Here is a quick and easy idea for a twist on the usual standard dinner fare. I’m not a big fan of skinless boneless chicken breasts, but utilize them occasionally in cooking. I always have some puff pastry in the freezer left over from catering. This particular evening I had some frozen béchamel sauce I had leftover from making lasagna. As a chef I save as much I can in the freezer to repurpose later in another dish. “Waste not , want not” especially with food costs soaring. Some frozen broccoli, béchamel, chicken breasts, Dijon mustard, and Gouda make for an easy elegant stunning meal. I called these galettes which we normally associate with a free from sweet pastry. Why not savory? The chicken breast stays tender as it cooks up in the creamy sauce and puff pastry. Be sure to use a thermometer to check chickens doneness without compromising the presentation before serving. Poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165-175 F . Here is quick link for Béchamel , a mother sauce that should be in your repertoire.
Thawed frozen Puff pastry sheets to equal amount of chicken pieces
2 cups Béchamel sauce ( see link in post)
1 cup grated Gouda
2 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
1 cup frozen broccoli
¼ cup chicken broth
1 egg beaten for pastry wash
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare you béchamel. Add grated gouda and broccoli. Let sit for 20 min until a little thickened and cooler before assembly.
Preheat oven to 375 F
Line a sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper .
Place a chicken breast atop a piece of puff pastry on the sheet pan.
Add a few tablespoons of thickened cooled sauce and quickly wrap to seal. Brush with egg yolk.
Reheat Béchamel with chicken stock.
One galetttes are browned and chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165-175 F , remove from oven.
Serve hot with more sauce ladled over the pastry.
In other news this has been an amazing week as I go through some career transformations and validations. An illustration I did a while ago and forgot about for my former employers contest, was picked up and reposted on the Cosmetic Brands IG page! For me this is a huge validation of my creative talents and skills .
Here is another recipe I developed , incorporating Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans.These Latin inspired hand pies, empanada’s, can be filled with many sweet and savory fillings.Using Old El Paso Refried beans with chicken and cheese add an extra creaminess. I used premade empanada dough discs , which can be found in the Latin food freezer section in specialty supermarkets. You can also use a basic premade refrigerated pie dough. Or if you have the time, patience, and skill, try making your own empanada dough. Either way your guests will enjoy these snacks, or even a meal in one. Play with sizes to determine your portions or style of serving. The accompanying sauce has a zesty coolness of cilantro and lime. Perfect for dipping.
Empanada’s can be baked or fried. In this recipe I fried them. If you fry at the optimal temperature( around 350 degrees minimum), the result is perfect and food is not greasy. I love how frying blisters the dough and makes it perfectly crunchy and flakey. If you choose to bake your empanada, bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes on a silicone mat lined baking sheet. Be sure to brush tops with a bit of oil.
So you see the methods and options for empanada’s are endless. Savory, sweet, vegan, meat filled. Enjoy. And remember using a product like Old El Paso Refried beans adds more creaminess and goes with a multitude of filling options.
This is an endorsement of product from General Mills/ Old El Paso in which I developed a few recipes for compensation.
Old El Paso Refried Beans,Chicken,Cheese Empanadas with Creamy Lime Cilantro Dip
10 premade empanada discs or ready made pie crusts cut into rounds( approximately 4 premade rolled crusts)
1 cup boiled chicken breast, diced or shredded
1 teaspoon chili powder
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup Old El Paso Traditional refried beans
½ cup shredded mozzarella
Vegetable Oil for deep frying.( amount varies on size of deep fryer or skillet)
Creamy Cilantro Lime Dip
1 cup sour cream
Juice of 1 lime
¾ cup cilantro chopped
½ small onion minced
Heat deep fryer to 350 º
In a small bowl mix diced chicken, chili powder, salt, pepper, and garlic.
Take a small rounded tablespoon of seasoned chicken and place atop disc.
Add a bit of cheese, and refried beans.
Do not overstuff.
Take each end of dough to fold over into half moon shape.
Seal edges shut by pressing dough together, and then laying down on flat surface and using a fork to press in edges to seal.
Fry empanadas a few at a time. Do not overcrowd fryer.
Drain on paper towel. Keep warm on a parchment lined baking sheet in a 200 º oven.
Creamy Cilantro Lime Dip
In a small food processor or bowl/cup of immersion blender, add all sour cream, lime, cilantro, and onion.
Pulse to blend.
Refrigerate until ready to serve with empanadas.
You can use pre made refrigerated pie crust.
If you make your own empanada dough, try coloring it with annatto.
You can vary size of discs, empanadas, just remember not to overfill.
You can use leftover rotisserie chicken, or other meats as a filling with Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans, and Cheese of your choice.
It’s been radio silent for a month or so here at Coco Cooks. Since the New Year , I haven’t been primarily busy with catering, but more holding down the day job, and moving into a new home. The catering business is slow, but picking up for spring. Certain Someone has taken the plunge and purchased a fabulous town home for us. After a decade in my spacious yet cluttered condo, I should have known better. Moving is hard work and cleaning up afterwards to prep your home for rental even harder. It’s like erasing a decade. I purchased that home with the money my Mother left me after her death. It was the biggest decision I ever made . I took care of my father there for a while. It wasn’t ideal for either of us, but he got stronger and was well cared for until his death. So the house was filled with a little sorrow, but joy as well. It served a s the place where I really came of age on my own.The old condo was comforting and cozy. Then I met Certain Someone. It wasn’t our intention to move in together, as I just never really believed in it. But circumstances happen, and we did, and never looked back. It worked for both of us. But two people who have led full lives, tend to accumulate a lot of stuff. Life was just getting cluttered. Certain Someone yearned to be up North in the Lincoln Park area, and now here we are.
I love the new town house. It has four stories and full of light. The chefs kitchen is huge, with a large pantry to hold my many appliances and dry goods. The cabinets are ample. I have a double oven. Now my very used kitchen, looks manageable. It’s a show kitchen, but a practical one that will get its workout. I can house my catering supplies , cake decorating and crafting supplies and equipment in the garage for storage, out of site. My favorite part is rooftop terrace where I like to enjoy a morning coffee or late night drink in the sun. I have such plans for the terrace. Some container gardening and a new Weber gas grill to entertain. Certain Someone is proud as a peacock. He did good and I’m glad he purchased this home with the thoughts of what features would make me happy as well. Now I just pray I can get a tenant in the old place.
I’ve been cooking , but resorting to old favorites, and nothing really to write about. Plus with Weight Watchers, it hasn’t made for much I want to share. I have lost 10 lbs thus far with Weight Watchers and another 10 prior since January. So a total of 20 lbs.With the move, I’m cognizant of what I’m eating but not so careful to count the points and as many days we we just grabbed what and where we could in transition. But its a lifestyle, and very easy to hope back onto. The four flights of stairs keep me leaner too.
So what am I doing about to show you a decadent pie? Well I need to keep my baking skills up and Easter is approaching. I’ve been hearing everyone rave about Lucky Peach Magazine , and I went on Amazon and got issues 2 and 3 to see what all the hype was about. When Certain Someone and I were on a New York a few years back, I led him to a David Chang restaurant. Good, but too hipster for him and he hated the fact he had to wait in line and eat elbow to elbow at the bar. I hear everyone rave about Chang’s Pastry Chef Christina Tosi from Milk Bar. From what I’ve seen and heard of her desserts, she likes to use things like cornflakes, potato chips, and other processed things. But sneering or not, she is creative and has the chops and technique. So I was immediately captivated by her recipes in the Sweet Spot Issue 2. Now mind you , I’ve just moved , and as it was bound to happen, while I thought I had everything needed for the recipe, I didn’t. So I made a few more substitutions than planned. Tosi’s recipe is for a simple yet complex Banana Cream Pie made with bananas, aged funky and sweet. Well I didn’t have days to wait and I’m impulsive. The markets in my new neighborhood , don’t have a discount rotting produce rack, like some other ones I know. But I did find some ripe bananas that weren’t too starchy. I decided to mix it up with a very ripe mango . Tosi adds food color for a cartoon like yellow, because the real color is more starchy white and gluelike. With the mango, I had a nice orange tint, but still added some golden food color. I was out of butter( Quel horror) and cheated and used butter flavored vegetable shortening for the chocolate crumb. Christina is very fussy and picky in her recipe writing, because she wants us to get it right. But I was confident in my baking ability to throw some caution to the wind and sub where I needed to. I even ran out of whipping cream, and chilled up some evaporated milk for the final stage to whip. Don’t laugh. It didn’t help that the recipe layout was a bit confusing ( the next page read bottom to top, rather than top to bottom)and I ended up using more cream in my cooked custard, and thereby depleting what I needed for the final stage of whipping.This Cream Pie process , reminded me more of the cooked banana pudding base my mother used to make . So how did it turn out? Naturally with substitutions the recipe is seriously compromised. But what I got was a great pie , on the runnier side. I solved that dilemma by freezing it. Once frozen, and cut, the slices thawed into a nice creamy custard. In pastry workshops I’ve taken, most pastry components are always frozen to yield perfect assembly . This pie will do on a nice warm day on on your Easter Table. That’s what a good cook should be able to do. Turn around and save a situation. I will give you my variation of how I made this pie, loosely inspired by Christina Tosi of Milk Bar .
As a kid, I always hated coconut. You know that sweetened shredded stuff would make me recoil instantly. As an adult I have come to like it a lot in its various forms. Coconut milk, cream, flakes,etc. And lately I have been obsessed since visiting Tom Douglas Palace Kitchen in Seattle. Their Coconut Cream pie blew me away. Large unsweetened coconut flakes and shavings of White Chocolate.
So on my birthday I decided to bake myself a pie , rather than cake. Ironically I found his recipe in one of those bargain books created by Kitchen Aid. A compilation of previously published recipes. I decided to use his Triple Coconut Cream Pie as a Guide. A guide, as I decided to swap out regular milk for Creamed Coconut from Goya. This is a solid block of creamed coconut that’s beyond and different coconut milk or cream. Its often called for in curry recipes and is very rich. The swap worked and worked double as it provided the texture of shredded sweetened coconut that the custard base called for as well as providing that creaminess and thickening factor as it sets without adding corn starch or flour.. Another change I made was using ground almonds in his short crust. Lot of changes, but it all came together beautifully. I didn’t have a block of white chocolate, so I melted chips, spread it thin on parchment and chilled it. The I broke it up into shards to adorn the pie with large toasted flaked coconut.
Coconut Cream Pie ( inspired by Tom Douglas’ Triple Coconut Cream Pie, but with significant changes)
Pie Crust 1 cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour 1/2 cup finely ground almonds or almond flour 1 stick cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces 2 tsp sugar 1/2 tsp salt 1/3 cup ice water
Pastry Cream 1 (200 grams) 7oz block Pure Creamed Coconut (*not coconut milk or cream) 1 cup milk 1 tbsp vanilla extract 2 large eggs 1 cup sugar
Topping 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream 1/2 cup sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract unsweetened large coconut flakes for garnish white chocolate shavings for garnish 1 packet Dr Oetker’s Whip It optional
Making Pie Crust In a stand mixer combine flour, ground almonds, butter,sugar, and salt. Mix until a crumbly mixture . Add ice cold water gradually. Dough should hold together when held together between fingers. Dough should still be crumbly and not form a ball.Take the dough and gently place crumbly dough on waxed paper or plastic . Cover with another sheet and form a flattened disc . Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour before rolling out.
Roll out dough and flatten dough on lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, transfer and shape into pie tin or baking dish. It may break apart, and that’s OK. Form with hands in baking tin. Make sure you let the dough overextend edge, as it will shrink while baking. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour before baking.
Take Parchment paper and cover unbaked pie crust. Fill with dried beans or pie beans. Blind Bake in preheated oven at 400 F. Bake for 25 min or until golden. Remove form oven and remove paper and beans. Place back in oven and finish baking for 10 more minutes or until golden all the way through. Allow to cool before adding filing.
Pastry Cream In a sauce pan melt the Pure Creamed Coconut over Medium heat. Add Milk. Bring Mixture to a boil.Remove from heat. In a separate bowl whisk eggs , sugar, and vanilla. Gradually temper a bit of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture and whisking. Then add the tempered egg mixture to the hot milk mixture. Be careful as you don’t want cooked eggs. Once all in saucepan heat while constantly whisking until mixture is very thick. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming on top and bring to room temperature, then refrigerate. The cream will thicken as it cools.
On a shallow parchment lined baking sheet, toast coconut flakes at 350F until they start to brown. Be careful not to burn and remove quickly. Make you white chocolate shavings and set aside.
Whip cold heavy cream , sugar , and vanilla in stand mixture with balloon. Add Whip It if you want a thicker stabilized cream.Do not over whip, but whip until stiff peak stage.
Spread Pastry cream in Pie Shell. Top with Whipped Cream. Smooth and make decorative opeaks with off set spatula. Garnish liberally with toasted coconut flakes and white chocolate shavings.
I mentioned last week that I was working on my pie for the Bucktown Apple Pie Competition. I have been so busy, but unexpected time opened up and allowed me to devote all Saturday to this pie. I started the prep at 10:oopm so it would fresh for morning, but set. I had a last minute inspiration to dust cinnamon powder with my Chinese long life vegetable cutter.It worked! And notice the center with a full Star Anise pod. Here is my recipe. I based my crust on Dorie Greenspan’s Good for Almost Anything Crust, but changed the shortening aspect to my trusted Atora. This tasted way better than my previous attempts. But what a lot of butter and grease that seeped out while baking. But better it seep than stay in, but still give me a flakier crust.
On Sunday Morning I arose at dawn and popped the pies back into the oven at a low 200 to warm up for an hour . I was the Contestant #2 and had my photo taken. I got some compliments on the appearance and left. All the contestants were to return at 2pm . At 2:30pm the finalists were announced. While waiting and listening to some band called Tangleweed that played bluegrass/ country, I saw my name on the ribbon board on a list of Semi Finalists!
I made it that far. Maybe there was hope for finalist?92 contestants, 27 Semi Finalists, 5 Winners.
All this year in particular of obsessing, blogging, learning, Daring Bakers, reading, etc was starting to pay off in improvement.But that’s as far as I got. The finalist seemed like familiar names in the competition.Neighborhood locals, repeat contestants,etc. This was my second year and I think I’m miles ahead from last years entry.The celebrity judges including Gale Gand , and Stephanie Izard( Top Chef Chicago winner) went to work on the finalists table and the mob was directed to the Pie Room to ‘buy’ a taste.
We were packed liked sardines , but I found my pie and waited patiently for a clear view. One of them was practically gone and people in line were asking for a slice. Now was the time to really taste and see how it measures up. I was pleased. The crust was not soggy , but flaky even on the bottom. The fruit gelled nice. A lot of pies looked like they had bigger chunks of fruit, but not that gel like sauce. The only thing I would change is bigger chunks of fruit and more fruit, as the winning pies seemed to be high in fruit. One of the finalist told me she only uses 4 ingredients in her crust, one of them being milk! Hmmm, I have to try that one day.I didn’t stick around to 4:45 for the winners. The place was packed and a line went through to outside. I heard a volunteer turning non contestants or people who hadn’t already been inside away because they running out of pie. The contestants pies were being sold off in slices and the winners auctioned. Sounds like it was a succes. I will be back next year, God willing.
Coco’s Asian Apple Pie
Makes 1 9inch double crust pie
Filling 1 12 fl oz can of Frozen Apple Juice concentrate 1 cinnamon stick 2-3 Star Anise ground to make 2 teaspoons of powder 1/4 teaspoon mace pinch of black pepper 5-6 Golden Delicious apples peeled ,cored, and chopped 1/2 cup King Arthur’s Pie Enhancer ( for thickening) 1/2 cup sugar Pastry Crust 3 cups all -purpose flour 1/4 cup sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 2 1/2 sticks frozen unsalted butter cut into small pieces 1/3 cup Atora ( cold) a shredded dehydrated suet available in the the UK or online 1/2 cup ice water Egg Wash 1 egg beaten 1 teaspoon cream INSTRUCTIONS:
Take a heavy bottom sauce pan and heat the frozen concentrate with the ground star anise, cinnamon stick( intact) , and mace until mixture is reduced by half. It will form a dark syrup. Set aside. Discard cinnamon stick when cool. Make Crust. mix flour , sugar, and salt in your Stand Mixer. Gradually in stages add the butter and Atora until mixed into the flour. Do not over mix! Chunks of butter and Atora are fine. Gradually add water by tablespoon until all is combined . Just enough until it holds together. Take the dough and place on a lightly floured work surface . I use wax paper for easier clean up. Divide into 2 balls. Take a ball and between two sheets of wax paper roll out to fit into pie pans.Place rolled discs in refrigerator until ready to use. Peel, core , and chop apples. Toss into a bowl with syrup/ concentrate mixture( discarding cinnamon stick). Add the sugar and pie enhancer. Toss until evenly mixed. Preheat oven to 350 . Line pie tin with crust. Pour in fruit filling. Cover and seal edges with second layer of dough.Slash dough to vent.Brush with egg wash mix( egg beaten with cream). Bake at 350 for 30 -5 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil, and reduce heat to 200. Bake an additional 1 hour.* Place pie pans on a baking pan with lips to catch the excess butter, etc. that bakes out of the pie. Take out and allow to cool on wire rack with foil cover for a few hours to set. Serve at a cool room temperature.