Apple Tart

It’s gotten considerably colder this last week. The air is very crisp with a different chill. I have no choice but to just start embracing it. The only way I know how is through food…thank god for that! Colder weather makes be crave food like chili, butternut squash, pumpkin, braised meats, casseroles, hearty stews, and of course apple pies! The traditional apple pie can be a little time consuming, so I prefer to make the much easier apple tart. The ingredients are incredibly simple. All you really need are apples, cinnamon, sugar, and a crust. I make my own crust, but store bought dough will work just fine if you don’t have the time. Serve it warm with ice cream…although it’s also great on its own.


Brined Beer Can Chicken w/ Aji Verde Sauce

Columbus Day weekend was one of the most gorgeous weekends ever. It was sunny and in the high 70s throughout. Neil and I decided to take advantage of the weather and grill out. Lately, we’ve been super obsessed with roasted chicken. This craze started with the roasted chicken at Palena Café in DC, which hands down is the best I’ve ever had. We’ve been on a big chicken kick this past summer…frequenting Peruvian places for their delicious chickens, and ordering roasted chicken any time it appears on a menu. So, it was settled…we decided to make a chicken.

Before I go any further, let me point out that Neil prepped and cooked this chicken. For once, I was his “little helper”. I could get use to this :)

After taking advice from various food blogs, we decided to brine our chicken overnight and then use the “beer can” method to grill it. Brining is a whole new exciting world. I never knew that this was the key to juicy chicken. But, be careful not to overbrine your meat or it may result in a “rubbery” and salty chicken. I’d say 12 hours max is good. At a minimum, brine consists of water and salt. Marinating chicken in this mixture before you cook adds incredible flavor and tenderness. The subtle saltiness literally goes all the way to the bone of the chicken. Now to the beer can part. Honestly, I don’t know why this method works so well to cook chicken, but we’re sold. Apparently, when you sit your chicken’s “butt” on top of the open beer can, and cook, it causes the liquid to boil and infuse the chicken with wonderful flavor. It looks absolutely ridiculous, but I can’t argue, because our chicken was phenomenal…juicy, tender, flavorful, and succulent!

So, the steps are pretty easy…
1. Brine your chicken overnight or at least 8 hours
2. Rub it with your favorite dry rub
3. Cook (grill, oven, or roaster) your chicken as it sits on top of an open beer can. The grilling part can be tricky, and is explained by Neil in the recipe.

We also rubbed our chicken with roasted garlic butter before applying the dry rub. We didn’t think this was necessary in the end because it made it difficult for the dry rub to adhere to the chicken. We’re gonna nix the butter next time.

As I mentioned previously, we’ve been frequenting a lot of Peruvian chicken joints lately, and love the “aji verde” sauce that comes with their chicken. We found a recipe that comes pretty close to the sauce without the need for authentic, inaccessible ingredients. So, we served the chicken with the pseudo aji sauce, chipotle mac & cheese, red skin mashed potatoes, and grilled asparagus. This was the perfect outdoor feast to take advantage of the perfect weather!

See Brined Beer Can Chicken Recipe!
See Aji Verde Sauce Recipe!


Chicken Marsala

Dinner is by far my favorite part of the day. More than half my daily thoughts revolve around “what’s for dinner?” No joke! I can’t remember when I last went without dinner…I don’t think I ever have actually. I’m guaranteed to have a rude awakening once a baby is in the picture!! But, for now, it’s my time to unwind and nothing helps me unwind more than ending a day with delicious, comforting food. Marsala has been one of my go to meals when I’m out of creative ideas for an evening dinner. I’d like to be able to whip up something new and exciting during the work week, but it’s just not practical. I’ve called upon this Marsala recipe to save the day many times, and it never fails me. It’s a warm, comforting dinner that’s ideal for the colder months to come. It’s also the perfect remedy to lift my spirits and put aside my daily frustrations.

See Recipe!


Creme Brulee

Crème brulee (French for “burnt sugar”) is one of my favorite desserts. Before I started baking, I thought that this was a dessert only reserved for restaurants and I could never attempt it home. I was completely wrong, as I discovered that it’s so much easier than any cake or mousse that I’ve ever made. In fact, it was so easy that at one point I was making this every weekend. That’s the excited little kid in me, and I’ve settled down now.

This dessert consists of a rich custard base topped with a layer of hard caramel. The caramel is created by burning the sugar with a blow torch. The custard is traditionally flavored with vanilla, but you can enhance it with other flavors. Sometimes I add grand marnier and orange zest. Pistachio paste gives a very unique flavor too. Or try infusing it with tea or coffee!

The only tricky part of crème brulee is testing for doneness. You want a perfect creamy and silky consistency without it being runny. The best test for doneness is the “jiggle” test. As the custards cook, reach into the oven and gently shake one with tongs or an oven mitt. It’s perfect when the edges are set but the inner custard jiggles slightly. You want to be careful not to cook them past this point or you will end up with a pasty consistency.

Crème brulee can be made in advance, but you shouldn’t caramelize the sugar until you are ready to serve. I’d say 30 minutes max…any longer and the hardened sugar will start softening. The contrast between the hard, bitter sugar and creamy, sweet custard defines this dessert. Serve it with a glass of moscato for the perfect compliment.

See Recipe!