Brown Sugar Cookies

Browned butter and dark brown sugar combined equals something delightful. These cookies are pretty sweet yet I’m pretty sure you’ll find yourself reaching for a second one.

We came across the original recipe in Cook’s Illustrated. While we enjoy reading the magazine, and watching the TV programs by the same producers, I think they tend to overwrite their recipes. I’ve tried to simplify the instructions while giving you advance notice that some ingredients are used in different steps.

Brown Sugar Cookies
Servings: ~30 cookies
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 14 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar, divided
  • 2 cups plus Tbsp. all-purpose flour (~300g)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle of the oven. Line 2 rimmed baking pans with parchment.
  2. Place 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a the bowl of a stand mixer and set it aside. Heat the remaining butter in a stainless-steel skillet over medium heat until melted. Continue to cook until the butter is dark golden brown and you smell a nutty aroma. You’ll want to swirl the melted butter after it melts to ensure even browning. Add the browned butter to mixer bowl and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  3. While the butter cools mix the granulated sugar with 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate, until well combined. In a separate bowl whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, soda, powder and salt). Finally combine the egg, extra yolk and vanilla in a small bowl and beat until blended. All 3 bowls can be set aside.
  4. When the butter is cooled add the remaining dark brown sugar and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg mixture. Beat again until combined and scrape once more. Finally add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. This is a dense dough so you might want to give your mixer a break if it sounds like it is straining.
  5. Use a disher to scoop out 12 balls of dough. Roll each between your hands and then toss with the reserved sugar. Place 12 coated dough balls on one of the baking sheets. Bake for 7 minutes, rotate the pan, and finish baking for 6 additional minutes.
  6. While the first pan of cookies bakes you can scoop up, form and coat the remaining dough. I usually usually end up with about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Notes:
I use a #40 disher to get ~30 cookies. You can tell the disher size by the number stamped into the sweep inside the bowl of the disher. In theory the stamped number indicates the number of scoops necessary to fill a 32 oz. container. Dishers are widely used in food services to control portion size.

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Stovetop Spiced Pecans

I wanted a bit of sweet-salty crunch with the salad we made as part of our Christmas Eve dinner this year. After bouncing options off my husband I opted for a quick online search where I found this recipe that sounded promising. A bit of on-the-fly modification produced a tasty result.

Stovetop Spiced Pecans
Servings: 1 cup nuts
Prep time: nada
Total time: less than 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole pecans
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 1/2 tsp. Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for finishing

Directions:

  1. Place a non-stick skillet over medium heat and add the pecans. Toast for about 1 minute, swishing the nuts around the pan frequently. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet, allow the sugar to melt and swirl to combine the spices.
  3. Return the nuts to the pan and toss to coat. Allow to cook for another minute until the nuts are well-coated with sugar and spice.
  4. Transfer nuts to a rimmed baking dish lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Spread the nuts out so they don’t touch. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
  5. Allow to cool for 30 minutes and then transfer to a sealable container.

Note:
Let these cool at least a minute or two before tasting; the sugary coating is lavatastic when it first comes out of the skillet.

Skillet Cod with Onions and Peppers Agrodolce

[roast-cod-agrodolce]This sounds pretty fancy however it can come together in 35 minutes. You can even make this a one-pan meal if you want, though two skillets are necessary to hit less than 30 minutes.

An agrodolce is an Italian sweet and sour sauce. I’ve added a flavor boost with some anchovy paste and a bit of sriracha. Neither is really noticeable with all the vinegar and sugar. They’d be missed if they weren’t there though.

Pan Roasted Cod Agrodolce
Servings: 2-4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30-40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 1 red onion, cut int 1/4″ strips
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. anchovy paste
  • 1 tsp. sriracha sauce
  • 2 – 4 cod fillets (between 1/2″ and 1″ thick)
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick over medium heat. Add the peppers and onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss with the oil and allow to cook for 5 minutes.
  2. While the peppers cook combine the vinegars, sugar, anchovy and sriracha in a small bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Stir the sauce into the skillet until the onions and pepper are coated. Reduce the heat to low and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, about 10 minutes.
  4. When the sauce is reduce transfer it to a clean bowl and cover it with a plate (or plastic wrap) to keep warm. Wipe on the skillet as best you can and return the skillet to medium heat.
  5. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and heat until shimmering. Pat dry the cod fillets, sprinkle with salt and pepper and add to the skillet. Cook for 4 minutes on the first side, carefully flip to the uncooked side and cook for another 2-3 minutes. The fillets should be opaque all the way through. An instant read thermometer will hit 140°F when the fish is done.
  6. To serve spoon the onion/pepper mixture onto your plate and place a piece of cooked cod on top. Tilt the pan and gather a spoonful of sauce, drizzle this over the fish. A bit of freshly cracked black pepper and a sprinkling from on high of sea salt will add a nice finish. I served it with a rice/quinoa I found in the grocery freezer section.

Notes:
If you want to dirty an extra pan you can cook the fish in a second skillet when the sauce has reduced for 5 minutes.

I have a small squeeze tube of anchovy paste that I use in dishes such as this. I picked it up in the Italian food section of my local grocery store and keep it in the fridge along with a tube of tomato paste. The great thing about paste in a tube is it will last longer because there is little to no air in contact with the unused portion. Plus it had a “good until” date of two years into the future so I don’t have to find 17 uses for anchovy paste in one week.

Bacon Jam

I made this on a whim after looking for appetizer ideas for our family Easter lunch. I decided to make Bacon Jam and Brie Phyllo Cups however their bacon jam was nothing more than bacon added to apricot jam. I knew I could make something better.

This has a bit of a kick to it; adjust the sriracha to your taste. Heck, leave it out if spicy isn’t your thing.

I’m already picturing some of this jam on a slice of toast with some apple slices and cheddar cheese.

Bacon Jam
Servings: about 2 cups
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound smoked bacon
  • 1 cup caramelized onions
  • 5 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup coffee
  • 3 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. sriracha
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup grade B (now called Grade A Dark/Robust) maple syrup

Directions:

  1. In a glass 2-cup measuring cup combine the coffee, brown sugar, sriracha, vinegar and maple syrup. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
  2. Chop bacon into 1″ pieces. Place a large, heavy-bottomed pot, such as a dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until the bacon is lightly browned and starting to crisp. Move the bacon to a paper-towel-lined bowl and pour off the rendered bacon fat.
  3. Return 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat to the pan and add the caramelized onions and garlic. Stir into the bacon fat and cook until you start to smell the garlic. Add the liquid ingredients and combine. Scrap the bottom of the pan to release any bacon fond that may have been created at the beginning.
  4. Bring the mixture to a simmer and return the bacon to the pan. Simmer over low heat for about 2 hours, stirring periodically.
  5. Allow the mixture to cool, in the pan, for 20-30 minutes. Reserve about a 1/2 cup and set it aside. Transfer the rest into a food processor and process until smooth. Add the reserved bacon mixture and give it 1 or 2 pulses just to combine.
  6. Taste and season with salt, pepper, sriracha or vinegar to your own taste.
  7. Store in an air-tight container and enjoy.

Notes:
I use caramelized onions because I had them on hand. You could also thinly slice enough yellow or sweet onions so you have about 3 cups and cook them in step 3 with a generous pinch of salt for 10-15 minutes over low heat. Then add the garlic and continue from there.

This recipe is heavily influenced by this one I found on Pop Sugar along with 4 or 5 others I looked over that had similar combinations.

Peanut Butter Cookies

My plans to make oatmeal cookies were foiled by not having any oatmeal. Thankfully there are always other types of cookies that can be made with most of the same ingredients.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Servings: 3 1/2 dozen cookies
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder & soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Combine the oil, peanut butter and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat for 1 minute at a low speed to combine and then another 2 minutes at high speed until smooth. Reduce speed to low, add sugars, beat until combined and then increase speed to high for 3-4 minutes until fluffy.
  4. Add the egg and extra yolk and beat until combined.
  5. Add the flour in 1/2 cup increments about 30 seconds apart until all the flour mixture has been mixed in. Rest the dough for 10 minutes.
  6. Using a 1 Tbsp. measure scoop dough into balls and place on a cookie sheet. Use the tines of a fork to press into 3/8″ high cookies.
  7. Bake one cookie sheet at a time for 9 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet 180°F half way through cooking.
  8. Remove the tray and cool for 4-5 minutes before transferring cookies to a cooling rack. Store any cookies you resist eating in a sealed container for as long as they last.

Notes:
I was actually short on peanut butter as well (who stocks the pantry in this place anyway, oh ya, it’s me; doh). I had about 1/2 a cup of peanut butter so I made up the remaining 1/4 cup with cookie butter; specifically with Speculoos Cookie & Cocoa Swirl from Trader Joe’s. While evily delicious I’m glad I also finished that jar; it won’t be replaced. Evily delicious and attempting to lose some weight do not go well together.

Baked Beans

I’ve made these several times for parties or large gatherings. They are heartier than the usual canned version with a nice dense bean.

Baked Beans
Servings: 12 to 16
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 4 28-oz. cans of small red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato puree
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 Tbsp. ground red chipotle
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Adjust the oven racks so a large Dutch oven (with lid) will easily fit. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  2. Add the ketchup, tomato, brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire, paprika and chipotle to a bowl. Stir until the brown sugar has broken up and been well mixed into the other ingredients.
  3. Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over medium until shimmering. Add the chopped onions and a good pinch of kosher salt. Stir to coat with oil and cook for around 5 minutes. The onions should be translucent.
  4. Add the sauce mixture to the pot, stir into the onions, bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the beans and incorporate. Cover pot and bake for 75 minutes.
  6. Remove the lid and cook for another 15-20 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Test seasoning for salt and pepper; adjust as desired.

Notes:
For best results make this dish in advance, cool and refrigerate overnight. Reheat the next day in a slow-cooker or a 350°F oven for 30 minutes.

This recipe is roughly based on one by Dave Lieberman. I pulled the bacon to make it more vegetarian friendly though I don’t mark it as vegetarian because Worcestershire sauce is not vegetarian.