January: Spanish Chicken with Chorizo & Potatoes

Saturday was a big cooking day for me. In between baking the brookies and the pancake cookies, I also made Nigella Lawson’s Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes from her cookbook Kitchen.

The moment I saw the recipe name and the photo of the dish in the cookbook, I knew I wanted to make this. I love chicken (if you haven’t already noticed), I love Chorizo, and who doesn’t like potatoes? And making it seemed so easy. You basically just dump everything on sheet pans and bake them in the oven. I think there were only 3 steps in the cookbook: preheat the oven, put everything in the pan, put everything in the oven and baste once in a while (okay, four).

And with those four easy steps, you’ll have all this deliciousness:

Spanish Chicken & Chorizo

The chicken was juicy and tender, which was a bit of a surprise since it the only “liquid” added to it prior to cooking was a small amount of olive oil to coat. The chicken gave out A LOT of oil, though, but you can easily fix that by using less fatty chicken portions (like the breast) instead of thigh quarters. The Chorizo was a pleasant surprise, too, since I went out on a limb and used a local brand I’ve never tried before. It was spicy and garlicky and gave the drippings even more flavor.

I’d probably add some garlic to the recipe (Nigella’s recipe doesn’t have it), but other than that, this recipe is pretty perfect. And ridiculously easy, too.

Find the recipe here.

January: Chocolate Chip Cookies

I guess it makes sense that the recipe I try out to kick off my 2012 cooking challenge is a classic. I also wanted a recipe that would require me to use my brand spankin’ new KitchenAid mixer (more on that soon), as I was desperate to finally use it. And how could anyone go wrong with chocolate chip cookies, right?

The recipe is from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen cookbook and is her tried & tested chocolate chip cookie recipe. The recipe was pretty straightforward enough and I followed it to the T, and ended up with these:

I didn’t know what I did wrong, because I used a one-fourth cup scoop to measure out the dough for the cookies as directed. Nigella used an even deeper, dome-shaped ice cream scooper and plopped the dough straight to the cookie sheet without flattening them before putting them in the oven, and her cookies turned out normal. Mine turned out thick and dense and were even mistaken for scones (haha!). The resulting cookies were therefore very cakey and dense. But they tasted good (and they filled up the house with an awesome, buttery, chocolatey smell while baking), they were just not the right texture and density.

So, alas, my first attempt at my cooking challenge was not a raging success. I had fun, though, since I got to use my mixer for the first time. I just know that for next time, I’ll have to flatten out the cookies before I put them in the oven. Or maybe I should try Phoebe Buffay’s grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.

PS: Does anyone have an idea on what I did wrong? I was having trouble keeping the temperature of my oven up to the required 325°F, could that be it? I am also still just getting a hang of my mixer’s speeds, could it be that I overworked the dough? Nigella’s recipe requires you to melt the butter before mixing with the sugars, which I’ve never seen in a chocolate chip cookie recipe before, could that have made the difference? I’ll appreciate any help, as I don’t want to end up with (albeit yummy) quasi-scones again. Thanks!

No, not the cupcakes

Obviously, Cupcakes by Sonja is famous for their cupcakes (duh). But what I look for first when I enter their adorable store in Serendra are not the cupcakes. My eyes go straight to the covered cake stands or the cookie jars on top of the cupcake displays to look for these:

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Cupcakes by Sonja

These are, by a long shot, the yummiest oatmeal cookies I’ve ever had. And I have tried a lot. Most are either too dry from the oatmeal or too moist and chewy that it doesn’t feel like an oatmeal cookie anymore. But the cookies from Sonja’s have found the perfect balance between the graininess of the oats and the chewiness we’ve come to expect from well-made cookies.

They have a sweetness from the big, plentiful raisins, a slight saltiness from the walnuts and a very subtle, buttery flavor. They really are the perfect oatmeal cookies.

Cupcakes by Sonja don’t always make their Oatmeal Raisin cookies, so I suggest you snap these babies up every time you come across them. If you came for the cupcakes (let’s face it, sometimes you just HAVE to have a cupcake, especially when all your other girlfriends are having one), do like I do. I order one cupcake (the PB&J is my fave) for eating at the store and order two three cookies to take home with me.

Now that I think about it maybe they do make these cookies all the time, it’s just that people like me hoard them and leave none for the other customers.

The Paris PASTRY App!!!!!!!!!!

An app. For finding the best pastries in Paris. An app. For finding the BEST. PASTRIES. IN PARIS.

BEST. PARIS. PASTRIES. APP… Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Yes. I have been rendered incoherent by an iPhone app. But in case you haven’t noticed from my blog, I love pastries and all types of sugary confections. I also love Paris. And, separate from my love of the city and of the food group, I also love, love Parisian pastries. So it really is no surprise that news of David Lebovitz’s Paris Pastry App has reduced me to a mumbling, giddy fool.

First of all, it is an app to find the best pastries in Paris. I know I keep repeating it, but isn’t the idea of it just so brilliant yet so simple? Isn’t that something every visitor to Paris needs? A directory of 300 (!!!!!) of the best chocolate, pastry and ice cream shops in the city and, arguably, the world, all carefully chosen and tested (oh, wouldn’t we want to have THAT job) by David Lebovitz. Yes, the same man who I am indebted to for my discovery of La Maison Du Chocolat’s Rigoletto chocolate, the pastry chef/writer whose blog always leaves me drooling a little bit and pining for a trip to the French capital and its unrivaled food.

And only a pastry fiend like David can come up with an app as well thought of as this. I have a feeling that he has experienced the pain and disappointment of going all the way across the River Seine for a tarte citron (or a cannelle or a millefeuille) only to find the shop closed. He obviously doesn’t want anyone to have to go through that, ever, so the app conveniently includes verified operating hours for each shop.

The app also organizes the shops per arrondisement, all the better for anyone to lay out their pastry plan of attack.

To me, though, the best, most well-thought of feature of this app are the maps. The OFFLINE maps, i.e. you don’t need an internet connection to access the maps, as they are all stored within the app. As David put it, the money would be better spent on croissants & chocolates, than on astronomical 3G roaming fees on your iPhone. I couldn’t agree more.

Other features of the app include gorgeous pictures of the the pastries and breads by David (if you need more inducement to go visit Poilâne or Patrick Roger), a French-English glossary of pastries, the capability to store and share your favorite pages from the app and David’s top 25 shops to help you get started.

It must be said, though, that the app isn’t cheap. In a world of free or $0.99 apps, I know a lot of people will balk at its $4.99 price. But do consider that getting a similar guidebook will cost at least the same, likely more, and that that guidebook will probably be outdated in a year or two. On the other hand, this app will be updated with all the newest information periodically. Also, this has the added convenience of, you know, being inside your phone, versus a guide book that you have to lug around separately (besides, don’t you need the space in your handbag for your chocolate/pastry purchases?).

So in my opinion, the $4.99 would be more than worth it. My only complaint about this app is that it wasn’t available yet when I went to Paris in July. But maybe that’s a good thing, since if this was around by then, I probably would’ve gone home hundreds of Euros poorer and 10 pounds heavier.

App screenshots used with David’s permission.

Gossip Girl (writers), we need to talk

Look, I’ve already let you get away with A LOT of things.

Chuck pimping Blair to his douchey uncle for a hotel. Rufus and Lily completely forgetting their son in Boston exists. You forgetting that the characters should actually still be in school. Serena getting into freakin’ Brown. Vanessa’s existence (the wardrobe I blame on Eric Daman). And for even suggesting DAIR was a possibility.

And then this season started. I have only seen one full episode this season, and part of the reason I saw it was to see Blair wear Mich Dulce’s hat in her bridesmaid tryouts. The whole Blair pregnancy is just… wrong. Really? That’s what you’ve got planned for Blair all along, to be knocked up by 20/21? Pants-averse Jenny Humphrey is somewhere un-preggo but the Queen Bee has a bun in the oven?

I was convinced that the you guys have lost it, that you don’t know your audience (although the brief exploration of Dair proved that already) but I still had to admit I was curious how you’ll play the whole pregnancy story out. So I still had a vague interest in the show.

But then I saw this and am now considering boycotting the show for good:

Don’t you know Blair at all?!?! I’d think you would because, you know, you created her. But if you did, you would know that:

  • She would never wear that gown. Even the girl’s DREAMS are impeccably styled, for cryin’ out loud and therefore she would never wear an unimaginative, uninspired wedding gown. Especially not one by the same designer as Kim Kardashian’s wedding dress. Blair wouldn’t even wear this dress if she was marrying Dan Humphrey, much less to her own ROYAL WEDDING to the heir to the Monegasque throne. You know, Grace Kelly’s grandson? No. Just, no.
  • That hair is just atrocious. As loathe as I am to say it, it’s reminiscent of Jenny “Release the Kracken” Humphrey. And Blair would rather ship Dorota back to Poland first before she wears/does something that would be associated with Jenny. Limp curls and split ends have no place in Blair’s life and they definitely don’t have a place in her royal wedding.
  • No way in hell will the wedding be held in a place other than Monaco. This is Blair, GG writers, and she will never pass up a chance to (1) honor tradition and (2) rub it in people’s faces that her life is better than everyone else’s. So of course she would have her wedding in the palace at Monte Carlo complete with those costumed flower girls. She would NOT have it at some random street in NYC that they didn’t even manage to cordon off. I mean, come on, there are other cars parked along the street and pedestrians! Pedestrians! The horror.

So unless this is a dream sequence AND Blair does end up with Chuck and not the lispy prince Louis after all, I’m swearing off Gossip Girl for good. Not when you, the writers and your colleagues (costume designer, hair & makeup) can do this to their best character on the show (they can do whatever they want with Serena).

But *sigh* who am I kidding? I’m still gonna watch.

Photos by Jackson Lee/Splash News via NYMag.com

The Kindle Dilemma, part 2

Well, that was fast.

Less than a week since my post where I contemplate buying a Kindle, I’ve made my decision.  All the input from my friends and the lovely commenters on that post made me realize that it is the most logical, practical, convenient and environment-friendly way to enjoy the written word. Anyone who thinks otherwise really is fooling themselves. So I’m buying a Kindle. And the timing couldn’t be any better. Amazon just released four new Kindle models, most notably the new Kindle touch (since the Fire is more of a tablet, I’m not really considering it).

So it’s now a choice between the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle Touch. I’ve read reviews and they’re mostly mixed. Some give the Touch a slight edge because of the bigger screen and the ease of use, but some still find the keyboard more useful for browsing and it’s page-turn buttons more convenient for reading. I, however, am considering less, ummm, conventional factors: how cute the cases are.

Given that the Kindle Keyboard has been around for a while now, it has more options in terms of protective cases. The Amazon product list for this runs 15 pages, I think. On the other hand, the brand new Kindle Touch has only 2 or 3 pages dedicated to its cases. And unfortunately, those pages don’t include these:

Kate Spade New York Kindle Cases

Yes, I am ashamedly admitting that I am considering getting the Kindle Keyboard because its cases are cuter. But I mean, look at these! I am currently reading Great Expectations so that one is my favorite of the lot, but the bright yellow of The Great Gatsby seems like a fun option as well. There is a price for all this adorableness, though. At $85, these cases cost more than half the ad-free Kindle.

But they’re so DAMN. CUTE. Uggggggh.

PS: Obviously, I’m going with the Kindle Touch and a much, much more reasonably-priced case. I still had to write about these though, because of the aforementioned adorableness.

If it’s good enough for Ms. Blair Waldorf…

It should be good enough for us, no?

While this entry is mainly to further convince you of the delights of Pierre Hermé and Laduree (if my brilliant writing hasn’t done that yet already), I am also using this as an excuse to post pictures of the rightful king and queen of the UES.

Blair: Why aren’t you in Europe?

Chuck: I was in Paris I was only to get your favorite macarons from Pierre Hermé.

– From “The Goodbye Gossip Girl”, Gossip Girl Season 2 Finale

“You were right. I was a coward running away again. Everywhere I went, you caught up with me. I had to come back.”

In the Season 4 priemere, S & B go to Paris to mend their broken hearts and fill up on Laduree macarons.

See! They’re so good, S & B had to make an exception from their no-carb diets!

And I need to squeeze one more lovely picture in:

Just as everything should be

I can’t wait for the GG Season premiere!

Photos from justjared.com and bauergriffin.com