Friday, December 14, 2012

Chocolate and vanilla sandwich cookies

Who doesn't love the sandwich cookie? I've always been nuts for them, from the humble Oreo to its gourmet version a la Thomas Keller.  (On our last trip to Yountville and the Bouchon Bakery, I put away a small and expensive bagful of his "oreos" and "nutter butters" in under five minutes.)  But let's be honest, even when the cookie is dry and the filling is chalky, I'll choke it down. Perhaps it's because I love both sandwiches and cookies? All I know is my tiny brain gets excited when I hear the words. And, have you noticed that the phrase sounds inviting, no matter what the word order? Sandwich cookies or cookie sandwiches--either promises pure happiness, something a bit trickier to come by the older you get.

Always in search of pure happiness, particularly the kind I can eat or drink, I was thrilled to come across Sue's post about vanilla-on-vanilla sandwich cookies. I knew immediately I wanted to make them. I mean, vanilla bean cookies with vanilla buttercream frosting filling?  What's not to love?

But at the last minute, as my cookies cooled, I decided to go the chocolate route on the filling. And as you can imagine, it was no mistake.

These sandwich cookies are particularly awesome because they do not require rolling out dough (which is my primary fear in the kitchen, second only to anything involving yeast). Instead, you get a scoop and drop 'em out. Easy  as...cookies.  I used too big a scoop, though (about 1.5", which is all I had at the time), and so mine looked more like whoopie pies.  I've since remedied this and purchased a very small scoop, so next time my sandwich cookies will be nice and little.

The cookie part is rather soft, which is good, because then the filling doesn't go shooting out the sides and down your shirt when you bite in. We like to keep it classy, you know. Nope, these stayed intact from first bite to last. And, their softness makes them a discrete cookie, so you can chomp one quietly while your partner is in the other room scrolling through the DVR recordings or doing something equally clueless. I busted the husband doing just this, while I bumbled about to see if there had been a new "Homeland" on the night before. There he was, silently and crumblessly wolfing one down.

So if you have someone to impress or distract--a partner, a boss, Santa?--these should be at the top of your to-do list.

And since this may well be my last post for a week or so, merry and happy everything. A little campari and prosecco toast to you all.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Risotto with saffron and shrimp

Here's a recipe I've been making quite a lot over the last few months. It's pretty quick for a weeknight--lots of stirring but not much chopping-- and leads to plenty of delicious leftovers.

The photo is taken from the very first time I made it, months ago, pre-Italy, when it looked pretty good, but not as good as the last time I made it, which was last week. The first few times I made it, I didn't have quite enough saffron and so the rice wasn't as vibrantly yellow as it should be. My most recent attempt resulted in gorgeous, deep yellow grains, which, combined with the crimson tomatoes, reminded me of Spanish food. I've come to think of it almost as more of a paella, only without the crispy bottom.

This is yet another winner from Firehouse Food. I can make a risotto in my sleep and so can you--they're easy as can be. Don't skip the last step with the butter--it makes all the difference.

Risotto with saffron and shrimp
From Firehouse Food

5-6 c. broth
3 T. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
1 1/12 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. white wine
1 can (14.5 oz) diced Italian-style tomatoes, drained
1/2 t. saffron threads
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 c. frozen peas
2 T. butter, at room temperature
2 T. chopped parsley

Bring broth to a steady but low simmer in a large saucepan.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add rice, stirring to coat all the grains in oil, and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the rice becomes slightly translucent, stirring constantly. Pour in wine and cook, stirring, until the liquid is completely absorbed by the rice, 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and saffron.

Start adding broth in 1/2-cup increments, stirring constantly and allowing for the rice to absorb the broth before adding the next ladleful. Keep heat at medium. Continue until the rice is nearly al dente, which should take about 20 minutes. Add water or more broth to your saucepan if you run out.

When you're ready to add the last of the liquid, also add the shrimp and peas. Stir and cook until the shrimp are done, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the butter and season with salt and pepper.

Spoon into warmed bowls and garnish with chopped parsley.