Tags: alfredo, linguine, pasta, peas, Prosciutto, tomato parmesan sauce, Tomato Sauce
Is anybody still out there? I hope so.
I’m so sorry for my exceedingly long absence from blogging. I truly, truly feel awful about it, and I’m so happy and relieved to finally get something up. As many of you know (that is, whoever decided to stick around, and again, so, so sorry), I’ve been sick for some time and it’s been extremely difficult to pull off even the most mundane tasks.
Since last June, for about 5 months, I could barely write, much less peel a carrot. I was able to get in a paragraph or two maybe once a month and that was what I called a good month. Around January, I felt a little better so I started writing a little more, and now I’m here. For how long, I don’t know, but I’m here.
Naturally, I couldn’t put this ‘Hi, I’m back’ post up without a recipe, since it is a food blog. Much to my disappointment, I couldn’t play and had to choose something basic and simple (with a little help), but basic and simple doesn’t make it any less amazing. In fact, it usually makes it more amazing and difficult because every single facet must be spot on, and every ingredient top notch since there are no extraneous components and preparations to hide behind.
Tags: Asiago cheese, baking, broccoli rabe, Dough, garlic, mozzarella cheese, Prosciutto, provolobe cheese, rapini, Roasted red Peppers, stromboli, Yeast
One of my favorite sandwiches in the world is prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers or in Jersey Italian – prah-joot, mootz-ar-ell and peppuhs. When I was perusing through my assigned blog, Paulchen’s Blog?!, for this month’s Secret Recipe Club..I struck stromboli, and the first thing I thought of was how perfect one of my favorite sandwiches in the world would be wrapped up and baked as a stromboli. I kept wavering back and forth between the stromboli and these butterscotch brownies...because next to being a peanut butter freak..I’m a pretty heavy butterscotch user too.
In the end, I couldn’t stop thinking how melty and gooey would work well for this sandwich combination in a stromboli – so that was it, decision made. BUT, as I thought it over, I wanted more cheese, another cheese, like provolone and definitely something green and garlicky to cut into all that rich, gooey cheese. Oh, and why not top it with yet another cheese? Asiago, perhaps? OK, now we’ve got three cheeses, roasted red peppers and prosciutto. What about the green stuff?
Tags: Bacon, Bacon Lardons, Brie, Brown butter Apple Sauce, cooking, Potato Rosti, recipes, Roasted red Peppers, Rosti, Scallions
Happy Valentines Day, err, Eve, everyone! I had this post scheduled to go up at 5pm last night. Apparently I didn’t use GMT, so it’s now the 15th. Well, it’s still Valentine’s Day on the West Coast! I hope you all had an amazing day and are now getting your lips kissed off – or eating chocolate.
For this month’s Daring Cooks Challenge, we were asked to make fried patties of some sort, and one of the recipes offered to us was potato rosti, which is sort of a mix between a giant potato latke and hash browns. I added bacon lardons, scallions and brie to mine. It was suggested that the use of a cast iron skillet was ideal, and I have three; an 8-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch, all well-seasoned, or so I thought.
Once the underside of my rosti was cooked, some careful inspection revealed there was no way I was flipping this baby over without it falling apart. SO, I stuck it under the broiler to finish it and brown the top. We cut slices out of the pan, and it came out well, but it still would have broken into pieces had I tried to flip it.
I topped some slices with a sunny side up egg with roasted red bell pepper hearts (cutting the egg into a heart shape proved difficult since the white was so delicate and thin in some areas, but I did my best, and I think it still resembles somewhat of a heart ??). For the rest of the rosti, I made a super quick brown butter chunky applesauce to top it, which was absolutely wonderful.
The Daring Cooks’ February 2012 challenge was hosted by Audax (my pal) & Lis (one of my wifeypoos) and they chose to present Patties for their ease of construction, ingredients and deliciousness! We were given several recipes, and learned the different types of binders and cooking methods to produce our own tasty patties.
With all that said, you have got to try my quick brown butter pan apple sauce, whether or not you make the rosti. It came to me on a whim and I nailed it in one shot, which isn’t usually the case, so I’m a proud mama..sort of.
Potato Rosti Napoleon? I sandwiched three slices of rosti with some extra brie and put it in the oven for a few minutes, then topped it with a quick pan brown butter apple sauce. A glorious tasting mess!
If you have a few minutes, please check out some of the unique, creative and delicious patties my fellow Daring Cooks came up with, by clicking on the links to their blogs, HERE. For a bounty of recipes for all kinds of patties, from the challenge, click HERE.
Rest in Peace Whitney Houston. The tragic loss of a beautiful woman with the voice of angel.
- 2½ lbs russet potatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons feshly ground black pepper
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch, or use all-purpose flour
- 1 lb slab bacon without the rind, or thick cut bacon
- 7 oz wheel of Brie or any other good melting cheese you like. Great with cheddar!
- 1 bunch scallions, sliced, dark ends saved for garnish
- 3 tablespoons oil, for frying
- Dice bacon into cubes and fry until fat is rendered and it's a deep rust color. Strain off bacon grease and save for another use. Set aside on a paper towel in a bowl.
- Cut white, papery rind off of brie (you can keep it onI prefer it off). Dice into small cubes, or shred, if brie is cold and firm.
- Slice white and light green parts on the diagonal. Save dark green slices, also sliced on the diagonal, for garnish.
- Grate the peeled potatoes with a box grater or a food processor shredding disk.5. Wrap the grated potato in a cloth and squeeze dry, you will get a lot of liquid over ½ cup, discard liquid since it is full of potato starch. Return dried potato to bowl add the egg, brie, bacon, scallions, cornstarch, pepper, and salt. Mix until combined.
- Preheat a frying pan (a well seasoned cast iron is best, 8 to 10-inch) until medium hot, add 2 teaspoons of oil wait until oil shimmers.
- Place half of mixture into the pan, flatten with a spoon until you get a smooth flat surface. Lower heat to medium.
- Fry for 8-10 minutes (check at 6 minutes) the first side, flip by sliding the rösti onto a plate then use another plate invert the rösti then slide it back into the pan, then fry the other side about 6-8 minutes until golden brown. Repeat to make another rosti.
- ¼ cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick - 4 tablespoons - 2 oz)
- 4 large Granny Smith (or any tart apples), apples - peeled, cored and chopped into cubes.
- ¼ to ½ cup granulated sugar, entirely depending on how sweet you like it
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 good pinch kosher salt
- squeeze of lemon juice (taste to see if it needs it)
- In a large saute pan, melt the butter on medium low heat. Raise the heat to medium and cook the butter until the the milk solids rise to the top and the liquid beneath the solids is light golden brown.
- Add the chopped apples to the browned butter and saute until the apples start to soften. Sprinkle on the sugar and let the apples caramelize in the sugar, stirring until the apples are completely caramelized and soft Remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon, vanilla bean or extract, and kosher salt.
- Pour the apple mixture into a bowl, scraping out all the caramel goodness left in the pan. Mash with a fork for chunky apple sauce, or give it a whirl in the food processor (or use a blender or stick blender) for a smooth apple sauce. Squeeze in some lemon juice to taste, if needed. When cool, place in an airtight container in the fridge - it should last about 2 weeks, or immediately serve warm over potato rosti.
Tags: BBQ pork buns, Char Siu Bao, Char Siu Pork, Dough, Green Onions, Hoisin Sauce, Pork, Roast Pork, Soy Sauce
I’m in love with pork buns… especially the baked kind. I’ve been known to go out of my way just to stop at Asian bakeries to pick up varieties of their soft lovely buns..and there’s always at least two pork buns in the bag when I leave. There’s one in my town now, and I have to steer clear or else I’ll be buying bags of buns several times a week, resulting in one big bun, one in which I sit on.
Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles ! Sara chose awesome Cha Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Cha Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious!
Hmmm..Cha Sui? I suppose that’s just another term for it? I always thought it was Char Siu, and Char Siu pork and I go way back – well. way back two years ago. I was actually going to recycle that photo of my Char Siu pork into this post, but once I made it again, I decided to get at least one shot to show I actually did make it again. It’s a beautiful thing. Ever pick the pieces of it out of your fried rice to eat individually?
So, I’ve made Char Siu pork before, and Char Siu Bao before – steamed and baked – with great success. I knew this was a challenge I couldn’t miss, not only because I’ve had great success with it, but because pork buns have gone up $1.25 since I last walked out of the local Asian bakery mentioned above.
On a whim, I decided to do something a little different with them this time. I gussied them up a bit with some Chinese characters for Love, Strength, Peace and Harmony. I mixed matcha powder with a little egg yolk, painted on the characters, let them dry, then egg washed and baked after rising. After one bun, I nixed LOVE.
The Chinese character for LOVE has too many lines and details for such a small area. It looked like scribble scrabble, so I let it fly solo. The LOVE is in the buns, baby.
As I painted each character on top of the buns…a memory came a stompin’, with high-heels no less, through every nook in my brain.
A few years ago, I decided to completely redo the breakfast nook at my parent’s house. Every time I was over there, I could hear the strains of 80’s synthesizers when we sat in that room. It was far past out-of-date – it was Boy George in long braided, mu mu drag…George Michael doing the jitterbug in day-glo, fingerless gloves, out-of-date.
I pulled up every tile of the black and white checkerboard floor, stripped as much of the bright blue paint off the walls (I know, sounds tacky, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t tacky in the 80’s), then sanded off the rest, sealing cracks and holes with compounds and putties, (add more sanding) and finally rolling and brushing on two coats of an Arabian sand color I thought was perfect.
I took down two doors, sanding off the burnished, worn stain, then sanding again, staining and shellac – finishing them off with shiny, bright new doorknobs. It was tough work for one
girl , umm..person..and I still have no idea how I managed it, but within a month, it was completed. I bought a pot rack and hung their pots and pans between the nook and the kitchen, then stood back and admired what I’d done. Trading Spaces? Pffft. Eat your hearts out, bitches.
Hmmm…one problem though..it needed art, a few paintings to tie it all up. Maybe one by me to sort of ‘sign’ my work on the room. Yeah, that sounded cool..really cool. I was cool for once in my life..I think.
I found a bunch of old acrylic paints and brushes in their basement (Yes, I used to draw and paint a bit – well, a lot), but no canvas, and it was too late to go out and get one. I walked around the house looking for something – anything..I needed to paint at that moment. I needed to put my final seal on the room before reveal day.
Out of the corner of my eye, there it sat, one of those vertical, ‘three in a row’ mallard prints that nobody, outside of Grizzly hunter man living in a log cabin, puts up on display (or so I thought). I pried open the wires holding everything together since I planned on using the back of this canvas for my painting. I was confused as to why there were so many layers to get to the canvas, and why was this cheap print numbered and signed? Was someone actually proud of painted mallards on a canvas set in ugly dark green cardboard frames?
I finally got to the back of the canvas, pulled it out, and started painting a kaleidoscope of colors to fit in, but ‘pop’ in the room. I’d already decided I was going to paint the black Chinese characters for Love, Health and Happiness on top of these colors because they’re so beautiful. After hiding it to dry for several hours, I came back and painstakingly painted on each character – using some computer print-outs as a reference. It turned out beautiful, and once it was fully dry, I put it back into the frame, minus the dark green cardboard cut-outs.
I hung it in the perfect place and beamed at my resourcefulness. Turning a cheap, factory made mallard painting into something beautiful! I couldn’t wait for them to see!
They loved the room – I was thrilled. They also loved my painting. After several compliments, my father asked..
“Where did you get the frame for it? I was given a numbered, signed painting by (insert name of famous mallard artist whose name escapes me at this moment) a few weeks ago as a gift for the holidays, in a frame very similar to that..it’s very expensive.”
Update: I know who it is now but absolutely refuse to name him in fear he will see this post via Google and read how I completely annihilated his work thinking it was cheap, worthless and ugly. Shudder.
I felt faint.
He saw my eyes and his face took a turn for the worse. His smile stretched into something between a grimace and a glower, almost as if someone had painted it on with a fine brush, in one deft stroke, not once slipping off track. In fact, I’d never seen it stretch that wide.
“You didn’t take that painting out of the frame, did you? If you did, show me where everything is so we can put it all back together, we’ll get another nice frame for your painting, ok?” He said with faux, hopeful cheer.
Now I’m going to throw up.
He saw my face turn a light shade of green. He knew.
I’m not going to get into details outside of some yelling and “Do you have any idea how much that painting is worth now and will be worth in several years??” “Do you have any idea how rare it is? Only 5 exist!” type of stuff.
To this day, my painting sits in a box in my parent’s basement, never seeing the light of day, err..room, again. He didn’t need to be reminded of it during his morning coffee for the rest of his life.
I get it.
OK..back to the pork buns! This was a good recipe and the dough was absolutely wonderful to work with. However, I made a few small changes. When I saw the recipe for the pork filling, I didn’t think there would be enough sauce to really moisten the pork, so I doubled it. Turns out I was right, as some mentioned the pork filling being dry after it was baked and/or steamed.
Second change..I wanted a lot of filling per bun, like the ones I get at my local bakery, so I made 9 buns instead of 12..no 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon amount here..just what I call a ‘heap’ aka whatever I can fit onto the dough-round and seal without leaking or tearing.
Third change – I let the buns rise for an hour before baking. This recipe eliminated a rise, for a thinner shell of bread. I like a little bready fluff around my pork filling. I also baked them at 350 F for 15 minutes, instead of 200 F for 15 minutes.
Finally, I sprinkled the top of the buns without the characters with a little bit of Maldon flake sea salt.
I’m also submitting these to Bread Baking Day #45, hosted by Cindy of Cindystar.
Tags: Baking with Julia, Candied Bacon, Chocolate, Croissants, Esther McManus, Julia Child, Pain au Chocolat, Pepper Jack Cheese, Pistachio, Sea Salt, white chocolate
The croissant has evolved…into a crescent roll. Let me explain. From the time I was in college until about 10 years ago, croissants were flaky, layered, buttery rolls of heaven. No matter where I bought them, they were all of the above, even the supermarket bakeries. I remember stopping at some a few mornings a week before work, and opening the plexiglass case, crumpled tissue in hand like a baseball mitt, ready to grab the freshest ones before anyone else could. Even the BK ‘croissandwich’ was flaky, with buttery layers!
Then something happened..and I don’t know if some of these places got tired of making them the right way, and/or they decided to skimp on the butter, (cutting costs was obvious) because outside of the fancy patisseries, the croissants I was buying were slowly morphing into crescent rolls. Limp crusts, no flake, and ‘gasp’ soft white bread like innards with maybe two layers, if you were lucky. These were not the croissants that used to flake all over my lap with each bite. These were not the croissants I could eat layer by layer, slowly unrolling, unraveling, deconstructing – holding thin, buttery, window panes of baked dough up to the light, trying to make it last as long as possible.
I finally bid a sad adieu to any croissants made outside french patisseries. I wasn’t being a food snob, I just didn’t feel like paying 2 bucks for a crescent roll when I could easily whip up a batch of those with lots of butter, right?
Then this day came..
The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!
I was jubilant and a tad nervous at the same time. I had always wanted to recreate those awesome croissants of yore at home, but kept putting it off. Now I had a reason to. However, what if I turned out doughy, crescent rolls? I do very well with puff pastry, so how hard could it be? Same method as puff pastry, but using a yeasted dough. Piece of cake! Ha ha..NOT.
Stretching the triangle of dough to about 8-10 inches, then placing a ball of scrap dough in the middle of the wide end before rolling, gives you a fatter, multi-layered, higher croissant.
I decided to use the recipe from the challenge to make plain, rolled croissants, and a recipe by Esther McManus from my copy of Baking with Julia (one of my favorite baking books ever) I’d been planning on trying for some time, for some pain au chocolat (chocolate filled croissants) and other filled croissants. I even have this episode of Baking with Julia saved on my DVR, and I think I’ve watched it about 2 dozen times since this challenge was announced, not counting the two dozen times I’d watched it before.
This is why I couldn’t stop talking like her as I made the dough – ‘You make zee butter sit here and start beating from zee middle, kindly, but firmly.’ I wasn’t kind, and this is probably why I ended up with gaping holes of butter in my dough during my turns. Sheeet, what to do?
Let’s backtrack a bit. Esther Mcmanus’ dough contains a lot of butter. OK, that’s an understatement – try 1 lb 2 ounces of butter. Ummmmmm..alright, maybe I shouldn’t have pounded it so hard to flatten the mountain of ice-cold butter. No neat square in this recipe, just a big lump that you pound into the dough. Then again, since I was already taking my aggressions out on this dough, I forced it to roll further than it was ready to go. Esther says in the episode..
I’m not going to go any further than dees, cuz I feel it doesn’t want me to’ after the first vertical roll of the butter into the dough.
I’m the boss, and I want to get the first turn out of the way, so I don’t care what it wants or doesn’t want. I don’t want to wait 2 hours for a first turn. I knew I was screwing up, but my dough was so strong, I thought the gluten could take a little beating. I let it sit for 15 minutes, then started to roll. All went beautifully. I folded it (like a letter, of course), wrapped it, stuck it in the fridge and went about my day, deciding to let the dough rest overnight to recuperate.
ROUND, errr..Turn Two. This is when all
hell, butter broke loose. This was supposed to be a single and double turn at once, and then after another overnight rest, it would be ready for croissants! As I rolled away to get it to the proper length and width for the second turn, I started to run into little bits of butter oozing here and there. I’d patch these minor caveats up with flour and continue rolling.
As I kept lifting the dough after several rolls, adding flour beneath to keep it from sticking, I noticed butter on the marble slab. Those tiny, little nuisances were now turning into gaping holes of Paula Deen. With every crater of butter in my dough, I heard a ‘Hi Y’all!’. I was up the creek without a paddle, I had completely ruined this dough. Again, Esther’s voice echoed through my head…
If you tear eet, eeet’s no good – or something to that effect. Little holes were fine, according to Esther, but torn, gaping holes, were death. OH.NO. There was no way I was wasting 1 lb 2 ounces of Plugra. I had to think quick. I folded up my half turned mess of dough, wrapped it tight in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge, which was going to become its new home for a few days, because that’s how long it took me to come up with a solution.
Julia to the rescue! I decided to make Julia’s dough from the challenge recipe, no longer for plain croissants, but to save my bruised, battered and buttered dough. I was basically starting over.., my block of butter (beurrage) now a block of butter in dough, which in turn was wrapped in another dough, then all the turns all over again. To my delight, it worked. I had a beautiful, silky dough with not one peep from Paula. One small problem, though. The original butter battered dough had now sat for a little over a week in the fridge. The yeast had certainly weakened considerably, and the amount of yeast in Julia’s dough would not be enough to carry the load.
I formed the croissants, egg-washed them, and sprinkled them with some sea salt (I read it makes a really pretty bubbly effect on the flaky crust). I knew deep down I wasn’t going to get much oven spring, and I didn’t..but they were cute and tasty, albeit too dense. How can anything with all that butter not taste good, regardless of the texture? These are them below. ‘Feh’ comes to mind every time I look at this photo.
Naturally, I wasn’t satisfied, I wanted those big, flaky croissants I loved so much! I made another batch of Esther’s dough, this time using only 3 sticks of butter. As you can see, success. Beautiful, big, flaky seven rolled croissants, (See photo collage of croissant rolling, above – I numbered a rolled croissant to show you what I mean). Tight rolls of each 8-10 inch pulled and stretched triangle gets you 7 ‘sections’ which equals more layers and prettier croissants.
WAIT, this has all got to sound so confusing, and my collages certainly aren’t clear and easy to understand. You can see the full episode of Esther’s croissant making, with the lovely and wonderful Julia, HERE (part one) and HERE (part two). You can also see a full episode of vintage Julia making croissants, HERE.
So, here’s what I made;
- Accidental mini sea salt croissants
- Plain, rolled, croissants, although I didn’t pull the ends long enough to curve them into a classic croissant shape.
- Plain pain au chocolat
- White and dark pain au chocolat
- White chocolate – pistachio and Dark chocolate pistachio croissants (I used the almond filling recipe provided by Esther in Baking with Julia, substituting pistachios for the almonds)
- Candied bacon – Pepper Jack cheese croissants.
Candied bacon – pepper jack?? Yes, and they were amazing. Remember a while back when I told you about being a member of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker’s program? They sent me and others a $25.00 gift card to purchase a variety of Sargento cheeses, American processed cheese singles, and any other fruits, crackers and whatnot to host a ‘tasting’, comparing Sargento cheeses, such as Havarti, Provolone, and the aforementioned Pepper Jack etc..to processed American cheese singles.
Umm..are you kidding? It’s a no brainer – of course Sargento won out. I keep American cheese singles on hand for one purpose only – childhood comfort grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. I paired several of Sargento’s cheeses (they come in sticks…perfect for croissants, like the chocolate batons shown above) with candied bacon, deciding pepper jack was a phenomenal match. And there you have it..candied bacon – pepper jack croissants!
Loved this challenge, loved how my croissants turned out (especially the second batch), but I think it’s going to be a while before I make croissants again. I’m still wiping the flour off my face, the frustration off my frontal lobes, and the butter from my arteries.