In her new cookbook, "Cooking From the Hip," Food Network and Iron Chef America mainstay Cat Cora shows amateurs how to whip up a gourmet meal on the fly. The following are recipes from that book.
Makes four dozen cookies
It's like a magic trick to pull a can of lemonade out of the freezer and say to the kids, "Do you think we can make this lemonade into cookies?"
If you want to make the cookie dough ahead of time, it can be refrigerated for several days if you seal it in two layers of plastic wrap. Dough straight from the refrigerator should bake for about 12 minutes; dough at room temperature bakes in 8 to 10 minutes.
One 6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate
Two large eggs
1/2 pound (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar, plus extra to sprinkle over the cookies
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Fill a large bowl with warm water and plop in the unopened can of lemonade to thaw while you mix the cookie dough.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a hand mixer. Add the lemon zest, if desired. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until the mixture is light and creamy, 4 to 5 minutes, then set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Measure out 1/2 cup of the thawed lemonade and set the rest aside. Add about one third of the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Stir, then add about one third of the 1/2 cup lemonade. Continue adding the flour and lemonade alternately, stirring after each addition, until the mixture shows no streaks of flour. Beat on low speed with the mixer just until all the ingredients are combined.
Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of the dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake the cookies, checking them after 8 minutes. When the edges are just starting to brown, remove the cookies from the oven. (The centers will still look soft.) Using a pastry brush, immediately brush the top of each cookie very lightly with a little of the remaining lemonade concentrate, then lightly sprinkle with sugar. Transfer the cookies to a rack and allow them to cool completely.
Crispy 'Fried' Chicken
Serves four to six
This chicken tastes fried but does away with all the grease. The secret is to lock in the moisture by dredging the chicken pieces in flour and dipping them into buttermilk that you've spiced up with paprika, cayenne, mustard and sage. Then you roll the pieces in crushed cornflakes.
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup light buttermilk
1 2 ½ - to 3-pound fryer, cut into pieces (2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 wings)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cornflakes
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Pour the olive oil into a baking pan large enough to hold the chicken pieces in a single layer without crowding. Using your fingers, rub the oil over the dish so that it's completely but lightly coated.
Rinse the chicken in cold water and pat dry. In a wide bowl or on a large plate, season the flour with the salt and pepper. Dredge each chicken piece in the flour until it's completely coated. Tap the chicken against the side of the bowl to loosen any excess flour and set the pieces aside. Discard the flour.
Crush the cornflakes by placing them in a big resealable plastic bag, carefully pressing the bag to push out the air. Seal the bag (leaving as little air inside as possible) and crush the flakes using a rolling pin. Pour the crushed flakes into a wide bowl or onto a large plate.
In a bowl large enough to dip the chicken pieces, mix the buttermilk, mustard, cayenne (if using), paprika and sage. Give each floured chicken piece a good buttermilk bath all over, then roll in the crushed flakes.
Arrange the chicken pieces in the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, lower the heat to 375 degrees F, and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes, until cooked through and crispy. (The juices should run clear when the meat is pierced with a knife.) Serve.
Cat's Note: The younger the child, the fewer spices you'll need to add, because kids' palates are sensitive. For very small children, omit the spices entirely or add just a hint. If the kids eat it, you can try adding a little more spice the next time you make it.