Sunday, June 27, 2010

Friday Night, quick and easy

This week I didn't plan anything at all for Friday because I still have a lot to do for our annual cookout (only a few weeks away) and I wanted to get some mulching and yard work done. I thought I would play it by ear, maybe this time we would order a pizza. Well I ended up going to Boston for the day with Lisa and Karisa so I didn't get the yard work done, but that's OK it was more fun to go enjoy the weather, friends and food in Boston. I left Lisa's house about 4:30 and went to Whole Foods just to grab something for the grill. I don't know what drew me to the fresh tuna steak, but I had to get a piece of that. I figured I would do a quick honey soy marinade and grill it for an appetizer. Then I originally planned on lamb (lolly-pops) chops, but they were so expensive and they had these small lamb steaks that looked a lot like fillet mignon, I was curious about those so I got a couple to try them out (It was a cut from the leg). I got some heirloom tomatoes and figured I'd do a quick tomato salad to go with it. I also got some asparagus because they were calling out to me, they are always good on the grill. At the farmer's market in Boston we got these baby carrots that we decided to par-boil and then grill them. I made a quick herb and Bulgar salad; just lots of herbs from the garden, some butter, salt and pepper. Dessert would be cannoli's from Mike's Pastry in Boston. I ended up getting home about 5:45 and dinner was ready in no time. Comparing what I usually do... cooking all day dinner tonight in no time... You know I love to cook but sometimes simple is best.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Friday Night Bites #5

This week I had a crazy idea, a BLT. What's so crazy about that you say? It's not what your thinking...

BLT with a twist

I saw an ad on the cooking channel, just a quick little thing where the guy said... "we use caramelized bacon and a ham hock to make our bacon ice cream." That's how this recipe began. I said ok would this be a dessert or can it be served as a savory course? What would I serve it with? Would it be by itself or maybe a play on a BLT? What could be the Lettuce part? What would be the Tomato part? Would I serve it on bread? I figured it out...

I made the ice cream by infusing cooked bacon that I chopped up into the milk for 30 minutes (I couldn't find a ham hock that day, but it turns out it wasn't necessary). I proceeded with a Maple Syrup Ice Cream recipe that I found on line Again I am serving this as a savory course so I didn't want it to be too sweet, and what kind of sweet goes with bacon? Maple syrup. I used a good pinch of Fleur de Sel to heighten the savory side of things. The Lettuce part was an arugula infused olive oil. I tour up a good amount of arugula leaves and put them into a small saucepan, then covered them with extra virgin olive oil. Put the heat on very low and once I saw it was heated through, but not at all boiling, I covered the pan and removed it from the heat. Let it sit for an hour to steep like a tea, then strained it. I tasted it and it was now "Arugula Oil". For the Tomato part, I slow roasted, drained and cut in half, San Marzano whole tomatoes from a can for about 2 1/2 hours at about 250 degrees. I cut them into a small dice. When I was ready to plate it I toasted a thin slice of sourdough bread and cut it into a triangle. In a shallow bowl I put in one scoop of bacon ice cream, drizzled with arugula olive oil and spooned on some diced slow roasted tomatoes. To garnish I sprinkled over some bacon that I cut into matchsticks, one whole arugula leaf and of course the triangle of sourdough bread. Can I tell you, it came out fantastic!

Scallion Crepe Cigars

This idea came from the Boston Globe Magazine. There was a recipe for these scallion crepes and the chef likes to serve them with this dipping sauce that was also featured in the magazine. I decided to roll them into a cigar shape, just to make it easier to dip. These crepes have a whole bunch of scallion mixed into the batter, and they end up being almost spicy from the white parts of the scallions and the dipping sauce has hot sauce in it. The sauce is 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp Mirin, 1 Tbsp rice vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp Siracha, 2 tsp grated fresh ginger and 1 Tbsp of water.

Butterflied and BBQ'ed Whole Chicken

I never did bbq chicken in the oven, slow cooked and covered with foil. I think if I ever made bbq chicken it was on the grill with bbq sauce brushed on toward the end of cooking. Tony has made real bbq chicken with his charcoal grill and smoker. So I want to give this a shot. I saw a recipe on called Jack's BBQ Chicken and I used his method, but I also liked the sound of Bobby Flay's Bourbon BBQ Chicken with Sixteen Spice Rub so I used his rub and sauce. One of the reviews said they saw the show and he soaked his chicken in buttermilk but that wasn't even talked about in the recipe on-line. So I made some buttermilk with milk and a squeeze of a lemon, then removed the backbone from a chicken and layed it out flat and submerged it into the buttermilk, covered it and put it in the refrigerate for a few hours. It needed about 2 hours to cook so I took it out and padded it dry a little bit. Put it into a shallow baking pan and rubbed it with the rub, filled the bottom of the pan with some apple cider then covered it with aluminum foil. Put into a 300 degree oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes, then removed the foil and brushed on the BBQ Sauce and cooked it uncovered for 15 minutes. It came out nice and juicy and very flavorful. I served this with macaroni and cheese.

Spicy Crunchy Topped Mac and Cheese

I made a cheese sauce using Gruyere, Cheddar and Monteray cheeses, and the spice came from some cyenne pepper. I boiled a small funky shaped pasta and mixed the two together. I heated some olive oil in a skillet and added some bread crumbs and some fresh sage from the garden that I sliced thinly. I cooked these together with a pinch of salt and pepper until the bread crumbs became crunchy. I topped the mac and cheese with the crunchy crumbs.

Butterscotch Tirimisu

I didn't follow a recipe for this except for the Butterscotch Pastry Cream. The difference between regular pastry cream and butterscotch is the use of brown sugar in place of regular white sugar and a pinch of Fleur de Sel. I made the pastry cream and chilled it. I softened a 4 oz container of marcarpone cheese and set aside. I whipped some heavy cream with some confectioners sugar and vanilla. I mixed the three together until it tasted really good. So I made the coffee syrup for the lady fingers. If you ever made tirimisu you know you dip the store bought lady fingers into a coffee syrup before assembling the dish. I dissolved some sugar and water together on the stove top, I dissolved some decaffeinated instant coffee in some hot water and just added it until it was a rich dark color, but not too dark. I added some Bourbon, not too much. I tasted it and it needed just a splash of water to make it just right. I dipped the lady fingers into the coffee syrup quickly and lined the glass dish with them. I spread on 1/2 of the cream mixture and another layer of lady fingers and topped with the other 1/2 of the cream mixture. Cover and let it sit overnight so it all comes together nicely. I had slowly cooked some white chocolate that morning until it caramelized and put it into a small bowl and let it harden in the refrigerator. I grated that over the tirimisu before cutting into it. It was fantastic!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Friday Night Dinner, Spicy Chicken Coconut Curry

I haven't really been slacking off the past couple weeks on blogging, I have good excuses why. Two weeks ago on Friday night we went to a Neil Young concert in Worcester at the Hanover Theater. We had received a gift certificate to La Scala restaurant in Worcester for Christmas and hadn't used it yet, so we thought it would be a perfect time to use it. The restaurant was small, not too fancy, but very good basic Italian food. I felt like I was eating at some Italian family's house. Last week we had a yard sale on Saturday and we really didn't have everything pulled together for it ahead of time so Tony suggested we order a pizza and make it an easy night. I couldn't do that completely...we had pizza but I made it. I also had in my mind that I would make key lime pie for dessert and since it could be made easily that morning and sit in the refrigerator all day I decided to do that too. Instead of a regular graham cracker crust I mixed it up by adding in some ground almond flour to the mix and I actually topped the whole pie with meringue which we loved.

So this week I finally had time, but I had to keep it simple and I couldn't be too creative because I have this tooth ache that is driving me crazy. I got a tooth ache out of the blue. I made an appointment with the dentist and they scheduled me for the next day...Wonderful, only to find out I didn't have a cavity, instead I need a root canal. So now the root canal is scheduled for Wednesday (5 days later) 5 more days of tooth aches. So instead of the "bites" I went back to simpler times and did an appetizer, main dish and dessert.

Steamed Dumplings in a Flavorful Thai Broth

I bought these dumpling wrappers from a Asian market in Westboro and I hadn't used them yet, they had been sitting in the freezer. I looked for a dumpling recipe and I found these by Alton Brown on the (Vegetarian Steamed Dumplings) He uses tofu and cabbage and a whole bunch of other flavors and after they are steamed he likes to dip them into a broth, so that's what I did. I had some homemade chicken stock and I just added some to a pot with a couple cloves of garlic just cut in half, a couple pieces of fresh ginger about the same amount as the garlic, a dried Thai chili pepper ripped in two, salt and pepper. Just keep tasting it until it tastes right. Alton's recipe was really good, as most people rated this recipe with 5 stars. It's a nice light and flavorful appetizer to serve before Spicy Chicken Coconut Curry.

Spicy Chicken Coconut Curry with Jasmine Rice

This is a Tyler Florence recipe also found on A lot of people rated this recipe with 5 stars also, but once in a while someone said it wasn't flavorful enough, and I see what they mean. It was very good but the only thing it needed was more fresh herbs at the end or mixed in. Tony even thought that a fresh salsa spooned over the top would be a good addition. It wasn't spicy at all so maybe some spice in the salsa so someone can have it as hot as they like it. I cooked some Jasmine rice and served the curry over the rice.

Tangerine Creme Brulee

This sounded so good I had to do it. It was found in a French Style book I have. It's one of those books that has lots of pictures of French homes and gardens and there are also some recipes at the back of the book. They make this with Creme Fraiche, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla bean and they used Clementines. It was supposed to bake for 30 minutes in a 300 degree oven. It didn't work, I cooked it at least an hour and at some point I put the temperature up to 350. It never set up completely. After taking it out and cooling it a bit I chilled it and by the time dessert got here and Tony torched the sugar to make the "Brulee" part, It had set a bit but it also seemed to separate, it almost seemed like I poured some melted butter in the mix, but there was no butter. I know I did every thing the recipe said to do, maybe in France there Creme Fraiche is made differently, I don't know. The flavor was excellent. I will make this again and just use an American version custard with the orange flavors from this recipe. I topped the dessert with some shavings of orange chocolate bar I found at Whole Foods Market.