Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes

I was heading to a board meeting yesterday and I wanted to take some cupcakes to help us act in accordance with the fiduciary duties of care, loyalty, and obedience. Because of where I am on my cycle, they had to be not just chocolate but chocolate on chocolate cupcakes.

The result was rich, dark and delicious. Because of the melted butter, water and buttermilk, these are super moist, too. Chop the pecans very finely, so they becomes little nutty bits within the frosting.

Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

2 sticks unsalted butter
5 tablespoons good quality cocoa
1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs,
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place cupcake liners in 2 pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, place the flour, sugar, salt and soda and stir to combine.

In saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted, stir in the cocoa and then add the boiling water. Pour the butter/cocoa over the flour mixture. Stir gently to combine.

In a separate bowl, beat together the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the batter. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3rds of the way full. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating pans midway through baking. A toothpick pressed in the center should come out clean.

Cool on wire racks before frosting.

The frosting is sweet without being cloying and is also deeply chocolate.

Chocolate Pecan Frosting

1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
5 tablespoons good quality cocoa
6 tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

Melt butter in a saucepan. Remove from heat. Add cocoa and stir to combine. Add the buttermilk, vanilla and powdered sugar. Stir together until well combined. Add the pecans and stir together. Once cooled, spread over the cupcakes.

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Lemon Sage Roast Chicken

I was able to get a lot of sage for a little money and have been going wild with recipes. This is one of the few chicken recipes that I didn’t brine but I did marinade it overnight, so there is plenty of flavor and it didn’t dry out.

I served this with roasted Brussel sprouts and baked sweet potatoes.

Lemon Sage Roast Chicken

3-5 lb whole chicken
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced (about 1/4 cup juice)
1/2 cup sage leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cloves garlic

Spatchcock the chicken by cutting out the backbone. Finely chop lemon zest, sage leaves and garlic. Smush together with the salt. You can use a food processor to get everything good and chopped. Mix with the olive oil and lemon juice. Place in a zip top bag with chicken and place in the fridge to marinate for 24 hours.

Pull chicken from refrigerator about an hour before cooking. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with a cast iron skillet in the oven. Remove chicken from marinade and set in the hot skillet, breast side up. Press down on the breastbone to get it to lay flat. Roast for 20 minutes. Baste with pan juices. Continue to roast and baste after another twenty minutes. Drop heat to 325 degrees F and continue to cook until done (internal temperature should be 165 degrees F in the thighs) about 30 minutes more.

Let rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Rosemary Sage Salt

I like herb salt and always keep a jar of rosemary salt around for all sorts of things but especially roast potatoes. I was lucky to get several blister packs of sage on sale, so I decided to make a combination salt for cooking and grilling.

Herb salts keep the flavor of fresh herbs so give it a try on chicken, pork, veggies, or even popcorn.

Rosemary Sage Salt

1 cup kosher or coarse sea salt, divided
3/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
3/4 cup fresh sage leaves

Place 2 tablespoons of the salt in the bowl of a food processor with the herbs. Pulse several times until everything is grainy like sand. Pour into a medium sized bowl and mix with the remaining salt.

Spread on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 250 degrees for 10 minutes. Stir the salt, spread again, and bake another 10 minutes. Repeat once more, stirring to remove any clumps and to ensure it dries evenly.

Let cool and store in a clean, dry jar.

Rotisserie Standing Rib Roast

For my Mom’s birthday, we had a standing rib roast that we cooked using the rotisserie on Dad’s Weber charcoal grill. We were serving six, so we bought one that was a little over 8 lbs (3 ribs). We needed some leftovers for steak sandwiches!

For a side, after we pulled the meat off, I put the rack on the grill and smoke warmed twice baked potatoes. We used an extra set of ribs from the butcher to make a beef stock in the slow cooker and used that plus the meat juices to create an au jus.

Rotisserie Prime Rib Roast

6-8 lb rib roast
kosher salt
olive oil

Season the rib roast with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and let sit in the refrigerator, uncovered, 24 hours before you are ready to cook. Remove from fridge 4 hours before grilling.

Rub the roast with olive oil and sprinkle salt on the meat, leaving the fat cap unsalted.

Run the rotisserie skewer through the center of the meat. Secure with the forks once it is balanced. Prepare your grill for indirect cooking and medium high heat. Place a drip pan down. Use chunks or chips of seasoned wood for smoke. I chose hickory.

Place the rotisserie on the grill and start the motor. Let it turn for one to two hours or until the internal temperature of the meat (not hitting bone or skewer) reaches 120 degrees F for rare. It takes about 10-15 minutes per pound. Ours was done in 90 minutes.

Using heavy gloves, remove the spit from the grill and then the spit from the meat. Let rest for at least 10 minutes. Add the drippings to your gravy or au jus.

Mushroom Barley Risotto

For the last Monday of 2018, I went meatless. To do so, I used barley to make a risotto. Barley is low in calories, high in fiber and packed with vitamins and minerals, so it was a perfect way to end the old year on a healthy note. I added to it mushrooms that I had sautéed in sherry. Of course, you could substitute vegetable or mushroom broth and olive oil for butter to make it entirely vegetarian.

Mushroom Barley Risotto

4 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-salt chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup pearl barley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 3/4 teaspoon dried
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms (I used portobello and shiitake), sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup sherry

Bring chicken stock to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Melt butter in large skillet over low heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add barley, thyme, bay leaf and stir to combine. Pour in 2 cups of the warm chicken stock; bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until most of stock is absorbed, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add remaining stock, 1/2 cup at a time. Allow the stock to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently until barley is tender, about 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat butter in another large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic. Reduce heat to medium and stir in sherry. Cover and cook until mushrooms are tender and the majority of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally. Mix mushrooms into the barley. Season with salt and pepper, as needed.

Spoon risotto into bowls and serve immediately.

Grilled Chicken for Remembrance and Courage

As we close out 2018, I’ve been thinking back about the past year. It has been quite a yeasty time – personally, politically, environmentally and even culinarily. We’ve lost some powerful voices but have also seen many new champions step up to answer the challenges facing us.

In the spirit of endings and new beginnings, I decided to make a grilled chicken recipe to celebrate the art of constructive remembering and helping gird our loins to face another year. As the flower folks tell us: rosemary for remembrance and thyme for courage.

So, my New Year’s wish is for you to have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you’re going and the insight to know when you’ve gone too far.

Rosemary Thyme Gilled Chicken

8 bone in chicken thighs

4 black tea bags (I used Lemon Lift)
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon peppercorns

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make 1 quart of strong tea by steeping tea bags for 15 minutes. Add in salt, brown sugar and peppercorns and stir until salt and sugar have dissolved. Add in 1 quart of ice and stir until all the ice has melted. Pour over the chicken and brine the chicken overnight in the fridge.

Rinse the chicken and store in the fridge until an hour before you set up your grill.

In a small bowl, use a fork to mash together the rosemary, butter, thyme, garlic, zest, and salt and pepper, until combined well. Use your hands to smear the butter mixture all over the brined chicken. Melt the remaining butter.

Over a grill set for indirect cooking, place the chicken skin side down. Cook for 15 minutes before flipping the chicken so the skin is up. Baste the chicken with the butter mixture. Continue grilling for 45 minutes more or until it registers 170 degrees F. Baste after 30 minutes and again as you pull the meat off the grill.

 

Great Balls of Sausage

Here is a nice appetizer or party snack. This recipe for sausage balls can easily be scaled up – our version makes 50 two-bite balls.

While you can mix these with your hands, a stand mixer will ensure the best incorporation of all the ingredients. Make sure the cheese and sausage is well mixed before adding the Bisquick Baking Mix.

 

Sausage Balls

1 lb regular bulk sausage (I prefer mild pork sausage)
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups Bisquick
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a stand mixer, combine sausage and cheese. Mix until thoroughly combined. Add in Bisquick and pepper and continue to mix.

Form into golfball sized balls and place on racks above rimmed baking sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes or until sausage is cooked through.