Sunday, December 26, 2010

Back with a Bang

After the over-ambitious Thanksgiving gorge-fest, it took me a little while to get back to cooking.  Not only did the dishes take a while, but with the Christmas prep, getting ready for Trey to come back, and my general inability to stay inside when there are so many opportunities to drink Gluhwein.....  it took me a while to get back to cooking.  But now that I have, and now that Trey is back to help keep little helpful hands from smearing whatever I'm making all over the kitchen, cats, and herself.....  NOW I CAN COOK!

First up was the most complicated cake I've ever made.  Of course, in good over-ambitious and over-zealous baking ideas, I decided to make a traditional Lithuanian Torte Napoleon.  Yup, that's right, making a really hard torte, from a culture I don't belong to, and can't really find a reliable recipe in a language I read.....  All great ideas, right?  Well, I did about 100 hours of research, found several recipes that looked traditional (the ones that included instant pudding didn't seem to be traditional enough, and anyone who knows me know that I REFUSE to take shortcuts).  The cake turned out pretty well, maybe not completely traditional, but I did get the Lithuanian I made it for to verify the torte dough and one of the custards I used were in fact authentic.  The lemon butter cream I added wasn't in the least traditional or Lithuanian.  It was in fact Italian.  Made with egg whites, hot sugar syrup, and lots of whipping.  But I think it added to it.  Especially since the Lithuanian in question likes lemon, so the lemon Italian butter cream seemed to make sense.

Second big dish I cooked was Beef Bourguignon for Christmas dinner.  Served over puff pastry stars.  This one was also done the traditional way, with pork belly, onion, beef, and lots and lots and lots of wine.  It turned out very well.  Of course cook anything in wine for 3 hours and its going to taste great right?

And now, I'm off to make sugar cookies to sandwich with the rest of the lemon butter cream to take to our sledding party in the old castle.  I also have to finish the hot chocolate, by adding Baileys and rum, of course.  And looks like the sun is almost out, so I'll add the Torte Napoleon and Beef Bourguingnon recipes a little later.  After I've had my fill of hot chocolate, cookies, and sledding.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cooking with Looney Toons

In my biggest, most outrageous, most over-the-top dinner party planned to date, I think I faired pretty well. There were several cancellations at the last minute, so we only had 16 adults as opposed to the 24 I was expecting.  And from the amount of noise I think then entire Hun army sent their children.  There were some big successes in the food, and some mediocre dishes, but no massive failures.  Which is kind of incredible.  Here is the full, complete, unabridged menu:

Herb Butter rubbed Turkey (weighing in at 25.4 lbs.)
Sage and Mushroom Stuffing (this one was mediocre, but I'll blame the vegetarian for that one)
Gravy (also mediocre, although the only person I can blame is myself)
Black Truffle Mashed Potatoes (pretty good, although needed more truffles and to be whipped)
Baked Macaroni and Cheese (big success on this one)
Butternut Squash Soup (pretty good, but needed something on top)
Grappa Cranberry Jelly (do you even have to ask?  Of course it was great, is has grappa!)
Candied Sweet Potatoes (also good, which was a surprise)
Pumpkin Pie (normal, normal)
Gingerbread Spice Cake with Orange Cream Cheese frosting (mmmmmmm........)

I was most impressed with the turkey.  And I think the reason it came out so well was just sheer, dumb luck.  I made the herb butter a head of time, and not bothering to read a recipe for turkey simply made a pound of herb butter.

Herb Butter
3T Fresh Minced Rosemary
2T Fresh Minced Thyme
2T Fresh Minced Sage
1lb Butter, softened to room temperature
Salt to taste
Mix well and either refrigerate for up to a week, freeze for a couple months, or slather immediately on turkey.

So, when it came time to rub the turkey with butter I had forgot to bring the butter back to room temperature, resulting in big clumps of butter under the turkey skin.  And being lazy, I just kind of poked them into place and left them.  Then microwaved the rest and brushed it on the turkey skin.  Now, keep in mind that I'm doing this by myself, so lugging around a 25lb, slippery, rubbery bird is going about as well as a Looney Toons cartoon would do.  I put a cooling rack directly on a solid oven rack because that was the only think I could find that would fit the turkey.  Then unceremoniously dropped Mr. Butter-up-my-Butterball on top and threw him in the oven.  After a few times of basting the skin was getting a little too brown too quickly.  Hmmmm, perhaps having it directly against the heating element isn't helping...  Lets flip him over.  Cue Looney Toons music again....

Besides using every kitchen towel in the house, watching the bird slide across my counter into the half prepared sweet potatoes, and dropping turkey fat on the cats, I got him turned from breast to back...

So I flipped him, basted him, and put him back in the over.  After a while the skin was a little too dark so based on the fact that I hadn't ruined the bird yet, I decided to just cover him with foil.  When guests started arriving (and by guests, I mean indentured servants that I conned into helping me prepare) someone thought it would be best if I left the meat thermometer in the turkey so that I wouldn't have to take it all the way out to check the temperature.  And as is usually my luck, the thermometer melted in the oven.  Luckily against the tin foil not the turkey.  So we guessed that clear juices = done turkey.

It was actually really good.  Very moist.  Very tender.  Great flavor.  What's my secret?  A pound of butter and cooking with Looney Toons.

(Oh, and I cooked the turkey at a 175C oven for about 5 1/2 hours, just to complete the recipe.....  Don't forget the 3 glasses of Sekt it takes during the last hour and a half of roasting)

Other dishes and recipes to follow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Over Ambitious?

Anyone who has ever eaten at my house knows that I can be a little ambitious in my choice of what to cook, how much, and when.  I'm prepping for a dinner party of 23, 17 adults and 6 kids.  Which is not the largest number of people I've cooked for, but it is the largest number I've attempted to serve a sit-down meal for.  And of course I insisted on cooking everything myself.  From scratch.  No short cuts.

Are you ready for the menu?  Ok, sit down and grab a glass of wine.  Because that's what I use to cook with.....

Butternut Squash Soup shooters (appetizer)
Turkey (25lbs, rubbed in fresh herb butter)
Dijon Herb Gravy
Mushroom and Sage Stuffing
Truffle Mashed Potatoes
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Macaroni and Cheese
Grappa Laced Cranberry Jelly
Pumpkin Pie
Gingerbread Cake

I have the loaner table set up, silver in the process of getting polished, serving pieces identified, cases of wine bought, and lots of pieces of dishes are in various stages of preparation.  Now heading off to one last shopping trip to get the last little pieces.  Wish me luck.  I think it will be a good time.  Even if I burn all of it and we order pizza.  You can't go wrong with friends around.

Stay tuned to discover whether I burn the turkey because I had to squish it into the oven, or whether the table collapses from all the food, or the mashed potatoes end up on the ceiling......

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Scary, scary, and more scary

Well, the halloween party seemed to come out a success.  I was the most proud of my spider eggs.  Although they didn't look exactly like spiders, they were pretty cool none the less.  The cheese ball spiders were mediocre in taste, but not too bad.  The brain dip was pretty tasty, but melted in the over.  It looked successfully gruesome, but not specifically like brains.  And of  course cookies are cookies.

So here are some of the pictures:

Ok, so I didn't exactly bake the last thing.  But she was pretty cute for Halloween, so I had to include her as a little bumble bee.  The mummy dogs were the biggest hit, I think.  And those were actually the easiest.  Hotdogs with pizza dough wrapped around them and baked.

I have some good recipes I have to add to go along with this, but right now I have information assurance fires I need to put out.  So I'll add those later.  And maybe make this post look nicer.  Hmmm.... we'll see how far this glass of wine gets me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Its That Time again

Yup, you know it.  That time when I start wanting to fire up my oven again.  That time when I start creating events to cook for.  And that time when the fire marshall ramps up readiness in my area and my friends start lining up their excuses.

In this years line up, first we have Halloween.  Which is usually not a big cooking event, but I'm planning a party for a bunch of little kids, so there will definitely be some halloween treats needed.  And then there is Thanksgiving.  Since everyone is going to be gone on Thanksgiving, I'm doing it a week early.  The guest list has a potential of 22 adults and almost a dozen kids.  We'll see how many decide to come.  THe percentage of people who come having already been to one of my dinners versus the Emily Jordan Dinner-virgins will be interesting.

So what do you think of this for the kids menu:
Worms in Dirt (sliced hot dogs in refried beans)
Pumpkin Cheese crackers (no pumpkin, just cheese and puff pastry in pumpkin shape)
Caramel Popcorn Balls
Graveyard Cake (chocolate cake with cookie gravestones)

And for the adults:
Eyeball Cheese balls (spiced cheese around pimento stuffed olives)
Spider Web eggs
Shriveled Potatoes with Aioli
Cured Epidermis

I'll keep working on it and see what I come up with.  For now, its time for some blue cheese spread and wine jelly.  Yes, that's my dinner.  And yes it is homemade.  I think I've put both recipes on here before, but if I haven't, I'll try to remember to post them.  As long as I don't have too many glasses of red wine before I post this......

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Please Excuse My Voracious Appetite

How do you go about ensuring that everyone on a work trip is comfortable, welcome, and able to enjoy themselves especially during the after-hours times?  Well, pre-planning is key.  Choosing interesting and unique restaurants (but not too interesting as to be unapproachable).  And finally, make sure that you are always ahead of the crowd leading by example.

During this most recent trip to Charleston I made sure to employ the above lessons learned in many ways.  The most noticeable of which was my willingness and ability to out-eat everyone at the table.  For example, during the sushi dinner most people ordered 1 roll and a couple nigiri.  I made sure everyone felt good about what they ordered by ordering and then eating almost 4 rolls and a half dozen nigiri.  Rinse and repeat for the fried seafood dinner the next night.

And of course there was the multiple helpings of biscuits and gravy for breakfast.  I say helpings, not servings.  I think the FDA would probably have something to say not only about the size of a serving of lard-based biscuits and gravy but also the placement of said breakfast item on the food pyramid.  Upon seeing my breakfast choice, a certain Minnesota-based sponsor asked what was in it.  He seemed slightly appalled with the non-chalance my answer "biscuits have lard and flour, and the gravy has lard, flour, and sausage."  Of course after hearing that and watching me consume a couple more helpings I did notice he kept watching me for signs of the inevitable heart attack.

I did warn everyone that I would eat an appalling amount of seafood, fried food, and biscuits while I was there.  It was all in the name of making everyone feel comfortable.  I swear.  It was just a leading by example.  And I'm sure you can all extrapolate that into the beer.....  But I don't have a recipe for beer, so you'll have to leave the details to conjecture and photographic evidence.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Anything Can be Fried

I'm endeavoring to cook and server Charlotte healthy, balanced meals.  And since she isn't a multi-course kind of girl yet, I'm trying to get veggies, proteins, grains, and calcium into 1 dish foods.  I can now see why casseroles are a favorite with midwest-raised mothers.  You can put it all in 1 dish, bake it, and serve it out of the same dish.  While that is a great concept, I still have nightmares about going to potluck dinners in Minnesota and seeing nothing but casseroles smothered in Cream of Mushroom soup.  White, unidentifiable mounds.......kind of like the house-high snow drifts outside.  I still shudder at the memory.

Tuna noodle casserole is a pretty good combo of protein, calcium, grains, and veggies if you do it right.  In my continued refusal to make casseroles, I made a version on the stove.  Ramen noodles (minus the flavor pack), tuna, cream sauce, cheddar cheese, and diced up green beans.  It turned out pretty good, and Charlotte even ate some of it that first night.

Looks like she takes after me in the leftover department.  I hate leftovers.  Not sure why.  Maybe it goes back to casseroles being served over and over again.  Regardless, I have a hard time enjoying something reheated.  And just like me, Charlotte refused to eat the tuna noodle stuff the second night.  But with so much of it left I didn't want to throw it away.

Like any good American, I figured out how to fry it.  By throwing in a little more cheese, rolling sections into balls, breading them, and then frying in oil I got deep fried tuna noodle casserole.  It wasn't too bad. And Charlotte ate it, which was the point.  Not a recipe worth repeating or posting.  But good concept I suppose.  Assuming you aren't concerned about colesterol, weight gain, or general health....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Next Time I'm bringing Salt

A barbeque.....yeah, that's a good idea.  On a Sunday afternoon.  Cool.  With a Southwest theme.  With my friends that have kids.  Sounds great...........

Um.  But I don't know how to start a fire let alone work a grill.  And I've never had any more than 1 more kid over at a time.  Oh, and I have no idea who is showing up or how many.  Luckily for me one of the guys (thanks Matt) was kind enough to take over grilling the flock of chickens that I had marinated.  And another couple took my kid for a little bit so I could finish cooking.  And everyone brought something.  Which brings me to my title.  When I invite people I never assume they will bring anything.  However during casual events like bbq's I'm always happy to add if they want to bring something.  I love to cook so I assume that if my friends want to cook they will do so and then bring it.  And if they don't, then they just show up.

Everyone brought great additions.  And then there was Ivan.  Who did bring a very tasty pork and bean stew that I can't remember the name of because it is actually authentic as opposed to the I'll-make-something-with-chilis-and-call-it-mexican-even-if-it-includes-cheezewiz types that I usually make.  However, he did not make his famous guacamole.  Luckily the girls trapped him in the kitchen and then badgered him into turning my 3 mediocre avocados into great guacamole.  And in conversation later he made the statement that for any more potluck dinners he was bringing salt.  Good luck with that Ivan........  I'm never coming to one of these dinners without avocados and cilantro.

My contributions were chili, which we didn't serve because Ivan brought his pork and beans (which was worlds better, so I'm glad I kept the lid on the chili), grilled chicken breast, which I didn't grill because I don't know how and Matt does such a great job of it anyway, and grilled corn with chili lime butter.  I did make the marinade for the chicken and the chili lime butter.  Both of which were very good.  The marinade was the same as one of the last entries with just a little more currant juice added to make it sweeter.  And the chili lime butter recipe is below.  Its my favorite thing to put on corn.

Chili Lime Butter

1/2 C Butter
1/4 C Cream Cheese
1T  Honey
1/2T Lime Juice
1t Chipotle Powder
1/2t Cumin
1/2t Garlic Powder

Soften butter and cream cheese to room temperature.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl until completely combined.  Chill for about a hour.  Slather on hot corn on the cob.  Don't forget a napkin and don't underestimate the sheer pleasure of licking your fingers.

So the sum total of my contribution to a very successful sunday party was a grill, a terrace, an apartment, an oven......... essentially real estate.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Better than Expected

One of the hazards of conducting shopping exchanges in a language you aren't very good at is the probability of ending up with something you didn't want, usually in large quantities.  Which is how I ended up with 1.5 kilos of apricots (see the previous blog about cheeseblobsoup).  Well, this time I ended up with more pretzels than I needed.  I actually need a half a pretzel every time I go to the bakery because that's about all Charlotte eats.  So when I ended up with 4, I knew there was going to be something creative that needed to happen.

Luckily I"m going through my backlog of 378 old cooking magazines.  Ok, so its not actually that many, but it is in the 3 digits.  I know, I have a problem.  Add it to the list.......

Anyway, one of the articles had a "what to do with pretzels" theme, and there were some good sweet-savory combos.  Of course this was an American magazine so they meant the hard pretzels that you consume like chips while you watch football in a dark dive bar while hoping one of the med students down the bar is going to take her top off to get a free tee shirt......  But the same concepts apply to the large bakery pretzels here in Germany.

The result of the pretzel, magazine, inability-to-articulate-quantities combination was a very, very good pretzel bread pudding with caramel sauce.  It was like the best combination of bread pudding and salted caramel.  I was very surprised by how good it was.  I just bought another bag of pretzels to try it again to make sure it wasn't just the sekt talking that made it so good.

Caramel Pretzel Bread Pudding

2 day-old pretzels, torn into 1" pieces
1 egg
1/3C heavy cream
1/2C Sugar
1/2C Caramel Sauce

Grease a small baking dish and preheat the over to 350.  Mix egg, cream, and sugar in a bowl.  Toss pretzel pieces in mixture.  Put half into the baking dish.  Pour half the caramel sauce on top.  Layer the other half of the pretzel mixture on top.  Bake for roughly 20min (mostly done, but not completely).  Take the dish out and top with the remaining caramel sauce.  Continue baking until dark brown and bubbly on top.  Serve hot.  Top with more caramel sauce if you need extra calories, or more sweetness.

Caramel Sauce recipe to follow shortly, need a shower and Charlotte is finally asleep for a nap.  Don't let me forget to add it.  I have a bad habit of saying I'll add something and then forgetting......

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Peppers and blood

I'm not sure when, with what inspiration stick I had been beaten senseless, but at some point I bought dried chili peppers.  Not sure what I thought I was going to do with them, but this morning I had too much coffee to nap, so when Angela came to take Charlotte out for a little bit I decided to "do something" with the peppers.  Since all the cookbooks say to be careful what you touch when you are working with them.  So, I proceeded to very carefully rehydrate them, remove stems, remove seeds, and puree them as the directions indicated.  Only to find they were barely spicy at all.  Which is just fine for me.  But I had hoped to make a sweet-spicy marinade and usually marinades can be a little over spicy because the spice cooks off a little when the meat cooks.  Through a lot of add and re-adding and tasting I managed to get a marinade I was pretty pleased with.

While the result was worth the effort, and turned out pretty darn good, I made a few rookie mistakes along the way.  The first being my attire.  I was wearing a brand new white shirt while I was blending hot, blood red chilis.......  And of course you all know what happened to my shirt.  No, I was not attacked by vampires, I was a victim of my own hubris.  Thinking I was being so careful that I didn't need an apron.  Well, some mistakes you have to make more than once.

Sweet-Hot Marinade, watch the white shirt
1/2 C Ancho Chili Paste (see below)
1/2 C Guadillo Chili Paste (see below)
1/2 Can Tomato Paste
3T Cider Vinegar
3T Honey
2T Worchestershire Sauce
2t Crushed Garlic
2t Chipotle Powder

Combine over low heat, stirring until blended and smooth.

Oh, and I also cut my hand, for the second time in a week, on the tomato paste can.   Seriously?  What's with the repeat mistakes?

Chili Paste (either chili type)
4C Boiling Water
Dried Chilis (1 package)
1t Garlic
1T Fresh Cilantro

Pour boiling water over chilis and cover.  Let sit for 30min until rehydrated.  Remove stems and seeds.  Reserve liquid.  Put chilis, garlic, cilantro, and about 1/2C reserved liquid in blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add additional liquid about 1/4C at a time until desired consistency.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

3 Wins, 1 Tie, and a Cheeseblobsoup

I keep whining about wanting to cook more, and I realized I've actually done a fair bit lately.  Although not all of it was really intended as cooking, it was more preparation for Class 1 Upload, and my infantry friend used to say.  However I did make a few things definitely worth keeping, with a few ideas of how to gussy them up a little.  Then there was the mediocre coffee cake, which was passable and enough to get my colleagues to see I tried but not really my best work.  And finally was the complete disaster of a cake.  I'll save that one for last, it merits some rumination on where my extensive thermodynamics and fluid dynamics education went while I was thinking through this concept.

Starting with the Out of the Park hit:  Goat cheese stuffed portobellos
4 Large Portobello Caps, cleaned with stems removed
4 oz Goat Cheese
3 oz Cream Cheese
1T Pesto
4 Slices Emmantaller Cheese (or swiss of that's easier)
8t White Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Turn on broiler.  Drizzle olive oil on cooking sheet and rub to coat.  Put mushroom caps top down on baking sheet.  Drizzle a small amount of olive oil across each.  Grind salt and pepper onto each cap.  Drizzle 2t balsamic vinegar in each cap.  Mix goat cheese, cream cheese, and pesto in a bowl.  Divide cheese mixture between all 4 mushroom caps.  Lay a piece of cheese across each mushroom.  Broil until cheese is starting to brown and crisp, about 5 min.  Serve immediately.

I like things a little sour.  Sourdough bread, sour cream, and buttermilk top my list.  I came across the recipe for Cucumber Buttermilk Soup from a Martha Stewart magazine (link not online yet, will add when it becomes available).  I followed the recipe almost exactly, so I won't bother to reprint.  It was great.  I left it warm and added some additional potato flakes to make it more of a puree for Charlotte to eat.  But she liked it as a soup, its just hard to feed soup to a 15month old who hasn't figured out the correct orientation of a spoon and yet wants to do everything herself.  The cucumber and potato base was great warm and cold.  And the buttermilk was exactly my style.

This evening I made Corn and Onion Cakes.  They were supposed to be more like fritters, or something, but the first batch soaked up too much oil and were a strange consistency so I added flour and made them more like pancakes, which turned out great.  So to the Corn Cakes recipe I just added about 1/2 C flour.  And instead of goat cheese I used cheddar and I omitted the bacon part.  Charlotte was a fan, so I feel this was a success.  Again, it was a little sour, but I like things sour.  Others may not, but hey, its my blog so deal with the sour.  At least I'm not bitter today.....

The tie was the Apricot Coffee Cake that I made following the recipe from Epicurious.  I think had I served it warm out of the oven it might have been good.  But having to keep it in the fridge overnight and then take it to work in the morning turned it a little hard.  I know, I should have just baked it at work or something like that, but frankly I'm not that committed.  I guess it will show on my performance evaluation, but perhaps that day I'll bake brownies or just bring in whiskey.

And finally, the moment you have all been waiting for, the moment I reveal my latest departure from the reality of baking, where I attempt to throw off the chains of physics and chemical laws only to have them come back to flog me with my own failure.  I had left over apricots, so I wanted to make something with them.  I had no flour in the house, and still don't, but that's punishment for this flagrant disrespect for baking rules.  Anyway, my logic went thus "no flour but plenty of cream cheese, I could make a cheesecake."  So, away I went, pitting and preparing fresh apricots.  Then melting butter and sugar in the bottom of a baking dish to make a caramel sauce such as the one I used for the upside down pineapple cake.  Then I layers the apricots in the dish on top of the caramel.  Next I whipped up a traditional cheesecake batter and poured it on top.  Those of you who bake regularly are cringing in disbelief.  Those who don't are thinking "there's something wrong with this picture, but I can't put my finger on it."  Well, cheesecake has a particular liquid to fat ratio that makes it the way it is, and apricots, especially fresh ones, have lots of liquid.  And since the apricots are under the cheesecake mixture there was no opportunity for the liquid to escape.  Resulting in a very big, bubbling, hot, useless, exploding-and-coating-the-oven mess.  Why I thought that juicy fresh fruit on the bottom of a cheesecake was going to work, I have no idea, but I think my fluid dynamics teacher should retroactively fail me.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Not your doctor

The second dinner in France was on the last night before leaving, so I had to use what was in the fridge.  Kind of the vacationer's version of Iron Chef.  The biggest challenge was the 1 kilo of butter that was left.  That, and the pineapple.  So, the menu was as follows:

Cheese souffle
Rosemary potatoes
World's Least Healthy stir fry
Pineapple upside down cake

I prefaced the meal with making sure people knew "I am not your doctor, I am your cook."  It was a pretty heavy, decadent meal.  But hey, if you want healthy, ask your doctor.  And don't buy butter in kilo sizes.

There was also an attempt at a hollandaise sauce to go with the potatoes, but it turned out badly so we didn't eat it.  The rosemary potatoes were simply sliced potatoes, butter, salt, and fresh rosemary ripped from the bush outside.  Which I regret not ripping up and taking with us.  The potatoes were great.  My greatest accomplishment was the souffle from scratch, with no beaters, stand mixer, or any other machine to help.  It didn't puff the way I wanted it to, but I also had to bake it in a too-large metal bowl as opposed to a souffle dish.  Taste was pretty good though.  World's Least Healthy stir fry had good veggies, but I wasn't a fan of how the meats turned out.  But then again, I'm not a big sausage or bacon fan to begin with.  The cake had the typical problem of not being cooked all the way through, but since it was huge and there were only 8 of us, we all got plenty of cooked portions.

Cheese Souffle

  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat to 400F.Butter large soufflé dish (I don't recommend metal pans, it reduced the puff). Add Parmesan cheese and tilt dish, coating bottom and sides. Warm milk in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming.  Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until mixture begins to foam and loses raw taste, about 3 minutes (do not allow mixture to brown). Remove saucepan from heat; let stand 1 minute. Pour in warm milk, whisking until smooth. Return to heat and cook, whisking constantly until very thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in paprika, salt, and nutmeg. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, whisking to blend after each addition. Scrape soufflé base into large bowl. Cool to lukewarm. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.
Beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry (a stand mixer or electric hand mixer make this much easier, although it can be done with a whisk, it just takes longer). Fold 1/4 of whites into room temperature soufflé base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites in 2 additions while gradually sprinkling in Gruyère cheese. Transfer batter to prepared dish.  Place dish in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375F. Bake until soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and center moves only slightly when dish is shaken gently, about 25 minutes (do not open oven door during first 20 minutes). Serve immediately.

World's Least Healthy stir fry

2 packages Bacon
1 package sausage
1 large onion, sliced
2 large bell peppers, sliced
3 tablespoons butter

Boil sausages until cooked through.  Cook bacon in skill until crispy and fat is rendered.  Remove bacon slices and place on paper towel.  Add sausage to the pan, turning to crisp outside.  Add onions and butter to pan, stirring occasionally until almost tender.  Add bell pepper to pan, stirring occasionally until almost tender.  Add bacon back to pan, tossing to ensure mixture is warmed all the way through.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

For topping:
  • 1 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and sliced in 1/4in rounds
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

For batter:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (pineapple might be better)

Preheat oven to 350°F. 
Make topping:
Melt butter in skillet or pan being used for baking the cake. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture in overlapping pieces slightly.
Make batter:
Sift together flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (or by hand if you don't have an electric mixer, just make sure it gets light), then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Beat in juice, then add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended. (Batter may appear slightly curdled.)
Spoon batter over pineapple topping and spread evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cake stand in skillet 5 minutes. Invert a plate over skillet and invert cake onto plate (keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together). Replace any pineapple stuck to bottom of skillet.

Friday, July 30, 2010

First dinner in France

I'm working a back-log of entries, so the dates are a little delayed from when I actually cooked some of this.  But I thought I'd write about the first meal I made during our vacation in France.  This was after I got over the alien infestation in my stomach and was able to stand without doubling over in pain and consume more than two bites of plain bread without my stomach turning into the gastrointestinal version of Mount St. Helen.  So, with that mostly behind me, I set out to cook for the 8 of us as I had originally promised to do.  Through sheer luck, and Trey's superior planning ability, I had everything I needed for a complete dinner except for vanilla, which was easily aquired at the store.

The first course was Potato Croquettes, not because I set out to make them but because there were 2 types of left over potatoes in the fridge and I hate having leftovers hanging around.  So the two leftover potato dishes got mashed up with cheese, butter, and bread crumbs, then dredged in rice crispies and fried.  I have to say I was quite impressed with the rice crispy outside.  It made a perfect coating.  They crisped up very fast, so I definitely wouldn't recommend using rice crispies for something that needs to cook all the way through, but for croquettes it was perfect.

The Panzanella Salad was the first time I had done it, and all I knew was that it consisted of fresh tomatoes, onions, and dried bread.  And since Trey likes caramellized onions so much, I decided to caramelize them and add them hot to the salad.  The only bad part was that I burned some of the bread, and the salad would have been a little better if I had let it sit for about 20min before serving it, that way te bread would have gotten a little softer and soaked up the juices.  But overall I was pretty pleased with the taste.

The chicken with pan sauce turned out fine, nice and tender but kind of unremarkable.  Which I guess was good since the kids liked it.

Desert was Croissant bread pudding, since we had a bunch of sweet croissants that we hadn't eaten and needed to be used or thrown out.  This one was pretty good, would have been better in a different baking dish.  And it DID NOT go well with the coffee icecream that I served it with for myself.  But luckily everybody else got to learn from my mistake and eat it without ruining it.

Potatoe croquettes
1 1/2 C Cooked Potatoes, mashed
3/4C Soft Cheese (cream cheese can substitute if you don't have access to really nice fresh cheese)
1/2C Milk (whole milk is best)
3/4C Bread Crumbs
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 C Rice Crispies, roughly crushed
1/2C Oil for frying

Mix potatoes, cheese, milk, salt, and pepper.  Consistency should be fairly stiff.  Add milk slowly to avoid making the mixture too soupy.  Add more bread crumbs to make it stiffer.  Shape into balls about the size of a golf ball.  Roll in rice crispies, pressing rice crispies into the balls and flattening the balls into disks.  Heat 1/4C oil in a pan until smoking.  Fry the croquettes until golden brown, about 2 min on each side.  Add more oil to the pan as necessary to keep the level at about 1/2in.  Serve immediately.

Panzanella salad
3 Fresh Tomatoes, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 Loaf Bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
3T Olive Oil
3T Herbs d' Provence
1t Salt
2 Medium onions, chopped into slivers
3T Butter
1/4C Olive Oil
3T Dijon Mustard
1T Honey
2t Balsamic Vinegar
1/2t Salt
1/4t Pepper

Place bread cubes in a single later on a baking sheet.  Drizzle 3T Olive Oil over bread cubes, sprinkle Herbs d' Provence and 1t salt over bread, tossing to coat.  Toast under the broiler until dark brown, but not burned.  Remove and set aside.  Caramelize onions in 3T butter and set aside.  Whisk together olive oil, mustard, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper in the bottom of a large bowl.  Add tomatoes, bread, and onions.  Toss to coat with dressing.

croissant bread pudding  - Recipe to come later.  Here is a link to a good one, just substitute croissant for bread  I'll put my actual recipe up later.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Out of Practice

I had a friend and his nephew over for dinner.  And I'm in about as good a shape at cooking meat as the Tin Man after a salt-water bath.  It was a great concept, pork loin stuffed with onions and apricots, topped with a mustard pan sauce.  I won't even bother to put the recipe down, because it turned out terrible.  Well, actually the sauce and the stuffing were pretty good.  But the pork was really really tough.  I think I mis-handled the braising.  However, I did have oven roasted potatoes with homemade aoli and a very good strawberry pudding cake to make up for the mediocre pork.

The farmer's market is one of my vices.  Now, you would think that a market with fresh fruits and vegetables would be the exact opposite of a vice.  But I tend to impulse buy.  And currently the impulse is strawberries.  Well, actually it is any type of berry.  Which is fine, as long as I practice moderation and only buy 1 container.  But of course I didn't, each booth seemed to have better and better strawberries......  So 4 cartons of strawberries later I can't figure out what to do with them.  Thus the pudding cake described below.  One of the cartons was a little bruised and didn't look very good, so this was the perfect solution to use them.

Strawberry Pudding Cake
(adapted from Rhubarb Strawberry Pudding Cake on Epicurious)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Butter an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.  Stir together water, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, then simmer, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in strawberries.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl.  Whisk together egg, milk, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl, then whisk in flour mixture until just combined.  Reserve 1/2 cup fruit mixture, then add remainder to baking dish and pour batter over it, spreading evenly. Drizzle reserved 1/2 cup fruit mixture over batter. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into center of cake portion comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 23, 2010

New Computer

I don't have any recipes tonight.  Or even anything culinary to talk about.  But Trey got me a new computer.  A Mac Book.  So I could watch shows and type emails in bed.  And so I could talk to him at night from bed as opposed to sitting in front of the desk in the living room.  Which is wonderful.  Especially because curling up in bed makes me so much more expressive.  Although the tiredness is starting to lay in now.  Perhaps it is the Sekt also.  Regardless, no matter how much I like the smooth feel of the new keys and the slivery metal computer outside I need to rest.  I'm hoping the new computer will help me with writing in this blog.  If I ever want to really make something of myself in the culinary world, I need to practice the kind of consistency that I in engineering and wine tasting.  Yeah, I said wine tasting, those of you who know me are probably scoffing and asking how many glasses qualify as a taste for me.  Ah well, I have my vices.  Food and wine among them.  And now, to sleep.  Perchance to dream.....of sourdough bread, caviar, and angel toe cheese.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Not In Charge of the Guest List

In an effort to minimize the amount of time out at dinners while my boss was in town, I volunteered to host a barbeque at my place.  My thought was "hey, I have a grill, I can buy meat and beer, one of the guys can cook, and with only about 10 people it won't be such a big deal."  Well, as I indicated in the title, I was not in charge of the guest list.  When all was said and done, there were 38 people in my house.  Luckily I bought 2 whole tenderloins, started marinating them the night before, brought out the biggest bowl I had for a green salad, and baked a cake.  The cake was the only real homemade thing I contributed.  But it was a good thing that I did, since only 1 other person brought anything and there were THIRTY EIGHT PEOPLE in my house.  Oh, and I also got hotdogs, buns, and fixings for the kids.  And the beer.

I think it was a pretty decent success.  Especially for a thrown-together barbeque on a weeknight.  The cake was an experiment, and in general was pretty tasty.  I was pleased.  So the total consumed was:
2 whole tenderloins
1 bushel of salad
2 cakes
2 lbs. potato salad
2 cases of beer (24-bottle variety)
12 bottles of wine
1 magnum of sparkling rose
1 bottle limoncello
3/4 bottle jack daniels
1 bottle really good grappa
1/2 bottle really really good scotch

The only casualty was a shot glass.  Amazing.

Limoncello Cake
Pound Cake
1/2 C Limoncello
Lemon Glaze

Recipe to come later....  A little one is in need of a snack.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Devil in a dish


Mmmmmmm........  Let me savor that for a minute.......  c...a...v...i...a...r.........

So there I was, having a bad day.  Again.  Reminded that I have all this responsibility and constraints by my 23-year-old babysitter who thinks getting up before 9am is stressful and my 20-something-acting-like-16 colleagues who drink until 4am most nights.  Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade my family for the world.  But I have those days when I get a little jealous.  Ok, so that day I was a lot jealous.  With that feeling I headed out to get my good friend a birthday present for her 40th.  Since her husband wasn't in town due to the Icelandic volcano I promised her champagne and caviar one night.  In preparation to make good on my promise I went to what was purported to be the best grocery store in town.

Here is where the director would cue the suspense music and everyone in the audience thinks "NO!  Don't go in that door!"

And in I went.  There may as well have been angels and trumpets at the opening of the door.  This is my heaven.  As I strolled leasurely through the isles, being more and more tempted by the exquisite displays of culinary delights I continued to have this rock churning in my stomach.  Next thing I know, as I'm standing at the caviar counter the devil himself walks up.  As one would expect, he was tall, dark, and handsome.  With a great accent and perfect teeth.  As I casually mention that I'm looking for caviar for a friend he smoothly offers me a glass of champagne.  Pink champagne.  Ohhhhhh that primrose path of dalliance.....

As he begins to explain the different species of fish responsible for the different caviars, the subtle taste difference and the best pairings I feel the pink champagne slowly bubble up to my head.  And as the bubbles rise and the rock churns in my stomach that keeps reminding me that I have "all this responsibility" and the tall, dark, handsome, exotically accented man lulls me into a trance about the buttery taste of beluga caviar......  suddenly I find myself chucking the rock out the window, giving in the bubbles, and saying "yes, I'll take 50mg of the most expensive caviar you have."

And in that blissful moment of surrender I realize, I can't just have 1 container.  Because as long as I'm being reckless, I need one just for me.  So I get another, more moderately priced I assure you.  But still more than most people spend on a pair of shoes.  And of course 2 bottles of champagne.  Because I like mine dry and she likes hers sweet.  Or at least that was what I was telling myself.

By the time I completed my selection of champagne and caviar, I'm feeling a little guilty.  Almost guilty enough to change my mind.  The devil, sensing this, informed me that he would have my package rung up at the VIP register while I had a glass of wine on the house.  Well, sitting at perfectly appointed bar at 3pm drinking a well aged french white was exactly what I needed to completely squash that green-eyed monster.  No more was I jealous of the 20-somethings with their carefree lifestyle.  Because not a one would have the guts to order the best caviar in the place, and then enjoy every last bite.

Which is exactly what I did.  With a good friend.   Sitting in our pajamas.  Talking until the early hours of the morning.  That caviar, that champagne, and that night were all together priceless.

Oh, and I made blini's to go with the caviar.  Which were the best blini's I've ever had.  Recipe to follow sometime.....

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What a Jerk

So far, the biggest success, at least according to my intrepid tastetester, is my jerk chicken with sweet mustard coleslaw.  I think the combo was pretty good, plus the crunchy from the slaw made for a good texture combo.  The chicken needed a better crust on it, or it needed to be shredded with more jerk sauce mixed in.  The chicken came out fairly mild in flavor, with just a hint of the sauce, but with extra sauce added plus the coleslaw, it was pretty good.  The sauce itself was pretty overpowering, but in combo, I think it was great.  I didn't have any bread, or rolls, so we used tortillas.  Now I'm pretty sure there aren't tortillas in traditional Jamaican cooking.  So I have to figure out what they would use for a sandwich holder, but it turned out pretty nice anyway.  And I was able to satisfy MJ's question about whether healthy food can taste good.  So far a success.

I do have to crow for a minute.  I was asking MJ to critique the different combos (I did 2 sauces, a Jerk BBQ and a more traditional pan sauce), and he gave me some good feedback.  He also asked what I thought, and my reply was that of all the sandwiches I have made for him, this one was the best.  Flavor combo was good, texture was good, mixture of meat to veggies, etc.  He agreed, but he also told me that the meals he's had with me are among the best he's ever had!  That made me feel great.  So here's the ingredients to the two parts of the dish.  I will have to go find my notes to get the exact measurements.

Jerk Chicken
4 Chicken Breasts
1/2C Olive Oil
1/4C Soy Sauce
1/8C Ketchup
1/8C Worchteshire Sauce
4T Jerk seasoning (need to get the specific spices for this)
2T Lime Juice
2 Cloves Garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients in a plastic bag and marinate for 24hrs.  Remove chicken and pan fry in lightly oiled skillet, about 8min on each side.  Pour remaining marinade into a sauce pan and boil until thickened.

Sweet Mustard Coleslaw
1C Mayo
1/3C Mustard (using medium German mustard for this one, can use dijon)
1/4C Brown Sugar
1/4C Apple Cider Vinegar
2T Celery Seeds
1t Salt
1/2t Pepper
1/2 Head Cabbage (green or red), shredded
1 Red Pepper, cut to matchstick size
1/2 Red Onion, sliced thin

Mix first 7 ingredients in a large bowl.  Add veggies and toss.  Refrigerate for about 4 hours.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Carrot Salad

Its one of those mornings.  You know those mornings.  Where everything goes wrong.  And just when you think you have everything straight and are starting to get some traction to the day you realize you left your ID at home and have to drive back through rush hour traffic....... making you more than an hour late.  Yup, its one of those days.  So I'm taking a quick breather to collect me thoughts, perhaps even my wits, that is if there are any left.  I'm beginning to think my wits have taken a hiatus.  I hope they are having fun wherever they are.  Coming home did give me an opportunity to make myself a shredded carrot salad that I'm loving right now.  Its actually coleslaw, but I haven't shredded any cabbage, just carrots.  I made it for Easter Sunday at a friends place, and there were some carrots and dressing left over.  Since i'm trying to cut down on processed carbs (I say as I put an Eggo waffle in my mouth......), its good to find a salad that I like.  I'm not a big fan of veggies.  But for Charlotte's sake I need to get better at eating veggies.  I'm reading my second book about having a whole food diet and how it is so much better for you.  How do I attract these books?  I didn't buy either of them, they were both gifts.  Something is attracting these books to me.  Ah well, may as well read them and try to eat better.

I'll start with the carrot salad for lunch and perhaps some cabbage rolls for dinner.  We'll see.....

Blue Cheese Coleslaw 

  • 3 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 15 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 4 green bell peppers, sliced thinly
  • 4 carrots, grated
  • 2 cups shaved onions
  • 4 cups blue cheese, crumbed
Mix all ingredients together.  Or, make dressing, and add to whatever shredded veggies you have.  A la Emily's Shredded Carrot Salad (omit blue cheese for Carrot Salad).  I made half for Easter dinner with 10 people.  This recipe makes A LOT of salad.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Well, this set of sandwiches was a little better, but still not all I was hoping it would be.  The point of these was to put as much bacon/pork/ham on one sandwich as possible and have it still work as a sandwich.  Unfortunately, my sandwich tester really wanted to make the sandwich healthier and requested turkey bacon......  So being the consumate hostess I obliged.   And because he was trying to be healthier I reduced the amount of sauce and the amount of meat.  Sandwich was pretty good.  Needed better meat.  Needed either some really smokey ham, or a sweeter honeyed ham.  I'm thinking the smokey one.  The best part was the pepper relish I made.  It added a nice sweet note to the sandwich.  It could have been a little crunchier, or have a little more zing.....  But overall was pretty good.  And I guess I'm learning how to compromise better.  In my food, in my life.

Charlotte is starting to like the food I make for her, which makes me really happy because I'm pretty tired of taking out hundreds of little glass jars to the recycling.  Plus I want to get to the point where we are eating the same thing, and eating healthy.  But to get her to like my food I had to bring the flavor way down, make things creamier, softer, and definitely less interesting.  Which is a bummer for me.  But she has liked my butternut squash risotto, rice pudding, tomato cheese risotto, mashed potatoes, and pancakes.   I need to find more ways to make veggies so that she will eat more veggies.  She also wants to eat with her hands, so getting things that are healthy (not fried......), veggie, and finger food is difficult.  But I've gotten a few things.

In my home life I'm starting to become zen with the fact that either the house is messy all the time, or I clean it all the time.  I can't just clean occaisionally and have it stay.  And no amount of systems will really keep it as tidy as I want it.  So I'm constantly picking things up.  And constantly wiping down the counter and the high chair.  I've never spent so much consistent time cleaning.  Even with a housekeeper.  But I guess that is where you compromise, either spend the time or be ok with the mess.  So I'm spending the time cleaning.  Right now the dishes are done in the dishwasher, 2 loads of laundry are finished and ready to be put away, and the family room is pretty well picked up.  So on that note, I'm going to go read magazine and collapse in bed.  I might even take a snack to bed.  My weight still isn't where I want it to be, but I also need to feel a little more full and satisfied before crashing.  Otherwise I won't sleep well, will be extremely grumpy in the morning, and basically off-kilter.  So I guess that's another compromise I'm making, I'm allowing myself to be slower at losing the weight in favor of going to sleep happy.

Well, 4th yawn in a row.  I'll add the relish recipe tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Turkey and Unpronouceable Noodles

My kitchen light went out.  On a weekend.  And not just went out, but broke in the socket.  And of course, I couldn't figure out what breaker to flip to go up and get the light bulb.  So instead of electrocuting myself and hoping I didn't come crashing down the 8 foot ladder onto my small child, I simply lived with a dark kitchen until Monday when a friend could come over and help.  Of course payment is needed, so I made dinner.  I had some turkey breast in the freezer and some fresh noodles from the farmers market in the fridge (the name is about 28 syllables long so I won't even attempt to say let alone spell it).  So turkey, noodles, and pan sauce it was......  The pan sauce turned out pretty well.  The noodles got sauteed in butter and a little balsamic vinegar and were excellent.  I hesitate to describe the noodles too much because this isn't an X-rated blog.......  So suffice to say they are potato based, about 3 inches long, and have a rather cylindrical shape.  I'll let you extrapolate the details......  In all, the meal was pretty good.  No veggies, which is probsbly not a good habit to get in since I'm trying to raise Charlotte in a healthy way, but my male, beer-drinking, carnivorous friend didn't seem to mind.  Especially since I didn't make any soggy fried food this time.

Pan-fried Turkey Breast with Mustard Pan Sauce

2 Turkey breasts, pounded flat (about 3cm thick)
1/2C Flour (for dredging the turkey breasts in)
Oil for cooking
White Wine
Flour for the roux

I'll put the recipe in later, Charlotte is trying to turn the stove on again......

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A for concept, C- for execution

Experiment #1 in Sandwich Creation had mediocre results.  The concept was a sandwich that was a perfect compliment to a beer.  I think the concept was good, execution and details were not quite right.  The beer marinated chicken was excellent.  I think as a marinade and a glaze the concoction was a hit.  However the beer mayo was a strange combo, the beer sauce was a little strong, and the sandwich lacked something.  Maybe it was the pickles I forgot that would have lightened it up a little.  Texture, crispiness, and general meat-to-other-stuff ratios were all pretty good.  Should have left the chicken breasts whole, added something for crunch, and done something different with the sauces.  But, of course, my lab rat of choice for this one loves chicken, and being a single guy was just glad he was getting a hot meal and not cooking. So he performed his end well by telling me it tasted great......  hey, I've got a fragile ego, it helps when someone tells me my cooking is good.  Even when I know its only ok.

The fries were again a disaster.  Its a good thing I'm not looking for a job at McDonalds.......  I can't deep fry worth anything.  The homemade chipotle mayo was really good though.  I really like the combination of flavors, especially with the tang of the white wine vinegar.   I will definitely use the mayo as a base for lots of other things, just not oil soaked fries......

So, overall, an A for concept C- for execution.  And the only reason I didn't fail was because the chicken was actually pretty good.  Definite potential for the chicken and the mayo, everything else was pretty sad.

Beer Marinated Chicken

4 Chicken Breasts

1 Bottle Beer
1/4 C Dijon Mustard
1/8C Honey
1t Crushed Garlic
1/2t Cumin
1/4t Allspice
1/4t Cinnamon

Boil all ingredients until slightly thickened, about 8min.  Reserve 1/4 of the Marinade.  Marinate Chicken in the sauce for 2-3 hours.  Heat oil in non-stick fry pan.  Remove Chicken and shake off excess marinade.  Pan roast chicken until golden, about 7-8min per side.  Pour reserved marinade over chicken and roast for additional 1-2min per side.  Remove from pan and serve immediately (as opposed to putting on the sandwich that I made and didn't like).

Chipotle Mayo

1 Egg Yolk
1/2t Dijon Mustard
1t Lemon Juice
1t White Wine Vinegar
2t Crushed Garlic
1C Olive Oil
Pinch of Salt
1/2t Dried Chipotle
1/2t Cumin
1/2t Smoked Paprika
1/4t Allspice
1/4t Cinnamon

Whisk egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice, and vinegar until light yellow.  Add olive oil in a steady stream while continuing to whisk.  Whisk until thick and white.  Fold in salt, chipotle, cumin, paprika, allspice, and cinnamon.  Allow to chill overnight before using.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Supper club is back on, after several weeks of sick kids.  At my house, which is good and bad.  Good because it lets me cook, bad because it means I have to do dishes.  I had planned to have one of my guy friends over to start testing out my sandwiches this week, but that fell through.  So the loaf of bread I bought was going stale.  Solution: Bread Pudding!  And I had a whole chicken in the freezer that I must have bought on a whim.  I don't know why, since I don't cook or eat whole chicken.  But with those left overs I had enough inspiration.  The recipes and cooking techniques were pretty basic.  Roast chicken and bread pudding (a version of stuffing) don't get more straight-from-the-farm than that.

The meal was great.  And it made the apartment smell wonderful.  I cooked without recipes again, so I was pretty happy that it all turned out so well.  Especially since I guessed on the time it would take the chicken to cook.  But the chicken turned out perfectly golden brown, the potatoes that I used as a roasting rack, since I didn't have one, absorbed the butter very nicely.  And the pan sauce was very rich, perhaps due to all the butter I used to baste the chicken......

In all, I think it was a hit.  Especially since chicken and mushroom-based things are the stand-bys for the Condon household and of course everything is better with bacon.

Herb Butter Roasted Chicken over Potatoes and Onions
1 whole chicken
1/2C Butter
2T Thyme
2T Rosemary
2 Baking Potatoes - cut into 2in squares or larger
1 Whole Onion - cut into quarters, root still attached
1C White Wine
2C Chicken Stock

Mix butter, herbs, 1t Salt, 1/2t Pepper together.

Mushroom Bacon Bread Pudding

Will finish later.....  Time to go play with the baby!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How to simplify your kitchen and make your friends fat

I decided that my cabinets have too much stuff in them that I haven't used in a long time......  Or ever.  Like marshmallows in the shape of ghosts.  So I decided to clean house.  Starting with the Chocolate Shelf.  Yes, I have a shelf dedicated to Chocolate.  Yes, Chocolate is a proper pronoun.  Anything that can inspire you, curse you, lead you to do illegal things, and be so sinfully amazing deserves a proper pronoun.  So, I decided to start getting rid of all the extra bags of Chocolate that, when combined in one basket, weigh more than my 10month old baby.  So, I started with the two brownie mixes that were left over from when I was pregnant with said baby and wasn't sure when I was going to have a Chocolate Craving at 3am.  It happened frequently.....  And if anyone made fun of me for it I promptly sat on the with my 2 brownie packages a night pregnant behind.....  But now that I'm not all hopped up on hormones I don't need the generic brownie mixes, so those were the first to go.  But I can't just make brownies and take them in to the office (the office, being my disposal option of choice, had no idea what level of Chocolate and general sugar overdoses they were in for........).  So I had to put something on top of them.

I happened to have an open jar of chunky peanut butter.  Which I hate.  I have it because a friend had a family member staying in her house who bought it.  And my friend hates it too.  So I did her a favor and disposed of it right into my cabinets.  So, this is the jar of peanut butter that keeps on giving.  Add a little butter, powdered sugar, and SHAZAM, we now have a lightly peanutty nougat reminiscent of the inside of a Snickers bar.  Well, luckily I have a whole canister of salted peanuts to add to the inside of this Snickers brownie (the shazam also triggered the theme epiphany.....).  But Snickers keeps the peanuts together with caramel.  So of course I had to make caramel.  Easy.  Done.

Now we have brownie (with an extra bag of Chocolate Chips added to them, did I mention that?), with nougat on top, and salted peanuts and caramel on top of that.  But Snickers has Chocolate all the way we need more Chocolate.....

I wanted to do a Chocolate Ganache, but couldn't remember the proportions.  So I looked around and found a fudge recipe.  Great!  Top the thing with fudge.  So I made that, it wasn't as smooth as it should have been, but I was working fast and had an ankle-biter wanting attention.  But it turned out ok, and was solid enough that it was a good top to sandwich in the nougat, peanuts, and caramel.

The only thing that went wrong was that I didn't bake the brownies enough, so they were uncooked in the middle.  Which of course I didn't find out until I had made the whole thing and cut into it.  Needless to say I had a huge melt-down.  After the melt-down I decided to take in the edge pieces which were cooked.  And of course with Chocolate, peanut butter, nuts, caramel, and more Chocolate.....rave reviews ensued.

Next week...... peanut butter, Chocolate, and left over cereal......  They'll never know what hit 'em.

Deep man, deep.....

Trey send me a bunch of magazines.  Mostly all cooking magazines, which is pretty much like porn for me.  One of the ones that I got was Cooks Illustrated, which as cooking magazines go, is one of my least favorite due to the lack of color pictures.  Because what is porn without the graphic pictures.....  Anyway, I was flipping through and it did have a recipe for Chicago Deep Dish Pizza.  I do know that Cooks Illustrated is a very well respected magazine, and their recipes are top notch.  This particular recipe struck me, possibly because it takes pizza, which I love, and adds a whole lot more of what I love....cheese and bread.  


I finished this post, saved and published it......  or so I thought.  I spent a long time on this one, and even included the recipe. With all measurements in metric.  And now its lost in cyberspace.


I'll try again later.  I'll summarize that the dough was perfect, the extra cheese (fresh buffalo mozarella and burgkase, local of course) was excellent, and the sauce was too thin.  So it turned into tomato cheese soup in the best breadbowl ever.

I'll see if I can recreate the post.  Probably not since I did it pretty late at night.  Oh well.  Such is life I suppose.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Services Rendered

Its not so easy getting things done around the house when Trey is gone.  Especially things like replacing lightbulbs, figuring out what fuses control what, and remembering to take the garbage out before it crawls itself out of the bin.  So one of my friends from work generously offered to come change my lightbulbs for me.  Which required a ladder.  Which required first borrowing one, then trying to fit it in the car.  Then it required that we figure out which breaker went to which light, not labeled well of course, because somehow the lightbulb broke in the fixture and the whole light wouldn't work.  Of course it was also dark by then so a flashlight was needed to complete the bulb replacement.  And through all this I had to take care of Charlotte, feed her, bathe her, and put her to bed.  Needless to say I didn't spend a huge amount of time on dinner.  But.....

Services rendered definitely deserve proper payment.  So I did fried turkey (because the BIO store didn't have the right cuts of chicken) in a maple dijon sauce, sweet potato fries, and Snickers brownies that I had actually made on Sunday.  The whole meal was actually a success.  Except for the fries, which were soggy and oily.  Very disappointing.  But the turkey was perfectly cooked and I was especially proud of the sauce which was sweet and tangy and spicy.

This definitely deserves a recipe.  But I'm a little tired tonight, so I'm going to go to bed and add the recipe later.....

Oh, and remind me to add the fried turkey recipe.  I used crushed pretzels on the outside and the breading turned out really crispy and tasty.

Ok, here's the recipe for the Turkey and the Sauce (no sweet potato fries, they were a disaster.  See, they were so much of a disaster that I'm not even capitalizing them.  Shame through punctuation......)

Fried Turkey:
3 Turkey Breast Tenders, cut into 3in pieces
1C Flour
2t Chili (no, not Cayanne, Chili, its smoked)
2t Smoked Paprika
2t Cumin
2 Eggs
2C Crushed Pretzels
1C Oil, low smoke point such as vegetable oil or other frying oil

Pour oil into wide, heavy bottomed pan.  Mix flour and spices.  Toss turkey in flour mixture.  Dredge turkey in egg.  Toss turkey in crushed pretzels.  Fry turkey pieces in oil, about 6min per side, until golden brown.  Let dry on paper towels.

Maple Dijon Sauce:
1/2C Maple Syrup
3-4T Dijon Mustard
2-3T White Wine Vinegar
2-3T Chili Sauce

Mix thoroughly.  Adjust amounts to fit taste.  Chili Sauce is hot, start low and add more as you like it.

Serve by pouring Maple Dijon sauce over Fried Turkey while apologizing profusely for the other failures while your guest ignores your ramblings and tells you how perfect your fried turkey and sauce is.  How inventive, etc. and what a great cook you are.  Protest for a little bit, then soak in the compliments and drink more wine.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


My dream is a sandwich shop.  I know, that's not really very feminine.  Especially the way I envision it.  But I think it could be really good.  My vision is an upscale sandwich shop that has some high end stuff, but at the same time does big meaty sandwiches for big construction worker types.  Because those are the guys that sandwiches are made for.  While I'm all for the dressings and veggies on a sandwich, I'm well aware that the main part of a sandwich is the meat.  The bread is just to keep your hands from getting too dirty...... or bloody depending on the type of sandwich.  So my first sandwich idea is below:

Bloody Brilliant
Kaiser Roll (toasted)
Horseradish sauce
Medium Rare tenderloin slices
Au jus sauce (slightly thicker than just the watery stuff), on the side
Herb Butter, on the side

I know, Bloody Brilliant is a little much....  But for anyone that like a rare to medium rare steak, good one of course, I think this would appeal.

Of course we would also have The Dino....  A rack of ribs, smoked, with a piece of bread on either side.  i guess that doesn't really qualify as a sandwich, but I thought it would be kind of cute.

Others I'm thinking of:

The Hangover Helper:
Fried Egg
Cheese Sauce
On a Biscuit
Side of Bloody Mary Mix

Seven Deadly Sins (served on a plate made of Playboy covers)
I'll have just a little bread with my meat
California Hippy
American On a Bun (Turkey, Ham, Apples, Cheddar, Onions, Mayo, etc.  Recipe to come later)

I'll think of others.  Not sure I'll ever make it to that sandwich shop, but I like to think of the possibilities. As Charlotte has been in bed for about an hour, its time for me to go to bed too.  When the baby sleeps I at least try to sleep.  And dream of sandwiches......

The little things

I'm not exactly able to cook as much as I would like.  So nothing good to report.....  But I did get to eat the best potato dish I've ever had.  It was done by Migle, with some sort of specialized Lithuanian potato grater.  It was fluffy, and rich, and utterly amazing.  Of course having butter, onions, and bacon in it, then covering it with sour cream helped :)  I think I ate a couple kilos of it.

I don't have anything good that I've cooked, but I do have a couple failures to report.  One was just plain silly.  In making dinner for me and friend I used 4 pans and burned things in the bottom of 2!  That's right, half of the dishes were major disasters....  And it was just fajitas!  Major disaster.  It turned out ok in the end, but not great.  Velveeta cheese dip is always a winner.  Pour it over anything and it tastes good.  So that salvaged things.  But the chicken was too fruity, I didn't have enough peppers, I burned the bacon the first time around, and somehow managed to burn the cheese dip the first time too.  Well, you can't win em all.

Charlotte is decidedly not a fan of my homemade baby food.  I think I'm not even going to keep trying until she can eat food more like real people food.....

Since writing the above I made crepes for breakfast and she loved them!  I put apricot puree on hers and she ate 2.  I feel much more like a success.

Well, my coffee has gotten cold, we've been through one nap, two breakfasts, and a very difficult nose suctioning.  So now I'm going to try to rewarm coffee and catch up on my cooking magazines for the couple minutes that she is entertained by putting play eggs into the ball machine.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The best laid plans...

I don't know the rest of the quote, but I think it has something to do with "the best laid plans of mice and men often turn into dirt tasting pancakes......"  Ok, perhaps that's not exactly what it says, but that's the gist of it.  I tried to make Ethiopian food for this week's supper club, which is wonderful, especially injera the sourdough pancake that the stews are ladeled onto.  Traditional injera is made from Tef flour, and let to ferment for about 3-4 days.  The night before the supper club at my house I decided to try the injera that I had been fermenting (made in the traditional way).  It was an excellent thing that I did that because it tasted roughly like a dirt pancake.  Not in the least bit tasty.

So I made parmesan polenta, chicken in a wild mushroom sauce, and salad.  Which all turned out very well.  And all of it I made from scratch, with no recipe.  It helped that the parmesan I had was aged 3 years, and I also had a fresh truffle to grate on top.  Overall, an excellent meal, I think.  And much tastier than dirt pancakes.  I'll give the Ethiopian food a try again at some point.  But maybe just for myself.....

Chicken in Wild Mushroom Sauce
1 Package chicken tenders (about a half kilo)
3 Strips Bacon
2T Butter
1/2 Onion, fine dice
1/2 Kilo Wild Mushrooms
4cl White Wine (dry)
8cl Whole Milk (or half and half cream and water)
2T Flour
8cl Chicken Broth

Melt 1/2T butter in a saucier or medium sauce pan.  Add bacon and cook until half crisp.  Lightly brown the chicken tenders in butter and bacon.  Remove chicken and bacon from the pan.  Return the pan to heat, add more butter if necessary, saute mushrooms until light brown.  Add onions and continue to saute until starting to darken and release liquid.  Add white wine and cook until absorbed.  Add milk and flour stirring until a smooth sauce forms.  Add chicken and bacon back in.  Sitr over low heat for 10min.  Add chicken broth to thin sauce to desired consistency.

Serve over polenta.  Grate fresh truffle on top.

Parmesan Polenta
Recipe to come later.....  Charlotte is needing more treats from the treat truck :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Complicated vs. Flawless

I think I'm beginning to believe that complicated food done well is about equal to simple food done flawlessly.  For example, I made brioche today.  Well, actually it took me 2 days with all the rising, kneeding, chilling, kneeding, rising, shaping, rising, backing.  And it was very very good.  About 100 times more effort than regular bread based on the milk, eggs, and butter that usually aren't in bread.  I think if a loaf of french bread and a wedding cake had a love-child it would be brioche.  Soft and supple, slightly sweet, and infinitely decadent.  The rolls I made were very good.  Definitely the best rolls I've ever made.  But I still need something a little more decadent for this brioche.  I think I'm going to turn it into a loaf, with apricot jam and a touch of cinnamon rolled into the middle like cinnamon raisin bread (but no raisins to mar the silky texture, just sweet jam and hint of savory cinnamon).   Wow, now I'm really excited about it.  I think I'm going to go take a shower and put this plan into action.  That sounds way more interesting than sitting here writing to you, no offense.  I'm just kind of a hands-on person.  That's probably why I don't have many blog readers and I don't do updates very often.  Oh well, go have some more coffee, read a good book, and check back in a little while later and I'll let you know how it goes putting apricot jam on a loaf of bakers heaven.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I'm trying to lose weight.....again.  This is just residual returns from the procreation event.  See?  Doesn't that sound better than baby weight?  But whatever you want to call it, it calls for a reduced amount of the things I love the most, bread, cheese, wine, and anything fatty.  So, in an attempt to provide myself with something quick to eat so I won't reach for the really tasty bleu cheese and spicy fruit mustard on brioche toasts, I'm making soups.  I hate soups with chunks in them, usually called stews, but I even don't like the soups with small chunks in them like Minestrone and Italian Wedding Soup.  I don't know why.  It's probably because my mother loves them.  I seem to be hard-wired to dislike anything my mother likes.  Which probably isn't bad for Charlotte if she turns out the same way.  I eat pretty unhealthy stuff, so if she's like my mom, she'll be fine.  Anyway, in an effort to eat healthy I'm working on creamy soups.  The first that I tried was the butternut squash soup which was not good, the next was a carmelized leek and potato soup which was ok except that I gagged on an un-pureed piece of leek and couldn't stomach any more of it.  Hopefully I can in a while, it was a really good soup, except for the nearly choking and having to pull something half-masticated out of my throat.  But, I press on, undaunted by the first failures (or just too hard-headed to admit defeat) and I set out to make fennel potato soup and bacon and white bean soup.  I'll let you know how they turn out.

I'm also going to make brioche.  I figure that if I crave it, and I make it as opposed to just buying it, the calories are awash.  I know, not really sound rationale.  But at least it will make me realize what's in it, slave over it, and I won't feel as guilty about eating it.  I'm also going to do them in rolls so that I am forced to eat in portion amounts as opposed to cutting myself "a couple slices" and consuming a half loaf in one sitting.  I'm not exaggerating.  I really can eat a half loaf of brioche in one sitting.  Without much effort.

I'm going out to dinner tonight, so I'm hoping that will be fun.  Not sure about the restaurant, I haven't been there yet.  But Jim always picks the best restaurants, so I'm sure it will be good.  And it is a Wein Stube, so of course there will be wine which make a perfectly lovely dinner by itself :)  Actually, that is the name of my second cookbook "Dinner is Poured", the name of my first one is the name of this blog.  Ok, so they aren't really published or anything, but I'm writing them with the help of an online cookbook making company that will organize your recipes for you.  I still haven't pulled the trigger and bought the cookbook yet.  I have it waiting there for me, and I'm adding to the second one.  I guess I keep getting caught up in making the chapters even, and making sure there is the right mix of recipes in there, and going over it over and over again making minor tweaks.  What's my problem?  Am I some sort of over-zealous engineer?