August 30, 2018

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

I know, I know. I just posted a recipe for strawberry cheesecake. But it's 90 degrees outside, I need something to cool off, and I want to use all the end-of-season, ripe, juicy strawberries while I still have them. Labor Day weekend is also approaching, and I'm always looking for patriotic desserts that everyone will love, plus it's pretty cool and refreshing to follow a big outdoor barbecue. Strawberry ice cream is already pretty popular, but making the base cheesecake-flavored and folding in a crunchy graham cracker crumble really takes it over the top.

The ice cream base consists of cream, milk, vanilla, sugar, a pinch of salt, and, of course, cream cheese. I whisk the sugar into the cream cheese first since you're not going to have a smooth base if you try and stir in a whole block of cream cheese. The sugar softens up the cream cheese (which should already be at room temperature), making it much easier to gradually whisk in the other ingredients. That should set aside to chill for a while since you'll get much better results if you try and freeze a cold liquid than a warm one.

In the meantime, you can toss some graham cracker crumbs with butter and sugar then toast and crumble them. I'd make some extra because I was eating it with a spoon even before it was mixed into the ice cream, and it's extra tasty when you sprinkle more on top of the ice cream. The last component is the strawberry compote: I combine fresh strawberries (or frozen, since they'll be pureed anyway) with cornstarch and sugar to taste. That gets pureed until smooth since the strawberry chunks become icy and hard when frozen. The last step is cooking the puree for a few minutes to thicken so you don't have watery ribbons frozen in your ice cream; you should end up with a thick, jammy spread that you can swirl in.

As long as you have an ice cream maker, this recipe is incredibly easy but incredibly impressive. Yes, there are ways to make ice cream without one, like whipping cream and combining it with sweetened condensed milk, but you can get ice cream makers as cheap as around $30, which is worth it in my opinion if you have any interest in playing around with ice cream recipes. Coming from a lab where people literally get PhDs in ice cream, I know how important air cells, freezing time, and other factors are when it comes to getting a rich, creamy ice cream. Essentially, you want to aerate the ice cream base and freeze it quickly for a softer texture with minimal grainy ice crystals. The faster and colder you churn, the better the ice cream is, which is why you see so many places freezing theirs with liquid nitrogen. The freezing process depends on your ice cream maker, so be sure to follow directions. I swirl in the strawberry puree and graham cracker crumbs as I scoop it into a tin to freeze further so the ice cream doesn't all turn pink, but that's a personal preference. You can also switch it up with other cookies like oreos or vanilla wafers and, of course, other fruit purees. Cheesecake will always be in style, so don't be afraid to switch it up with some ice cream!

2/3 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs
1 Cup + 6 T Sugar
3 T Butter, Melted
1 1/2 Cups (8oz) Chopped Strawberries
2 tsp Cornstarch
8 oz Cream Cheese, Softened
1 1/2 Cups Cream
1 Cup Whole Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
Pinch Salt

Heat oven to 375F.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs, 3 T sugar, and butter. Spread onto a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes or until golden and fragrant.

Blend the strawberries with 3 T sugar and cornstarch in a food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth. Transfer to a small pot and simmer on medium-low heat until thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Refrigerate until cooled.

Whisk the cream cheese and remaining 1 cup sugar together until smooth. Whisk in the cream, milk, vanilla, and salt. Pour into a prepared ice cream churner and churn according to instructions.

While the ice cream is still soft, swirl in the graham cracker crumble and the strawberry sauce. Freeze until firm.

Serves 6
Recipe Adapted from Like Mother Like Daughter

August 17, 2018

Sesame Chicken Thighs

I apologize for the lack of posts lately but I have good news! I officially moved to Chicago, complete with a gas range, a new set of All-Clad cookware, Zwilling knives, gorgeous glass ingredient jars, my trusty Kitchenaid stand mixer, and all my baking pans crammed into a surprisingly small kitchen. Don't worry, I'll post a bunch of pictures on Instagram once I finish unpacking and organizing. For now, I'm just trying to survive my first week at work (so many Skittles!) and eat something besides candy and deep dish pizza. Between being exhausted at the end of the day and only having a few things out and ready to cook with, I'm all for quick and easy dinners, and I know all you back-to-school parents, college students, and fellow 9-to-5ers feel the same. The only thing better than takeout at the end of a long day is a cheaper, healthier copycat, and sesame chicken is one of my favorites.

Sesame chicken is usually battered, fried chicken nuggets tossed in a sweet and salty glaze with maybe a few limp vegetables underneath. I definitely love it, but I also know I can't eat it all the time. Chicken thighs are my favorite cut of chicken since they stay juicy and tender through pretty much anything, plus they can be seared off for crispiness without deep frying. I sear them off in a sesame oil blend until the skin crisps up then set them aside so there's room to cook the carrots. Carrots are probably my favorite vegetable (you know, besides potatoes and corn), and cooking them in sesame-infused chicken fat is the way to go. They'll finish cooking in the oven so they really just need a few minutes, but it's worth taking the time to build those layers of flavor first.

The sauce consists of soy sauce, honey, vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, and Sriracha. I personally like this ratio of sweet, salty, and sour with the pop of ginger and spicy Sriracha, but it can certainly be adjusted to fit your taste. The best time to do so is after you bring the sauce to a boil in the skillet, when everything has a chance to cook down together. Once you have the recipe just right, add a cornstarch slurry to help thicken things up and form a nice glaze. That all gets brushed on the chicken, which goes on top of the carrots, and they all cook together in the oven so the sauce infuses the chicken and it all drips down into the carrots. I like to serve some more on the side for dipping both carrots and chicken since the glaze really is that addicting. If you want rice or noodles or even some sort of salad, go ahead and drown it in the sauce, too. You can get this meal from fridge to table in about 45 minutes, and of course the leftovers go even faster.

6 Chicken Thighs
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
1/4 Cup Honey
2 T Rice Wine Vinegar
3 T Sesame Oil
1 T Canola Oil
2 tsp Grated Ginger
1 1/2 tsp Cornstarch
1 lb Carrots

Heat oven to 425F.

Peel and trim the carrots. Cut into coins.

Whisk the soy sauce, honey, vinegar, 2T sesame oil, ginger, and Sriracha (to taste) together. Set aside.

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat the remaining sesame oil and canola oil together in a large skillet. Add the chicken thighs skin-side down and cook over medium-high heat until deep golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove from the pan.

Drain all but 2T fat from the skillet and return to medium-high heat. Add the carrots and cook for 4 minutes or until browned. Stir and cook for another 4 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish.

Pour the sauce into the skillet and bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisk the cornstarch and 1 1/2 tsp cold water together, then stir into the sauce. Bring to a simmer and whisk until thickened.

Place the chicken thighs on top of the carrots. Brush generously with half the sauce and roast for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through and the carrots are tender. Serve with the remaining sauce.

Serves 4-6
Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit