Sacre bleu cheese!

May 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Delish.

I’ve been eating a lot of green salad lately (mostly Romaine, arugula, and baby spinach, for those of you keeping track at home), and thus a lot of salad dressing. My absolute favorite has always been Bleu Cheese. When I was a little girl, restaurants charged thirty-five cents extra for it, and my dad groused about paying it, but I wouldn’t budge. For me it was Bleu Cheese or no salad, end of discussion. So I’ve been going through a lot of Bleu Cheese dressing lately, and I figured I’d save myself some chemicals and maybe some money, too, and make my own. So I did! It’s super creamy (maybe even a little too much, but I don’t mind it thick) and really rich and delicious. I’m almost done with my first batch…I’m thinking I might add some bacon to batch two. Because why not?

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 15oz jar Hellman’s Light Mayonnaise
  • 1/3 c. plain Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. roasted garlic rice wine vinegar
  • 4 oz. crumbled bleu cheese

Whisk together mayo, yogurt, oil, and vinegar until thoroughly combined. Stir in bleu cheese. Top your salad!

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Things that make me say “y’all”

May 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

Been wondering what awesome looks like? This is it, right here.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it here or not, but as a general rule I have not been fond of seafood. Fish and chips (it’s battered and fried — what’s not to like?), yes, but otherwise, not so much. As I’ve been cooking more, though, I’ve been reading recipes and descriptions of seafood that just sounds delicious. So over the past couple of years, I’ve been making an effort to try more seafood, both different types and different preparations. There was that salmon a while back, which was pretty tasty, but I don’t think I’m going to become a regular salmon eater. A few months ago, though, I discovered shrimp, in all its shrimpy goodness and glory, and now I find myself craving shrimp once or twice a week (at least).

Now, I do have very specific needs when it comes to shrimp: they must be warm, and they must be either small or cut up into bite-sized chunks. No Jumbo Shrimp for me, thankyouverymuch. But, as long as those conditions are met, I adore shrimp. I especially adore shrimp when they’re all Southern’ed up… barbecued, for instance. So I was pretty excited when Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for butter-poached shrimp served over bacon grits came across my interwebs.

Y’all. I cannot even tell you how mind-blowingly delicious this is. I did change it up just a skosh from Mr. Ruhlman’s recipe, namely by adding cheese to the grits and leaving out the onion. Also, since I added the cheese, it wasn’t necessary to add the butter from the poaching (don’t worry — it didn’t go to waste…I used it later when I needed to make a roux for my gumbo, which I will tell you all about in another post). I also adjusted the timing a little, and I halved the recipe (which ended up being about 2 servings for me). Here’s how I did it:

Recipe

(adapted from Ruhlman’s Twenty: 20 Techniques 100 Recipes A Cook’s Manifesto by Michael Ruhlman, as reprinted on publicradio.org)

Ingredients:

  • 1 c water
  • 1/4 c old fashioned grits (NOT instant. Seriously, y’all. If you’re gonna use instant grits you might as well just stop right now.)
  • 1/2 c diced bacon, cooked
  • 1/4 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

In small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add grits and stir, then cover and reduce heat to medium low. Let cook for at least 25 minutes, stirring frequently.

When the grits have about 5 minutes left, melt butter a couple of tablespoons at a time in a saucepan just large enough to hold your shrimp (I used a 3qt saucepan for the 1/2 lb), stirring constantly. When all of the butter is melted, add the shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes. Shrimp should be cooked through. Remove from heat.

While the shrimp are poaching, uncover the grits and and stir in the bacon, heating it through. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese until melted. Plate the grits, then spoon the shrimp over them.

Expanding My Horizons

August 24, 2011 § 4 Comments

And my waistline, but so, so worth it. I came across this thing called Taste & Create a few months ago, where people make food from each other’s blogs (you sign up and get assigned a partner each month — it’s very cool). I decided to participate for the first time this month, and my partner was Always Eat On the Good China. The hardest part was choosing a recipe to make (and I’m totally going to make more of them — she has some really nommy sounding stuff!) but I finally settled on the Chicken Puffs. Chicken, bacon, cheese, puff pastry…what could possibly go wrong? Nothing, in this case. They were amazing.

Delish.

I did modify the recipe a little to use what I had on hand (for example, I used goat cheese instead of cream cheese), and since I’m not a huge fan of plain chicken, I also decided to play around with marinades* and tried something new: OJ and balsamic vinegar. Yeah, that’s a keeper (1c. OJ + 1 Tbsp BV to cover about 1.5lbs of cubed chicken). She mentions in her post about the recipe that although the pic shows a whole chicken breast, she now cuts it into bite size chunks, so I went that way with it. And I didn’t mix anything up for the cream cheese mixture — I just threw a bunch of goat cheese on top and then topped it with some fresh basil, because I am lazy. Oh! Also instead of spraying my cookie sheet I just lined it with parchment paper which works beautifully for keeping stuff from sticking. And I didn’t brush with the egg wash, but that was just because I totally forgot to do it. Seemed to come out fine, but they would’ve been a little crispier with the wash.

The pile of nommy stuff going into the middle of the puff: chicken, goat cheese, bacon, fresh basil.

So, modifications I’ll probably make next time I make this (because there will be a next time): First off, I think I’m going to try it as a pot-pie kind of thing…the puff pastry-to-filling ratio is just really high. Now, it’s puff pastry, so it’s not like my tastebuds are complaining, but I think it will be just as tasty topped with the puff instead of surrounded by it. Second — you might want to sit down for this one — I’m going to leave the bacon out. I just really didn’t feel like it added much to the flavor experience in this case. Weird, I know, but there you are. I also will probably try different marinade/cheese combos — I think this would be great with something spicy on the chicken and cheddar cheese, for instance. And there you have it…my first Taste & Create. This was tons of fun — I’m totally going to do it again next month!

Fresh from the oven.

*A note on using a marinade on something you’re going to wrap in puff pastry and bake: you need to dry it out before you put it in the pastry. Throw it in a saute pan and brown it — you’ve got lots of sugar in this marinade, so even let it caramelize a bit. You don’t need to worry so much about it being cooked through — the baking in the oven part will take care of that. And it won’t get too dry b/c you’ve added all that moisture to it.

And why do we fall, Bruce?

July 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

My parents were pretty awesome, but I think the best gift they gave me was the confidence to try and fail. I’ve been playing in the kitchen since I can remember, mostly baking but really just making anything that struck my fancy. My mom had a bunch of cookbooks that I always enjoyed leafing through, and a big ziploc bag full of loose recipes. I was never afraid to pick out one of those recipes, change the things I didn’t think I’d like or add something I thought would improve it. I had a pretty decent success rate, and I learned good lessons from most of my failures.

Eventually I grew confident enough to just start randomly throwing ingredients together, and though I don’t do it often (because even though it’s playing, it’s still a lot of work, so if I did it all the time it wouldn’t be a treat anymore) it is truly one of my very favorite things in the world to do. I feel strong and powerful and knowledgeable…I feel much like I imagine a wizard would: I can make magic in my kitchen, but there’s always the chance that I’ll (hopefully only figuratively) blow the whole thing to smithereens, too.

Tastes better than it looks, I swear.

Last week, the mood struck me. I wanted to cook, and I didn’t want to make the same old thing, or even a new variation on a known recipe. I wanted to play. I had some ingredients in mind: chicken, bacon, and cheese (go ahead, show me your surprised face), but had no idea what I wanted to do with them. I was thinking maybe pound out the chicken and then just wrap the bacon and cheese inside. Tasty, but a bit boring.

Then I came across this recipe for a ricotta-based gnocchi that the OP had sauteed to give it a quick crisp, and it sounded pretty tasty, except I don’t like salt and pepper so I decided to substitute basil, which I like very much. I also ended up changing the second cheese in the gnocchi from parmesan to asiago to get a little stronger flavor, which worked very well, and it was super fun to make. It’s definitely a keeper as-is (though my timing got a little frazzled at the end and I didn’t have a chance to crisp it like the OP —  I’ll give that a try next time).

I decided I’d chuck the bacon and just do the chicken and gnocchi with maybe some butter and parm on top. Then when I was at the store to pick up the ingredients for the forthcoming feast, I spotted raspberries on sale. Serious sale. Like super crazy cheap. I had a Eureka! moment in which I knew that there would be a raspberry bacon sauce to go over the gnocchi and chicken. Perfect.

Except not so much. I’m going to call this one an 85% success. All of the parts worked, but they just weren’t right together, so I’m going to split the recipes and give them to you separately. The biggest problem was that the raspberry flavor was just overpowering (and also as a minor issue gave everything a kind of weird pink color). I think if I toned it down with a little cream it would actually be pretty great in a savory dish like this, but as is it would be a perfect topper for waffles, pancakes, or ice cream.

The chicken I just sauteed, and I don’t think it was at all necessary to the final dish, so I’m not going to include lengthy instructions here. Basically, if you want chicken along with your gnocchi, cube it up and saute it until it’s cooked through.

Recipe – Gnocchi

Ingredients:

  • 2c. low fat ricotta cheese
  • 2c. asiago cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2Tbsp. basil (Note: I recommend you use freshly chopped or freeze dried if possible)
  • 1 1/4c. flour
  • 4qts water

Bring water to a boil. Combine both cheeses, the eggs, and the basil. Mix until thoroughly combined, then slowly add flour until dough is soft and still a little sticky. Grab a handful of dough and roll into a rope about 1″ thick. Pinch off pieces of the rope to create pillows about 1″ square. Place on parchment or silpat until you have about half the dough ready to go, then place in pot. Boil for 3-4 minutes, until dough floats to surface. Remove cooked gnocchi from boiling water with a slotted spoon. While the first batch is boiling, create a second batch in the same way and proceed to boil them after removing the first batch from the water.

Recipe – Raspberry Bacon Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2qt. fresh raspberries
  • 3Tbsp butter
  • 1Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 lb. bacon, cooked and diced (Note: if you dice the bacon raw just by cutting across the slices then cook it, you’ll save yourself a lot of burned fingers.)

Using a potato masher or fork, slightly mascerate berries and let sit at room temperature for about an hour. Melt butter in 3qt saucepan. Add berries, soy sauce, and vinegar. Bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Let sauce remain at a full boil for 1 minute, then reduce to a simmer for 10-20 minutes. Sauce should be reduced and thickened. Toss bacon in sauce and serve.

Bakin’ with Bacon

June 29, 2011 § 1 Comment

A couple months ago I was kicking around the interwebs and came across this post featuring bacon wrapped in cinnamon rolls.

Droooool...

I drooled, and decided I needed to make me some of those. However, I’m really trying to get away from things like premade dough, cake mixes, etc. Mostly just because I’ve found that the more non-chemical-laden things I eat, the worse the chemical-laden things taste to me. And really, cinnamon rolls are not that hard to make from scratch, especially if you have a bread machine.

Before the feeding frenzy...see how easy the foil makes it?

So I dug around in my recipe books and found a super simple recipe in my Best of Baking tome. The general consensus was that stuffing cinnamon rolls with bacon was genius, but the rolls themselves were a bit blah. So I fiddled with the dough a bit and used a trick that I use when I make monkey bread: add some spice to the dough itself. Sure enough, that’s all it needed to kick this up from yummy to I-wanna-eat-the-whole-plate.

Recipe

The easy way requires a package of bacon (pref. maple if you can get it) and a can of your favorite cinnamon rolls. Cook bacon, lay out dough, put slices on dough, roll and bake according to manufacturer’s instructions. Note: the original post I saw indicated that the bacon was added uncooked to the rolls and then baked. I think that’s probably fine for the quick’n’dirty way, but with the long way, below, there’s a long rise time and I wasn’t comfortable leaving the bacon at room temp for that long. I am not a fan of overcooked bacon and find that the cooked bacon in the rolls below stays nice and chewy.

The real homemade way starts out and ends up the same, but you gotta make the cinnamon rolls yourself. I think it’s worth the effort. (Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker’s Best of Baking)

Ingredients:

Bread:
  • 2 1/2c. flour
  • 1/4c. sugar
  • 3/4c. + 2Tbsp. water
  • 1tsp. salt
  • 1tsp. bread yeast
  • 1tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Filling:
  • 1lb. bacon (maple if you can get it)
  • 1/3c. sugar
  • 2tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, softened
Glaze:
  • 1c. confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 to 2Tbsp. milk

Place all ingredients for bread into bread machine, in the order recommended by manufacturer and run dough cycle.

Grease 9x9x2 pan lined with aluminum foil. Cook bacon until just done — don’t get it crispy or it won’t roll up! Combine sugar and cinnamon for filling. Flatten dough into 9″ square on lightly floured surface. Spread butter on top surface of dough. Sprinkle cinnamon/sugar combo. Lay bacon in strips across dough (in one direction only, no overlapping). Roll up tightly and pinch the edge into the roll to seal it. Cut into 1″ slices. Place in prepared pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, app. 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Preheat oven to 375F. Bake 25-30 min., until golden brown. Let cool for about 10 minutes in pan, then lift out using aluminum foil. Combine powdered sugar with milk gradually until desired consistency is reached, then pour over warm rolls.

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