Monday, November 30, 2009

Delicious, or horrifying?

I love my slow cooker. Love love love. I make stew and carnitas in it, and that's maybe. . . just. . . about. . it. I am torn on this recipe. I do like those little party meatballs that my Grandma used to make (you know, with the grape jelly barbecue type sauce?), and someone likens this dish to that. I don't know that I want to eat an entire roast with that flavor though, so I'm just not sure.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Roast
1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix
1 (3 pound) beef chuck roast
1 (16 ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Place onion soup mix in the bottom of a slow cooker. Place roast in the slow cooker, and top with cranberry sauce.
Cover, and cook 8 hours on Low.
Remove roast, and set aside. Set slow cooker to High. Whisk together butter and flour, and slowly mix into the liquid remaining in the slow cooker to create a thick gravy. Serve with the roast.

Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

When I was planning for Iron Chef Battle Cupcake, my beloved Buzzie suggested an idea I had long since dismissed - pineapple upside down cupcakes. I couldn't think of how to get the pineapples in place - normally you flip the cake over so the fruit and goo that was in the bottom of the pan is now on top. I envisioned messy, sticky, burnt on sugar that would tear apart the cakes and stick in the bottom of the pan and be a bastard to clean.
I wondered if I could just make the cakes and then top them later with what would typically go in the bottom of the pan.
I decided against it.
Until I saw this recipe, and now I'm rethinking things.
For my first go round, I actually tried it in regular sized cupcake tins (I had visions of minis and just using pineapple chunks).  I had to cut the pineapple rings into quarters (or smaller) to get them to fit into the cups.

Mini Pineapple Upside Down Cakes
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 (20 ounce) cans sliced pineapple
1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/4 cup veggie oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbs dark rum (I used Captain Morgan)
12 maraschino cherries, halved

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and butter; mix well. Spoon into 24 greased muffin cups. Drain pineapple, reserving the juice. Trim pineapple to fit the muffin cups; place pineapple in each cup (enough to create a layer).
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, oil and 1-1/4 cups of the reserved pineapple juice (this was the amount in one can); mix well. Spoon over pineapple, filling each cup two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Immediately invert onto wire racks to cool. Place a cherry in the center of each pineapple ring.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mushroom Quinoa Risotto

Quinoa is a nice, South Beachy grain, and it's actually quite tasty, especially combined with the yummy, earthy flavors of wild mushrooms. Even if you cook too much of the liquid off (which I may have done) and it's not quite as soft and creamy as risotto typically is, the dish is still pretty damn fine overall. This is a great, easy, totally straightforward recipe. I loved the addition of goat cheese due to my severe goat cheese addiction. I typically use grated Parmesan or Romano cheese which are much more true to a standard risotto. This time around I used a little bit of both. This dish is much less labor intensive than a true risotto as well, since you add all of the liquid at once and leave it to simmer, rather than adding it ladle by ladle (though you can do that too!).

Mushroom Quinoa Risotto
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles, oysters, or porcinis, cleaned and chopped
1 cup quinoa
2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/4 cup white wine (I used a chardonnay)
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled AND/OR 1/4 - 1/2 cup grated hard Italian cheese such as Parmesan

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter. When the butter has melted, stir in the shallot, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

2. Add the olive oil and mushrooms, season again, and cook for another five minutes, or until mushrooms have begun giving off their water. (You can prepare the dish up to this point and set aside for an hour or two, or refrigerate overnight.)

3. Add the quinoa and the wine and broth, stir, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook at a bare simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the Parmesan and the goat cheese until both have melted, season to taste, and serve hot. You could also stir in some additional butter at this point if you're more interested in richness than waistlines.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Roast Chicken - spatchcocked, of course

I have been reveling in my usual Food Network weekend morning watching ritual, and with it being a half second away from Thanksgiving, Thanksgivingy recipes are flying out of my idiot box nonstop.
One or two of these recipes introduced me to spatchcocking. Not only is "spatchcock" the most fun, non filthy word you'll see all day, it's an awesome technique for quickly cooking whole birds. My oven isn't the hugest and I know with a whole giant gobbler in there, there won't be room for a single other dish. I'm also concerned that by the time I get around to making my Thanksgiving dinner, they won't even have any turkeys in the stores and I'll have to go with chicken anyway.
A quick walk down to Whole Foods yielded a $15, four pound organic bird that was mine for the taking. I spatchcocked my little heart out and then got down to business (please note that the extra step of removing the breast bone is not always included in spatchcocking instructions, and I didn't do it myself. I just broke the bone with a nice satisfying crunch and moved on.).

Roasted Spatchcocked Chicken & Gravy
6 cloves garlic - smashed
1 yellow onion
fresh rosemary - we used 2 really long sticks ("skewers"), so maybe 4 regular sized sticks
1 3-4 lb whole chicken
6 -8 tablespoons of unsalted butter
olive oil
Kosher salt & fresh cracked pepper
chicken broth

I served this with sweet potato fries from Trader Joe's (chips and gravy are the best thing in the world), and roasted asparagus (olive oil, salt and pepper and parmesan cheese). I poured the gravy on the bird meat and the fries and danced around triumphantly, took a photo for facebook to make all my friends jealous and then hooked in. Thanksgiving will be a piece of piss.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Roughly chop the onion and put it in the bottom of a roasting pan, not one of those jobbies with the v shaped rack for a full bird, just a regular roasting pan with a flat rack.
Spatchcock your bird and lay it out flat. Lift the skin away from the meat by sliding your hand in and getting all nice and gooey. Place pats of butter, a clove of garlic, and a sprig of rosemary all over the bird; maybe one or two sets on each breast, one per leg and one per thigh.

Drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, both sides.

Put the bird on the rack and pop it in the oven. Roast for 45-60 minutes. At about the 20 minute mark you can pop in and baste the bird with the buttery yummy goodness at the bottom of the pan to help crisp up the skin. Now is the perfect time to put the the sweet potato fries in as well.

Once the thigh registers close to 180 degrees and the breast near 170, your bird is done and ready to come out and rest. At this point flip the fries, and pop the asparagus in until done.

Break off the legs/thighs and wings, and cut off the breast meat. Slice that and separate the leg from the thigh to be served.

The gravy is tricky. Try to spoon off as much of the clear buttery juice as you can, leaving the yummy rich chickeny part behind. I poured about half a cup of pan juices/butter sauce with as many chunky chickeny scraping bits as I could find into a pan and fired up the heat to med-hi. I stirred in 2 and 1/2 tbsp of flour or so and let it cook for a few minutes to try to cook off the floury taste. I slowly added chicken broth up to about a cup and a half or two cups, plus 2 shots or so of bourbon, stirring constantly to try to prevent lumps. Once the gravy can coat the back of a spoon, Bob's your uncle and you're ready to go.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Banana cupcakes

With Iron Chef: Battle Cupcake on the horizon I had some serious decisions to make.
Blueberry Lemon?
My classic Pumpkin Spice?
Something more classic?
Chocolate and. . . ? (banana, peanut butter, raspberry. . . . )
The options are limitless. However, I landed on chocolate and peanut butter. And banana. And butterscotch. Um. . .I may have gotten carried away.

Banana Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
5 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 - 1 cup lowfat vanilla yogurt
Add ins: nuts, semi-sweet chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 2 - 8 inch round pans, or prep cupcake pans. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the bananas. Add flour mixture alternately with the yogurt to the creamed mixture. Stir in nuts, or chips. Pour batter into the prepared pans.

I saw a lady on tv put the batter into a plastic bag and cut off the tip to pipe into the pans - this is my new favorite thing. I feel bad about wasting the bag, but it is so much cleaner and easier than spooning it in.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes (15 minutes for mini cupcakes, 20 minutes for full sized cupcakes). Remove from oven, and place on a damp tea towel to cool.

One batch I left plain. One I added semi sweet chocolate chips to. One I added butterscotch chips to.
Then I took a can of triple chocolate chip frosting and mixed 1/4 cup of peanut butter in. The results are pretty sweet; I may have to cut back on the sugar in the batter, or UCK make my own frosting so it's not so sweet. Of all the combos, I was the biggest fan of the plain cakes with the peanut butter and chocolate frosting; the boys like the chocolate chip with the peanut butter and chocolate frosting; we all agreed that while very tasty, the butterscotch chip version was just way too sweet.

I'm not in love with the results, but they're pretty damn tasty. I considered drizzling some bourbon caramel on top instead of frosting, but was too tired of baking to whip up a batch.

The next day I made the salted caramel frosting (which I added bourbon to, thankyouverymuch) I found on The Kitchn and this, my friends, was the winner. Definitely NOT on the butterscotch, but yes on the plain, and yes on the chocolate chip.
I think for my birthday I'll make my banana cake with the salted caramel bourbon frosting and maybe the drizzle of chocolate they mention in the recipe on Savour-fare.

The more I think about it, the more irritated I am that these cupcakes were so DENSE and banana bready. This here recipe is incredibly similar, but they're promising light and fluffy results. . . maybe I'll give it a shot. Maybe instead of using so many nanas to get that nana flavor, I'll have to * gasp * use banana extract or something. I think it's the fruit that's weighing things down.
This one wants me to believe it's the best ever (some cakes are so full of themselves). We shall see people, we shall see. Now that I have to make them for Thanksgiving it seems I'll have plenty of time to experiment.

Bourbon Caramel

Who doesn't want this?

Bourbon Caramel

Yield: 1 1/3 cups (serving size: about 1 tablespoon)

1 1/2 c sugar
2/3 c water
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/4 c evaporated low-fat milk
1/4 c ff 1/2 & 1/2
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp bourbon

Sprinkle sugar in an even layer in a large, heavy saucepan. Combine 2/3 cup water and syrup; pour over sugar. Cook over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves (about 4 minutes), stirring gently. Cook an additional 20 minutes or until golden (do not stir). Remove from heat. Gradually stir in milk, half-and-half, and butter using a long-handled wooden spoon (mixture will bubble vigorously). Cook over low heat until mixture is smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in bourbon. Serve warm. (Mixture thickens as it cools.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hot Fudge Sauce

While at the Fairmont in Scottsdale this week, I had some chocolate sauce on vanilla ice cream. I twas whiskey or scotch or something, but the important part is that it was HEAVEN.
This might be a great thing to make up as a gift. I found a recipe on kitchenplay's blog that looks like a good starting point. It is Nancy Silverton's recipe from The Wednesday Chef.

Hot Fudge Sauce
Makes 2 cups
7 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tablespoon instant coffee granules
3 tablespoons Cognac or brandy

1. Melt chocolate pieces in large stainless steel mixing bowl (or top of double boiler) over saucepan of gently simmering water. Be sure water does not touch bottom of mixing bowl to prevent chocolate from burning. Turn off heat and keep warm over warm water until ready to use.

2. Bring sugar, corn syrup, water, cocoa powder and instant coffee to boil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly to dissolve cocoa powder and sugar and to prevent burning on bottom of pan.

3. Whisk in melted chocolate. Boil hot fudge for few minutes to reduce to consistency you desire. It should be quite viscous and surface should have glossy shine. Cool slightly and beat in Cognac or brandy.

The steps for sterilizing glass jars can be found here.

Roasted Onion Vinaigrette

I was watching Food Network today and Michael Chiarello made this salad with a roasted onion vinaigrette. I can't stop thinking about how yummy that must be and so I feel the need to save it here. Perfect for a yummy fall dinner I bet.

Roasted Onion Vinaigrette
2 large sweet onions (Vidalia or Maui)
8 cloves peeled garlic, roasted

4 oz. balsamic vinegar, plus 2 ounces

12 oz. olive oil

¼ c. honey

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel the outer brown skin away from the onion.Wrap onion in some tin foil, leaving an opening in the top. Drizzle onto the onion around 1 T. of olive oil, an ounce of balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Close the opening and place on a baking sheet in the oven for 1 hour or until onion is completely soft and translucent. Cool slightly and place the entire onion and all the liquid into the bowl of a food processor. Add vinegar and roasted garlic. Pulse to puree. Add honey and pulse to combine. Turn the machine on and drizzle in the remaining olive oil.

Mushroom pasta

After my bus decided to blow past me yesterday rather than stopping to pick me up, I decided to walk on a little further along the Embarcadero to the ferry building. I knew I had to come up with something for dinner, and what better place for culinary inspiration than there?
After impulse shopping with the hordes at Sur La Table (but I got one thing I actually needed, plus pirate cupcake papers and toppers), I ran right smack dab into one of my favorite shops in the whole wide world. Just like that, my decision was made - mushrooms it was. They had little mixed variety baskets for $5 so I picked up two.
But mushrooms and what? Steak or chicken? Pizza? Pasta?
Oh, but mushrooms and goat cheese are so good together. . . . okay, so I'll use some goat cheese too, why not?

Mushroom & Goat Cheese Pasta
Whole wheat egg noodles (or other whole wheat pasta you have on hand - probably not spaghetti)
2 baskets of assorted wild mushies (I'm guessing it was about a pound, but we could've happily eaten twice this amount)
chive goat cheese (make your own by mixing fresh chives in with softened goat cheese, or make life easy)
1 large chicken breast
seasonings of your choice for chicken - I typically use a combo of poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, and garlic and onion powders
4 tbsp I can't believe it's not butter (ICBINB)
1 large shallot, minced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
olive oil
lemon juice
black truffle oil

Clean and cut up the mushrooms. Place on a baking sheet, drizzled with olive oil and salt, and roast at 450 or 500 degrees until mushrooms are soft and browned - I have no idea how long this took because I am bad at this part. Stir once part way through.
Season and cook chicken in a pan over medium-high. You might want to butterfly the chicken to speed up cooking time.
In one tbsp of ICBINB, cook the shallots and garlic over medium heat until soft and fragarant - 4-5 minutes.
Once the mushrooms are done, add them to the shallots and garlic and add 1-2 more tbsp ICBINB as needed/desired.
Chop up chicken into bite sized pieces and add to mushroom mixture.

Drain pasta of most of the water, leaving a tablespoon or so behind. Add 1 tbsp ICBINB and leave on heat to melt down - 1-2 minutes. Add the mushroom mixture and stir to combine.
Stir in 1-2 tbsp of lemon juice.

Dish up pasta, sprinkle with chunks of goat cheese, and drizzle lightly with the truffle oil.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Shepherd's Pie

If I was going to go anywhere for a Shepherd's Pie recipe, I'd go here. I just trust that man with my English standards, go figure. Leave it to an Irishman to go and whip up a kickass South Beach variation for me. The original recipe calls for cauliflower in place of the traditional white potatoes, but this clever boy subbed that out for sweet potatoes. I think I also heard murmurings of grated Parmesan cheese in the sweet p's too. Nom.
I was a little wary of edamame in the mix rather than peas, especially since there looked to be SO MUCH edamame, but it was great.

Shepherd's Pie
1 (16 ounce) package frozen cauliflower florets
(OR 3 large sweet potatoes)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb extra lean ground beef
2 cups shelled frozen edamame, defrosted
1/2 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon low-fat sour cream
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheee

Heat the oven to 350. Spray a 2 quart casserole with cooking spray.
Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Add cauliflower and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. (OR cook sweet potatoes until soft - nuke, boil, bake, whatever you prefer; I go with nuking since it's quickest)
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add beef and brown for 10 minutes, stirring to break up lumps. Add edamame and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes longer. Stir in broth and Worcestershire sauce. Season with pepper and a pinch of salt. Transfer meat mixture to the casserole.
With an electric mixer at medium speed, whip the cooked cauliflower (OR sweet potatoes) with sour cream, egg yolk, and another pinch of salt. Spoon cauliflower (OR sps) evenly over meat. Top with cheese and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden on top. Serve warm.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Asparagus and Soft Boiled Eggs with Truffle Oil

It seems a classic combo is soft boiled eggs and asparagus. Just ask Nigella or Jamie. Another classic idea is that of soldiers to dunk into said eggs - which are slices of buttered toast most often. I first saw Jamie Oliver make his "soldiers," and thought, wow. Bacon/prosciutto wrapped asparagus dunked in nummy egg yolk? What a great, simple breakfast; and a new way to eat eggs!
Later, I was hanging out at this great little wine bar in New York called Ino, where one of their signature dishes is "truffled egg toast" which was just divine. They took a small, but thick piece of toast; made a little nest for an egg which was somehow cooked in there to be perfect and runny and delicious; drizzled it with truffle oil and finished it off with some wee shaved asparagus bits.
This took me back to math class.
Runny egg yolk + asparagus = nom
Runny egg yolk + truffle oil = nom
Runny egg yolk + truffle oil + asparagus = nom x 2

Quinn made me my first ever soft boiled egg fairly recently, so maybe that's why I'm just getting into this classic egg cooking technique now. I hatched this brilliant snack idea that I've been dying to try = cook up some asparagus (boiled in salted water til just done), carefully peel and cut open a soft boiled egg so the yolk runs all over the joint, drizzle with white truffle oil, finish with some shaved Parmesan. Ta da!

Sadly, I had never soft boiled an egg in my life and have yet to do so successfully. They were just into hard boiled territory which made me pout and whine and stomp my feet and have a mini hissy fit that I had ruined my beautiful plan. :o(
Must. . . practice. . . . . soft. . . boiling. . . eggs. . . .
The flavors however? PERFECTION.

** update:
Still can't soft boil an egg. * sigh *

Dead Man's Ball - revisited

Oh lordy, that swamp water drink I tried to make? Did NOT go well. If anyone would like three bottles of green juice (featuring powdered broccoli and spinach), please let me know. I have some.
I did use the rest of the open bottle and a bunch of water to fill a glass apothecary jar with a creepy, sludgy, green liquid which I floated eyeballs in. So it was at least good for that; everyone kept asking me what it was.
The TruBlood however was a hit!
I took one bottle of fruit punch (the 365 Organic brand from Whole Foods was nice and dark)
1 1/2 c brandy
2 bottles cab sauv
lemon flavored fuzzy water if desired

I admit to drinking most of it myself, but those that I allowed to sample it seemed to like it or they're excellent liars. I think I just lost out to DJ AM's insanely fally cinnamony fruity vat o'sangria.
I had a major fail on the cupcakes thinking that I had spice cake mix at home and only realizing I didn't an hour before guests were supposed to begin arriving. Whole Foods had some "gluten free" stuff that my roomie was kind enough to pick up for me, but really? Do I want to hustle to try to make and clean up cupcakes in that kind of time crunch only to find out they suck? No. I was stressed out enough.
The other nibbles were hits though. I thought the fire roasted salsa was DIVINE and the mushroom/goat cheese bruschetta was gone really quickly. The pear blue cheese bites are SO easy to make (I didn't even end up roasting them! Just cut them into little pieces and topped with cheese; skewered with a toothpick), I think they'll be a new standard.

Next year I won't make the mistake of saying how much time I have and all that I've gotten done before the party. . . .