Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Chocolate Fondue

print recipe card posted in Sweets by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

If you have never made a fondue, now is the perfect time to learn how!
There are basically three traditional varieties of fondue: cheese, meat, and chocolate.
This post will focus on how to make chocolate fondue.

You may think you need to own a special fondue pot, but while it’s fun to have one, it’s not absolutely necessary.
A dedicated fondue pot is really just a warming dish on a stand, with a candle underneath the pot to keep what’s in it warm.

Without a candle, a regular bowl should stay warm for about 20 minutes.

The “special” equipment usually also includes long forks for dipping the fruit into the chocolate, but you can substitute regular forks, bamboo skewers or even long toothpicks.

For this chocolate fondue recipe you will need:

    • 6 ounces of fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 64% cacao if marked)
    • ½ cup of heavy cream
    • 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
    • 2 Tablespoons of Cognac or other brandy

You will also need lots of “goodies” to dip into the chocolate. Choose any of your favorite fruits. Just be sure to cut them up into bite size pieces. Some favorites of mine are; strawberries, raspberries, pineapple (fresh or canned), grapes, bananas, and dried apricots. You can also try pound cake cut into chunks, shortbread cookies, and ruffled potato chips! Chocolate coated potato chips are a real surprise dunker! Everyone is going to love the sweet and salty combination.

You can get all the “dunking bits” prepared in advanced and put on a serving dish. (Keep the cut fruit in the refrigerator, covered, until you are ready to serve the fondue.)

Put the cream, butter and Cognac in a small sauce pan.

Bring everything to a simmer over medium heat. While that is coming to a simmer, chop the chocolate into really tiny pieces.

(For various ways of breaking up the chocolate, see my post on Chocolate Fudge.)

Remove the pan from the heat when everything has begun to simmer, and add the chocolate.

Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the fondue pot (or serving bowl).

If you leave chocolate fondue over the candle for any length of time, stir it occasionally to avoid scorching.

Cheers!

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Crispy Chicken

print recipe card posted in Main Dishes by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

I’m always on the look-out for quick and tasty ways to cook chicken. Today’s recipe is based on coating boneless chicken breasts with French-fried onions from a can and then the chicken is baked in the oven.

Many of you may well have tried the classic green bean recipe made with these onions. I’m going to use these fried onions to coat boneless, skinless chicken breasts. What I need is some sort of “glue” to make the fried onions stick to the chicken.

For the fun of it, I tested 4 different possible “glues”:

Melted butter, mustard, mayonnaise, and a beaten egg all work beautifully. You get to choose which one to use depending on what you have in your kitchen! (I’ll tell you my preference at the end!)

I put just one chicken breast in each of different “glues”, making sure to coat both sides.

Now for the onion coating. The recipe on the box of fried onions calls for one egg, 4 chicken breasts and 1 1/3 cup of onions. There is no possible way you can cover four chicken breasts with that amount of coating and have it end up looking like the photo! I used 2 cups of crushed onions and that worked just fine.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:
Be sure to throw away any leftover “glue”. The egg (or butter, or mayonnaise, or mustard) has been contaminated with bacteria from the raw chicken and cannot be re-used.

The onions do need to get crushed into crumbs. The easiest way to do this is to put them in a baggie, seal it, and then just crush the onions with your hands.

You could then just add the raw chicken breasts to the bag and pat on the coating. Because I used four different “glues” I put the crushed onions in a shallow dish with sides.

From there I patted on the onion crumbs to both sides of the chicken breasts.

Next, I put the chicken into an ungreased baking pan.

Be sure to place the chicken, with what was the shiny side, up. This way looks better once it is cooked.

This is what the chicken will look like when it is ready to go in the oven. No one “glue” looks different from the other. They all look the same at this point.

Coatings: Egg…Butter…Mayonnaise…Mustard

Bake the chicken in a 400-degree oven for approximately 20 minutes or until it is no longer pink on the inside. (The chicken breasts I used each weighed 5 ½ ounces.)

Oven Baked for 20 Minutes

The mustard-dipped chicken on the far right came out of the oven slightly less browned than the others. That makes sense as there is no fat in mustard to help in the browning process.

Now for the official taste test! (That means my husband and I took a bite of each piece of chicken to see which one we like the best.)

The mustard coating had a really tangy flavor which was our least favorite. The mustard overpowered the flavor of the onion coating.

The remaining three all tasted pretty much the same, but the butter and the mayonnaise coating made the chicken breasts seriously moist.

(But you are adding extra calories with all that added fat!)

The egg coating was good but not quite as moist as the butter and mayonnaise coating.

My conclusion is to use the egg coating but for company try the butter or mayonnaise coating.

Cheers!

P.S.

Chicken Cutlets show below…

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and Chicken Parmesan are two more great ways to cook up boneless chicken breasts.

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Cabbage Soup

print recipe card posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister
Difficulty:

This soup is thick, hearty, full of flavor, and perfect for the beginner cook. It was taught to me by my Dad, who did not cook very often but who had a few specialties that were his “signature dishes.” Cabbage soup was one of his best! He always made it as part of a traditional Polish Christmas Eve celebration dinner. I like making his recipe as soon as the weather turns cold. Be sure to pick up a loaf of (Polish) rye bread at the grocery store – it is perfect with this soup!

You might already have most of the ingredients for this soup in your kitchen. Onion, celery, carrot, olive oil and chicken or vegetable broth are the basic ingredients. Add a bag of dry yellow split peasand a bag of sauerkraut and the list is complete! (Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage.)


Let’s startcooking!

One medium onion needs to get peeled and chopped.
(Check out my video for a quick review on How to Chop an Onion)

Dice one stalk of celery. Cut the stalk in half, and then in strips. From there it is really simple to dice the celery.

Do the same for the carrot – cut it in half, then strips, then into a dice. (My Dad never put carrots in his cabbage soup, but I like to start with a combination of carrots, celery and onions for almost all the soups I make.)

Dried split peas that have been mechanically split along a natural seam, so that they cook faster. You can buy either green or yellow split peas. It is not necessary to soak split peas, but they do require rinsing and sorting.

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(Note: Do not soak the split peas in water before cooking. Be sure to check out my post How to: Beans, Split Peas and Lentils which is a great primer on “pulses”.)

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Variety of Dried Beans, Split Peas and Lentils

Now back to the cabbage soup…

Put the dry yellow split peas into a colander and sort them. That just means to look though them to make sure there are no tiny stones that ended up in the peas. Sometimes you will see a green split pea mixed in with the yellow ones – you can leave it in or take it out!

Now rinse the peas under cold running water.

As always, it is really important to get all your ingredients prepared in advance.

Heat the oil in a large (6 quart) pot, on medium heat, until it shimmers.

Add the chopped onions…

…and the diced celery…

…and the diced carrot.

Stir the vegetables.

Then let them cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft.

Add the rinsed peas to the soup pot…

…and the broth. You can use either chicken or vegetable broth.

Bring the soup to a boil.

Turn the stove down to simmer and cover the pot.

Simmer the soup for about one hour, giving it an occasional stir.

This soup gets VERY thick. You can add up to 2 cups of water (or even more!) to thin down the soup.

My Dad always used sauerkraut from a bag rather than buying it in a tin can. The sauerkraut from the tin can always tasted a bit “tinny.” You can find bagged sauerkraut in the “refrigerated pre-package deli meat section” of the grocery store.

Put the sauerkraut into a colander. Drain and rinse it under running cold water. Sauerkraut can be very tart. Rinsing it removes some of the tartness. (You can drain it in a bowl and save some of the juice. Then after the soup is cooked you can adjust the flavor by adding some of it back into the soup. This will add a bit of tanginess to the soup.)

Add the sauerkraut to the soup.

Stir everything together. You can see how really thick this soup is. At this point I have already added about 1 and 1/2 cups of water. I think I do need to add a bit more!

Season the soup with some salt…

…and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve the soup with some nice Polish rye bread.

Enjoy!

P.S.
This soup tastes even better a day or two after it is made! When you take the soup out of the refrigerator to reheat it, it will have become very thick. Gently reheat it, stirring it often. You may have to add a bit more liquid to this soup if it has gotten too thick. It also freezes beautifully!

If you are a fan of split-pea soup you might also want to try my Green Split Pea Soup which has chunks of turkey kielbasa in it.

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