Friday, December 30, 2011

Dead Easy Coconut Macaroons

These three-ingredient cookies are the easiest in my repertoire and come together in under two minutes for all of your late night "wait, the holiday party is tomorrow?" moments. With one important caveat:  do NOT attempt these without lining your cookie sheets with parchment paper.  I've got many memories from days of yore pre-parchment proliferation, and my poor mother chiseling caramel-colored pools of cemented condensed milk off of her baking sheets, only to find the dog had eaten the several dozen fruits of her labor by the next afternoon.  Don't let this happen to you.

The sweetened condensed milk in this recipe also gives the coconut a toasted nutty flavor, while still keeping the cookies sweet and chewy.  So it's not "all-natural" (what does that mean, anyway?), but you won't have to whip egg whites which I consider a procedural win.  Use non-stick paper, train your dog better, and enjoy.

Quick and Easy Coconut Macaroons
Recipe from my Mom

Makes 4-5 dozen cookies
Total time: one hour (Active time <5 minutes)
  • 16oz (450g) grated coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 14oz (400g) sweetened condensed milk 
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract (or vanilla in a pinch)
Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir until well-mixed.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned.

Move the parchment paper onto a wire rack to cool.  Store on waxed paper in airtight containers, or freeze.  Good for several weeks, if they last that long.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Spicy Cranberry Chutney

Controversial statement: the best character on Friends is Chandler Bing, but only between seasons 1 and 4.  During the first part of the show's run, he was a Woody Allen-esque hyper self-critical schmuck, hapless but ultimately good-natured.  Once he starts dating Monica, I guess the producers decided that he was best served as a man-accessory and all significant character development is removed.  Because what else do you do when characters get married and boring to maintain viewership?  Have everyone get crazy!  And thus they become exaggerated caricatures (OCD! Smoking! Baby crazy! Dog hating!) of the lovable poor decision-making fools they once were.

So in very last Thanksgiving episode of Friends ("The One with the Late Thanksgiving"), Chandler's story arch centers around the flaccid unitask that his wife allowed him to contribute - the cranberry sauce.  He rises and falls by the cranberry sauce, traditionally the lamest of the Thanksgiving condiments, since there's nothing else for him to do.  And that was me this past Thanksgiving.

As I mentioned before, I arrived very very late on Thanksgiving Eve and was set to be exhaustingly busy on Thanksgiving morning, so the cranberry sauce was my only contribution.  And it needed to sing!  So we have spicy cranberry chutney - a tart and peppery sauce to cut through and enhance your sweet and mushy holiday sides.  I've since added it to eggs, turkey and ham sandwiches, burritos, and I'm told the leftovers were also incorporated into a baked brie.  Because if you only have one thing to offer, it better go the distance.  Assuming of course, it doesn't get used up in a gratuitous physical gag.

Spicy Cranberry Chutney
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated (via The Bitten Word for those without a subscription like myself)

Makes 3 cups (750mL)
Total time: 90 minutes (Active time 10 minutes)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, minced (one with seeds and one without)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) water
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) cider vinegar
  • 1 cup (220g) packed brown sugar
  • 12 oz (340g) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 green or yellow apple, shredded on a box grater and peels removed
Heat oil in medium pan over medium heat.  Add shallot, salt, red bell pepper, and jalapenos; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add water, vinegar, and sugar.  Increase heat to high and bring to simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add half of the cranberries and the grated apple and return to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have almost completely broken down and mixture has thickened, about 15-20 minutes.

Add remaining cranberries and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to burst, 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool for at least 1 hour before serving.  Keeps just fine refrigerated for several weeks.  Travels well.