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An Easy Recipe For Making English Muffins From Scratch
Apr 18th, 2016 by
These english muffins are much better than store bought and contain only a few natural ingredients: not a long laundry list of chemicals you can't pronounce.

These english muffins are much better than store bought and contain only a few natural ingredients: not a long laundry list of chemicals you can't pronounce.

I made english muffins from scratch for the first time this morning. And I’ll be making these again — maybe every week.

English muffins are relatively cheap and available at grocery stores so why would anyone want to make their own? Two reasons:

  1. Warm, with melted butter and strawberry jam, I'm going to make these on a regular basis.

    Warm, with melted butter and strawberry jam, I'm going to make these on a regular basis.

    Chemicals. Read the ingredients on any store-bought english muffin package and the list of ingredients is long, with names of things I do not recognize.

  2. Taste: I’ve been buying Thomas brand english muffins and the taste is good but it always seems synthetic to me, especially the corn-flavored muffins. Is it real corn flavor or is it a corn flavor that was invented in some lab? I’m not sure. But one thing I’m certain of is the taste of these homemade english muffins far surpasses the store-bought processed ones.

I found several recipes online but this one from the kitchn.com looked like the simplest and used basic ingredients I had in my pantry. You don’t have too, but it’s best if you make the starter and dough the night before and let the dough rise in your refrigerator overnight. One other tip. You cook these muffins in a skillet on top of the stove under very, very low heat (when I did it, you could barely see the flames beneath the pan).

Here’s the recipe:

You cook these muffins in a skillet over a very low flame. I suggest popping them into a 350-degree oven for a few minutes too.

You cook these muffins in a skillet over a very low flame. I suggest popping them into a 350-degree oven for a few minutes too.

Ingredients:

For the dough starter:

  • All-purpose flour or bread flour, 3/4 cup (3 1/3 ounces)
  • Water, 1/2 cup
  • Active dry or instant yeast, 1/2 teaspoon,  (or 2 tablespoons active sourdough starter)

For the English muffin dough:

  • Milk, whole or 2%, 1 cup
  • Active dry or instant yeast, 1 teaspoon
  • Sugar, 2 tablespoons
  • Unsalted butter, melted, 2 tablespoons
  • Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • All-purpose or bread flour, 3 to 3 1/4 cups (13 1/2 to 14 1/2 ounces)
  • Cornmeal for dusting
  • Butter for the skillet

Roll the dough into balls and let them rise for two hours.

Roll the dough into balls and let them rise for two hours.

What do do:

  1. Make the dough starter: Mix the flour, water, and yeast for the starter in a small mixing bowl. Beat until the batter is smooth and glossy, about 100 strokes.
  2. Let the starter sit 1 to 12 hours: Cover the starter and place it out of the way for at least 1 or up to 12 hours. The starter will become increasingly bubbly the longer it sits and will double in bulk. The longer you can let the starter ferment, the better the flavor and structure of your finished English muffins. (I let mine sit for about 6 hours and the taste was tangy but mild.)
  3. Whisk together the milk, yeast, and starter: In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, combine the milk and yeast for the dough. Scrape the starter into the bowl and use a whisk to break it up and dissolve it into the milk. It should become quite frothy.
  4. Mix the dough together: Add the sugar, butter, and salt to the bowl and whisk to combine. Add 3 cups of the flour and stir with a stiff spatula until you form a shaggy, floury dough.
  5. Knead the dough: With a dough hook on a stand mixer, knead the dough until it comes together in a smooth ball, 5 to 8 minutes. Alternatively, knead by hand against the counter. If the dough is very sticky like bubble gum, add extra flour as needed, but err on the side of caution. The dough is ready when it forms into a smooth ball and springs back when poked; it will feel slightly tacky to the touch, but shouldn’t stick to the bowl or your hands. (I kneaded mine by hand and within a few minutes, the dough was smooth and springy.)
  6. Let the dough rise overnight in the fridge: Transfer the dough to a large bowl lightly filmed with oil. Cover and place in the fridge overnight or for up to 3 days.
  7. Divide and shape the muffins: Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a pastry scraper to divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece gently against the counter to shape into smooth, round balls. (Don’t worry too much if each piece is the exact same size. Mine weren’t and yet I was pleased with the results.)
  8. Transfer the muffins to a baking sheet to rise: Scatter cornmeal generously over a baking sheet and arrange the balls on top, spaced a little apart. If you have muffin rings, place them around the balls at this point. Sprinkle the tops of the balls with more cornmeal.
  9. Let the muffins rise until puffy: For dough that was refrigerated, this will take 1 1/2 to 2 hours; for room temperature dough, this will take about 1 hour. Depending on the size of your muffin rings, the muffins may not totally fill the rings — that’s okay.
  10. Warm a skillet: When ready to cook the muffins, warm a large skillet over medium heat. Melt a small pat of butter — enough to just coat the bottom of the pan and prevent sticking.
  11. Cook the muffins 5 to 6 minutes on one side: Working in batches, transfer a few of the muffins to the skillet — allow an inch or so of space between muffins and do not crowd the pan. If using rings, transfer the muffins with their rings to the pan. Cook until the bottoms of the muffins are golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. (I found that I had to keep the flame very low as the muffins cooked quickly and you really want to cook them slowly.)
  12. Flip and cook 5 to 6 minutes on the other side: Flip the muffins and cook the other side until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. If you prefer thinner, less puffy English muffins, you can gently press the tops with the spatula to prevent them from rising too much.
  13. Adjust the heat as needed: If your muffins seem to be browning too quickly on the bottoms (or not quickly enough), adjust the heat as needed. (If you find that your muffins are browning too quickly, throw them in the oven at 350°F to finish baking through.) (I found putting the muffins in the oven for a few minutes was a good idea to ensure the insides were cooked through.)
  14. Finish cooking all of the muffins: Transfer cooked muffins to a cooling rack. Continue working in batches until all the muffins have been cooked. Add a small pat of butter to the pan between batches to prevent sticking.
  15. Split and serve! Split the English muffins with a fork, spread with butter or jam (or both!), and eat. English muffins will keep for several days in an airtight container on the counter and are fantastic warmed in the toaster oven. Fresh English muffins can also be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and kept frozen for up to 3 months.

You can eat these english muffins a few minutes after frying them without toasting them, but I found putting them in a toaster for a minute, just to get a light crackle on them was best. Thanks to all who watched my cooking demonstration on Periscope. I hope I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself.

Caponata, aka: Sweet and Sour Eggplant
Sep 20th, 2015 by
Spread a little of the caponata on Italian toast slices to make sweet and tart crostini.

Spread a little of the caponata on Italian toast slices to make sweet and tart crostini.

This recipe is one of the best I found in a very long time. It is a delicious blend of sweet and sour flavors with a mingling of soft and crunchy textures that melts in your mouth creating a desire for more and more. It is addictive.

The recipe, first printed in the 2005 edition of Gourmet Magazine, got the highest score on Epicurious.com: four forks, and the 18 people who reviewed it said they would make it again.

So what is caponata and what can you do with it? It’s a blend of bite-sized eggplant, tomatoes, celery, green olives, and red bell peppers that have been enhanced with some garlic, onion, parsley, basil, sugar and red wine vinegar.

It is delicious, by itself as a side dish, or when mixed with pasta. It also makes the best crostini when spread generously over toasted ciabatta slices. It’s very versatile and can be used imaginatively in a thousand different ways. I just put the last of it on some lavash bread, along with some goat cheese and arugula to create a roll-up sandwich. It was better than an eggplant (or chicken, or veal) parm sandwich on a braided roll.

This recipe takes a little work but it’s worth it. It makes a big batch that you can enjoy for several days or even a week.

Again, here’s the recipe. Enjoy!!

Find More Recipes in the RootsLiving Recipe Index

Baked Stuffed Shrimp
Mar 12th, 2015 by
A meal fit for a king (or a birthday boy).

A meal fit for a king (or a birthday boy).

Growing up, this was my favorite dish. My mother would make it for me every year on my birthday.

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to post the recipe. Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • Jumbo shrimp. If you’re buying frozen, get the 8-12  pack. Don’t buy the COOKED frozen shrimp as most are tasteless and won’t work with this recipe, anyway. You should plan on at least three shrimp per person. But four is even better.
  • Ritz Crackers, about two cups, crushed.
  • Butter. Unsalted is best. About one stick. Melted.
  • Lemon juice, about 1 tablespoon.
  • White vermouth or white wine. About two tablespoons.
  • Salt, about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon.
  • Pepper, a few shakes or twists of the grinder.
  • Garlic powder, just a couple of pinches. Remember, this is very strong and can easily overpower a dish. Use caution.
  • Old Bay Seasoning, or paprika. About 1/2 teaspoon.

I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper to make cleanup easier.

I lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper to make cleanup easier.

Procedure:

Thaw shrimp overnight in refrigerator or put in a colander and run cool water over them until they thaw. Peel them, if necessary.

Slice shrimp down the curved back and remove vein if necessary. (Sometimes, the shrimps are already deveined, even in packages that say they are not. If you can’t find a vein, don’t worry about it. If you can’t see it before it’s cooked, you won’t see it after it’s cooked. Removing the vein is aesthetic, not mandatory.) Be sure to make a deep cut so the shrimp are butterflied.

Place on a cookie sheet. Line with parchment paper for easy cleanup.

Brush shrimp with a little of the melted butter and bake at 325 for about 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven. They should not be cooked through yet.

Combine the Ritz Crackers, the melted butter, lemon juice, white wine or white vermouth, salt, pepper, garlic powder and Old Bay Seasoning to make the stuffing.

Spoon a round blob of stuffing over each shrimp and bake until done, about five to seven minutes. The shrimp will be a firm whitish/pink color with red stripes around the edges.

Serve with rice and your favorite greens. I served mine with a bok choy and raisins side dish.

Bok Choy With Raisins (A Winning Side Dish Is Born)
Mar 12th, 2015 by
The sweet blends perfectly with the sour in this tasty side dish.

The sweet blends perfectly with the sour in this tasty side dish.

This side dish is a definite keeper. I made it up yesterday, while trying to come up with a good green side dish to go with baked stuffed shrimp.

At first I was thinking of an arugula salad, but didn’t feel like driving three or four miles to a farm stand where I can get it at a good price: less than $2 for a good-size bag. And I wasn’t going to spend $6 or $7 for arugula at the Stop & Shop, just a few blocks from my home. So, I set my sites on the Asian supermarket, which is about a 1/4 mile from my house.

Super 88 doesn’t sell arugula, but they have an amazing selection of bok choy. And it’s cheap.

I thought about stir-frying it with some scallions and then a crazy idea hit me on how to offset the subtle bitterness of the greens with something sweet. Raisins! And just to keep things real, I decided to finish it off with a vinaigrette, a balsamic vinegar being a perfect match to bring out the flavor of the raisins.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Bok Choy. I used about 15 pieces of the baby bok choy and it was enough for three people. Washed and chopped into 2-inch pieces.
  • Scallions, about 6. Cut off with about 2-inches of green showing and then sliced into small wheels.
  • Peanut oil, about 1 tablespoon.
  • Garlic, one clove, crushed.
  • Raisins, about 1/2 cup. I used regular raisins, but I think golden raisins may work even better.
  • A balsamic vinaigrette, about 2 tablespoons. You could also use Italian dressing.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Procedure:

Heat the peanut oil in a wok, spreading it around to coat the sides.

Add the scallions and cook until translucent.

Add the garlic and the bok choy and stir to coat with the oil. Cook for a minute or two.

Add the raisins. Stir everything occasionally and cook until greens are wilted but the white parts of the bok choy remain crisp.

Add the vinaigrette and stir to coat. Put lid on wok and cook on low heat for a minute. Then turn heat off.

Serve with your favorite protein (chicken, beef, pork, fish, even eggs).

Find more recipes in the Recipe index.

A Classic Vinaigrette
Mar 12th, 2015 by

This salad dressing recipe is so easy and delicious, I stopped using store-bought dressings years ago. It takes less than five minutes to make. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil. Here’s where you use extra-virgin olive oil if you have it. About half a cup.
  • Vinegar. Balsamic or red wine vinegar can be used depending on what you feel like. A little more than an ounce. (Remember: a good ratio for vinaigrettes is about 3 parts oil to one part vinegar. Adjust to your liking.)
  • Garlic, one large clove.
  • Salt, preferably Kosher salt. About 1/2 to 1 teaspoon.
  • Dijon mustard, about 1/2 teaspoon.

Procedure:

Put garlic in a bowl with the salt. Take a heavy fork and mash it good until it becomes a paste.

Add the olive oil and then the vinegar.

Add the mustard and whisk.

Pour it on your favorite salad and mix it up.

Find more recipes in the Recipe index.

Forget the Snow, It’s Stew-A-Palooza – 2015
Jan 27th, 2015 by

Dorm Room Chef: Dante de Magistris Makes Steak Pizzaiola from Mark Micheli on Vimeo.

(This is one of my favorite recipes from the weekly Dorm Room Chef series I produced during 2014. It’s steak pizzaiola made in a slow cooker: easy and delicious. Watch the video above, or read the recipe here or read the recipe below.)

Here’s a collection of stews I compiled from good restaurants and cookbooks. I’ve made them all and enjoyed eating them more. Hopefully, you’ll have some of these ingredients on hand so you can make one of these dishes. But if not, watch the video and look at the pretty photos. It will warm you up more than looking at snow photos on Facebook.

The governor of Massachusetts declared a snow emergency and I’m declaring it stew-a-palooza — 2015!

STEWS TO MAKE ON A COLD WINTER DAY

  1. Geneva’s Quick Chicken And Shrimp Gumbo
  2. Shrimp Saute
  3. Easy Beef Bourguignon
  4. Coq Au Vin Blanc (The same as Easy Beef Bourguignon, only with chicken)
  5. Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon
  6. Blanquette De Veau (French Veal Stew)
  7. Lobster Stew
  8. Steak Pizzaiola
STEAK PIZZAIOLA RECIPE:

This is one of my favorite Dorm Room Chef recipes. It’s easy — you just throw everything into a slow cooker and wait — and it’s delicious. Lots of flavors here — tart from the capers; sweet from the peppers; and hot from the red pepper flakes — with none of them overpowering the other. And it makes enough for four hungry college students.

Here’s the recipe from Chef Dante de Magistris of Restaurant dante and Il Casale:

Steak Pizzaiola
Ingredients
:

-2 lbs sirloin flap beef, (steak tips) sliced thin against the grain (about ¼ inch thick)

-1 tablespoon salt

-½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, (or more if you like it hot)

-½ teaspoon dry oregano

-¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

-2 cloves garlic

-2 tablespoons capers, plus some of it’s juice

-1 can 12 oz can crushed tomatoes

-½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino cheese

-1 small bunch fresh parsley leaves

-1 red or green pepper, sliced up

-1 medium size zucchini, sliced in half moons

Method:

1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker, mix it up, put the lid on, turn to high heat, set timer for 3 hours. Serve hot

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