Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever—or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples—or your seasonal produce—every which way.
Last week, I found myself with a refrigerator filled with heavy cream. When brainstorming what to do with it all, my mind leapt to the extravagant: ice cream; whipped cream; cheesecake! After giving the subject some more thought, I decided to make a wide range of recipes—some that went whole hog on the heavy cream and others that featured it on the side—to strike a balance. Here are some options that run the gamut, in case you, too, find yourself heavy on cream and low on ideas for how to use it:
Horseradish Cream This could not be easier to make: Whip some heavy cream into soft peaks, then stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish depending on how much spice you prefer. Add a squeeze of lemon and a bit of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, and you're all set. This tangy sauce is great with smoky fish, boiled potatoes, and any other number of foods.
Chicken Liver Mousse Inspired by a Julia Child recipe, whose version has stood the test of time, this creation is a great place to start (or return to) if you are curious about making chicken liver mousse. The result is a velvety, savory spread, that recalls a fancy dining experience—even if dipped into while standing at the counter.
To make it, sauté shallots and chicken livers in butter for just a few minutes, as the livers should retain their pink center. Scrape the cooked mixture into a blender and add Cognac or brandy, heavy cream, aromatics like thyme and allspice, salt and pepper, and some additional melted butter. Blend the mixture until smooth.
Transfer the mixture to little pots, press cellophane flush with the mousse so that it doesn't oxidize, and place them in the refrigerator to chill while you make a gelée by mixing together gelatin in warm water with sugared Riesling and a splash of vermouth. Top the mousse with the gelée and serve with lightly toasted bread. You are officially ready to host your own French picnic. Bon appétit!
Creamy Cider-Dijon Chicken Legs with Bacon and Apples Don't let this autumn-sounding dish fool you into bookmarking it for later in the year. This deeply satisfying recipe is just as perfect at room termperature served spooned atop crunchy lettuce as it is hot from the skillet. To make it, pan-fry chicken legs in olive oil, then remove them from the pan and sauté apples, shallots, and bacon in the remaining oil and fat. Add dry hard cider, Dijon mustard, and heavy cream to the pan and cook until warmed through, then place the chicken back on top to serve.
Crème brûlée This dessert, one of my favorites, is fairly straightforward to prepare. The things you must honor are tempering the eggs so they don't curdle and using the right heat (intense, directional) to make a sugar "glass" that will crack as you dive in
To make it, set your oven to 325º F, then heat heavy cream in a saucepan with a vanilla bean. Once the cream comes to a simmer, remove it from the heat. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks (about 2 yolks per person) and a little sugar together. These yolks give the custard its vibrant yellow color, so make sure to use eggs from free-range, happy chickens. As you whisk the eggs, drizzle some of the warm vanilla cream mixture into the yolks. This is called "tempering."
Keep whisking and drizzling until all of the cream mixture is incorporated. Use a sieve to pour the liquid into ramekins that have been placed in a baking pan with high edges. Place the pan into the preheated oven and pour enough water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake them until they just wobble in the center, then carefully remove the custards from the water bath. (Do not attempt to lift the water-filled baking pan with the custards in it, lest you spill it into the sweet crèmes.) Let the custard cool to room temperature, then cover them with cellophane, and place them in the refrigerator to cool fully. Once cold, sprinkle the surfaces generously with a few spoonfuls of sugar, then use a kitchen torch to run the flame across the sugar until it beads, bubbles, and melts to form a burnt "glass" surface.
Garlicky Creamed Wild Onions This sauce is a quadruple threat in my book: creamy, aromatic, sweet, and garlicky. It's great on just about anything, but I like to pour it over pasta, meat, or chicken. It's also equally delicious eaten straight out of the pan, all on its own. And it just takes a few minutes of work: Start by sautéing wild onions in butter, then stir in garlic and heavy cream. Cook until the liquid slightly reduces and season with salt and pepper.
2 bunches wild onions, rinsed and roots trimmed (ramps or scallions also work) 1 tablespoon butter 1 clove garlic, grated on a microplane 2/3 cup heavy cream Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
When she's not cooking, styling, and shooting her own creations for her blog Licking the Plate, Melina loves making food look its best for the New York Times, Eating Well, Sweet Paul, Edible, and other folks who love real food. Decidedly a good food champion, she wrote the cookbook Kid Chef to empower foodie kids (and kids-at-heart) in the kitchen. http://amzn.to/1XmaEgB