on the hot dog/bun thing -- I'm curious.

This is the first time I've made baked macaroni and cheese without a recipe. It's still a work in progress, but I'm sharing with you what I did in hopes that you'll all have suggestions to share with me about how you make your own macaroni and cheese.

I thought it was very tasty but probably could have benefited from a bit more flavor. I suppose I should have added onions and maybe sprinkled bacon on top. I could have tossed it with tomatoes -- if my boyfriend would eat them. There are likely tons of things I could have added, actually, but my goal was a plain, not very saucy macaroni and cheese. So that's what I went for. It had tons of cheesy flavor, just not various other flavors.

Megan's Baked Mac & Cheese
(Printable version)


1 pound box mini farfalle (or pasta shapes of your choice)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
16 ounces cheddar cheese, divided (4 cups - I used a blend of three cheddars)
1 cup panko
2 tablespoons olive oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large casserole dish with olive oil.

Cook pasta according to package directions (make sure to salt your water) until al dente. Drain, pour into casserole dish, and then stir 8 ounces (1 2-cup package) cheese into pasta. (You can also mix the pasta and cheese in a bowl, but I didn't want to dirty another dish.)

While the pasta is cooking, in small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Using a wire whisk, stir in flour, and cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Gradually add milk while whisking and cook until mixture boils. Simmer for 2 minutes, and then set aside. (This sauce is called bechamel.)

Mix panko, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and a couple small handfuls of cheese in a small bowl.

Take remaining cheese and stir it into the bechamel. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the cheesy bechamel over the pasta in the casserole dish and stir to combine. (Again, you could do this in a bowl and then pour everything into the casserole dish for ease, but I opted for one less dish.)

Bake macaroni in preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is gooey and smoothly melted over pasta.

Remove dish from oven and sprinkle panko mixture evenly over the top.

Return to oven for about 5 minutes. Then turn on broiler and check frequently. (Depending on your oven, it might only take 2 minutes for the panko to brown. ) Once panko is brown, remove baked macaroni from oven. We let it rest for about 5 minutes before digging in.

It was gooey and satisfying, with a slight bite from the sharp cheddar. I love the smooth, creamy cheese mingled with the crunchy panko.

Now, how do you make mac and cheese? What do you throw in? Do you find making your own too time-consuming and just stick with a store-bought kind -- if so, what kind?


Raspberry Brown Butter Tartlets

I had been eyeing Food & Wine's Apricot, Almond, and Brown Butter Tart since April. It's taken me this long to find a reason to make it. Only, I didn't really make it but used it as a stepping-off point. Dried apricots are not high on my list of things I like to eat, so I immediately purged them from the ingredients. I thought raspberries (and nectarines) would be much tastier.

(Note: Please ignore the nectarines in the picture below. I bought what I thought were firm, just ripe nectarines at Whole Foods. I got them home, cut into them, and found the insides to be all mush. They were completely unusable, so I had to stick with just raspberries. If you find nice nectarines, I think a little wedge nestled with each raspberry would be delicious.)

Besides switching out the dried apricots for raspberries, I altered the size of the tart. I have an obsession with mini foods and thought I'd love to turn the tart into tartlets.

And lastly, I read through the crust preparation and decided it was much too complicated and time-intensive, and I didn't want to do all that work. After all, it was a Friday night. I was tired from working all week, out of sorts because of the neverending rain, and eager to make these sweet treats.

It just so turns out that the June 2009 issue of Bon Appetit holds a recipe for a Brown Butter Raspberry Tart, and the crust for that looked much easier to prepare. So I used my own ideas of what I wanted this dessert to be and both of these recipes and came up with some fabulous mini treats.

When I made this, I had way too much filling as a result of combining the two different recipes, so the ingredients for the filling below have been halved. You should end up with just the right amount (or maybe still a little too much but not nearly as much as I had). The halved version has not been tested, but I don't usually run into problems halving things like this.

Raspberry Brown Butter Tartlets (adapted from Food & Wine's Apricot, Almond, and Brown Butter Tart and Bon Appetit's Brown Butter Raspberry Tart)
Printable version


7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
pinch salt

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
24 ripe raspberries


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 24 mini muffin cups with butter.

With a rubber spatula, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl. Add flour and salt, and stir until incorporated.

Taking small scoopfuls, push dough into bottoms and up sides of muffin cups. Don't overdo it on your first ones or you'll run out. There's just enough to nicely coat all 24.

Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly golden on edges. Set aside.

To make filling:

Toast almonds and set aside to cool.

In small saucepan (preferably with a light-colored bottom if you have one), cook the butter over medium heat with the vanilla seeds until browned.

While the butter is cooking, if you haven't already washed them, you should rinse and drain the raspberries, and then lay them on a paper towel to dry.

Pulse toasted almonds, confectioner's sugar, flour, and salt in food processor. (I have a small food processor, so I switched at this point and used my Kitchen Aid, but if you have a large enough food processor, you can finish adding the rest of the ingredients there.)

In Kitchen Aid mixer, combine eggs and almond extract. Add half of flour mixture. Mix well. The add half of browned butter and mix well. Alternate adding remaining flour and remaining brown butter, mixing well after each addition.

I found it easiest to use a round tablespoon for this next part. Scoop filling into the baked crusts, filling just to the top. They may look like they're going to spill over, but somehow they don't.

Place a raspberry on top of the filling in each mini muffin cup.

Bake 10-15 minutes in 375-degree oven, or until tarts are golden on edges and just slightly moist around the raspberries.

Let tarts cool in pan on a rack for a couple minutes, then use a sharp knife to gently lift the tarts and tilt them on their sides. After they cool for a few minutes longer, you can take them out of the pan and cool them right on the rack.

Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar, if desired.

And then eat! My boyfriend and I had lunch with some friends on Saturday. I brought these little tarts, and they were well received. Half the reason I've gotten this post up so quickly is my friend really wants the recipe! You get sweet, tart, crunchy, and chewy -- all packed in a tiny tartlet.


Italian-Style Couscous

Have you had enough rain yet? I know I have. It's mid-June, and we're still getting gloomy, gross weather. I'm being overly pessimistic here, but I feel like the summer's half over and I've barely gotten to enjoy it. And to me that's just depressing.

I easily worry and stress out, and dealing with awful weather on top of that doesn't always leave me in the best mood. So when I was planning my lunches for the week, I decided I needed to make something that would put me in a better mood. Something with colors, something comforting.

I turned to a newfound standby of mine -- Israeli couscous -- and I spruced it up a bit.

You can do just about anything with couscous. Here's how I think of it: Choose a meat (or not), some veggies, some herbs, and some cheese. The possibilities are endless. I decided to go for an Italian version. I went meatless, and picked tomatoes, onions, garlic, and spinach for vegetables, basil for my herb, and parmesan for my cheese.

When we finally get some sunny, warm weather, I might try a mixture of grilled chicken, corn, and summer squash with some thyme. You can do just about anything. Get creative!

Megan's Italian-Style Couscous
(Printable version)

1 cup couscous
1 1/4 cups water
2 TBS olive oil
1 small onion, halved and sliced (into half circles -- you can also dice, but I wanted thin wisps)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 5-ounce bag of baby spinach
2 tomatoes, diced, seeds removed
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
6 basil leaves, cut into strips (chiffonade)
salt and pepper

Combine water and couscous in medium pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn off heat, cover, and set aside until all liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, in large pan over medium-high heat, warm olive oil. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Saute until browned (or to your liking). Then add garlic.

Reduce heat to medium. Add spinach. Cover and cook until spinach is wilted. Mix spinach into onions and garlic.

And then stir in tomatoes.

Mix in the cooked couscous. Continue sauteeing until liquid is absorbed (if you plan to rewarm this in a microwave for lunches, it's OK to leave a little liquid).

Stir in parmesan cheese and toss basil on top.

You can eat it hot, or do what I did and portion it into Tupperware containers, so lunch is already made for the whole week. This rewarms nicely in the microwave.

Hope you're enjoying your lunch! What are you having today?


Daring Cooks' Challenge: Potstickers

For this month's Daring Cooks' Challenge -- my second challenge -- Jen at use real butter asked us all to make potstickers. She only required that we not use wonton wrappers and make the dough ourselves. This challenge intrigued me because I love potstickers and I have always wanted to make them from scratch.

Jen provided an amazing step-by-step tutorial on her blog, which I highly recommend if you ever decide to make these.

I like potstickers best when they are pan-fried and when the dough thinly veils the filling. I can't stand thick, gummy potstickers or dumplings. But as I've made pierogi a few times before, I wasn't too worried about working with the dough and rolling it thin enough for the potstickers.

My major recommendation on these is to enlist some help. I went into this recipe thinking I could do it alone. And I could have, but it would have taken me much longer. Luckily, my boyfriend was home -- and hungry -- so he jumped in and helped me.

I first made the filling. To me, one of the most annoying things to prep is ginger. Its knobbiness makes peeling it quite a chore. I even tried using a spoon, which is supposed to be easier than using a peeler. It was still difficult and time-consuming. But once I finally had the ginger peeled and minced, the rest was pretty simple.

I sliced some scallions.

And then I mixed the scallions and ginger into some ground pork and added some corn starch and soy sauce.

I put the filling in the fridge while I made the sauce and dough. I figured the earlier I made the sauce, the longer the flavors would have to mingle. In a small bowl I combined some more minced ginger and sliced scallions with soy sauce, red wine vinegar, sesame oil, and a pinch of sugar.

The dough is simply a mixture of flour and water. Jen provides instructions for making this in a food processor or by hand. I opted to use the food processor. I measured in my flour and then poured in water and set the machine to its task. The dough was still pretty sticky when I took it out, so I had to knead a little flour into it.

I then had to divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece into a log. I kept the logs under a moist towel until we were ready to work with them.

My boyfriend cut each log into about 10 pieces.

He then took each piece and flattened it into a circle with his hands and then used a rolling pin to thin the dough even more.

I then took each prepared round and scooped some filling into it.

Then came the more challenging part. It takes a bit of work to give potstickers their unique shape.

I pinched the dough together at the middle...

...and then pleated one side...

...and then the other, tucking the ends in and pinching them closed.

As I finished forming each potsticker, I would dip it in a little flour and set it on a plate.

When the potstickers were all formed and ready, I heated some oil in a frying pan and placed 10 potstickers in the pan. (I froze the rest for later use.) Once the potstickers were golden brown on the bottom, I poured in a cup of water and covered the pan. The steam cooks the filling and the dough.

I also flipped my potstickers on their sides once the water was absorbed and fried the sides too.

I thought they were just as good as some that I've had out at Chinese restaurants and better than the ones we buy in bulk at Costco. They took a little work, and I plan to play around with the filling a little next time, but overall they weren't too difficult to make, and having someone there to help me made the whole process go so smoothly.

I love the crunchy outside and the meaty filling. If you love potstickers and you've never made your own before, you definitely should give it a try! This challenge was a huge success.