Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Look what I got! I feel an exponential increase in my baking confidence just having this bad boy in my apartment. Thanks be to dad! I thought you had to get married to get one of these!! (hehe...bt dubbs Paul, this doesn't let you off the hook) (kidding, kidding!).
Okay so anyways... not only did I get a boss Kitchenaid stand mixer (!!!). I got two coveted cookbooks:
Oh, Molly, Molly, I have nothing but hearts and flowers for you and so far curling up with your book is super sweet. I need to make everything. Right. Now.
BITTMAN! For those that don't know Bittman is THE MAN. His column/blog/everything is pretty much 8 shades of awesome and NOW, I have not only a Bittman cookbook but the international one! (say "international" like the mom of Ricky in Better Off Dead when she says "you know...the international language). My kitchen is going to be mega exotic from now on thanks to Eric and Anne!
Anywho...I'm not finished. My creative scientific genius of a mans hooked me up with a full rig to start experimenting with cooking sous vide at home! Do you not know what sous vide is? Well, that's fine because like you, I also only knew the term from a couple exhilerating episodes of Top Chef. Well if you would like to know more about it, peep this, this or this. All you need to know about me and sous vide is that I now have top to bottom a full setup to start messing around with this "slow and low" cooking method.
So then, I come into work yesterday and there's like two articles on Serious Eats about sous vide. Is my dude cutting edge or WHAT? Apparently, it's going to revolutionize home cooking in ways the microwave couldn't even do! I'm pretty stoked about this because I have already mastered microwave cooking. Sous vide here I come!
Friday, December 18, 2009
December is an insane, mad person sprint of a month. It is not, in any way shape or form, a normally timed month. I know this because I don't have time for much. Like last week's post, there's no time for love, Dr. Jones. Straight to the nitty gritty.
Remember my cousin's cheeseball. Well, I made it and it's a total knockout. You should know about this cheeseball, you're going to want to be alone with it.
2 packages cream cheese (don't even think about getting reduced fat)
2 jars Kraft Olde English OR 1 tub Cheddar Wis-Pride spread*
5-6 ounces crumbled blue cheese or gorganzola
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
couple shakes of garlic salt
Combine everything in a bowl and beat together with an electric mixer. Divide cheese amalgam in half and shape into two balls. It was helpful to lightly spray my hands with olive oil spray before doing this. Roll each cheeseball in crushed nuts (I used pecans) or chopped, fresh herbs.
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving. I made mine the night before. I used one at my party and the other five days later. Both were delicious. Do it!
* Kraft Olde English was not at my grocery store. I improvised and used Wis-Pride. I figured, well, it's orange, so it must be the same thing. It was.
Hey cheeseball, meet your two new friends, red wine and vodka, you guys will be seeing a lot of each other this holiday season.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
As in snappy appetizers. Yes, I know, I’m the world’s biggest cheeseball. Speaking of cheeseballs, I am making one for my Christmas party on Saturday night. Apparently my cousin Jenny made this cheeseball for Thanksgiving and nobody could shut up about how good it was. They even went so far as to curse her name the next day when they mistakenly thought she had taken the cheeseball leftovers home with her. When she cleared up that rumor we forgave her. So anyways, I’m already taking up too much time. No time for witty banter this week kids, it’s crunch time. December is sort of beating the tar out of me right now. Does anyone else feel this way? It seems like about ten seconds ago, it was Thanksgiving and I was going to blog “over the weekend” or “early next week” about my stuffed mushrooms. Obviously, because I am a proven liar, “over the weekend” meant “definitely not this weekend” and “early next week” meant “probably not for two weeks” but anyways, I digress. It’s December 10th already! We’re into double digits and there’s no more time for dilly dallying: onward! To the appetizers!
These are two Sue Pithie classics that I am generously gifting upon ye. My mom has never met a savory appetizer she wasn’t able to conquer. I hope to continue this legacy for the next generation of party snackers. I’m telling you right now, if you make these, you will get compliments.
Two large packages white button mushrooms. (Baby Bellas would also work well)
One red bell pepper, diced
One small bunch scallions, chopped
1 ½ to 2 sleeves Ritz crackers (as with all recipes calling for Ritz, let me just tell you right now, there simply is no substitution)
½ - 1 stick butter, melted
Brush mushrooms off with a damp cloth. Snap out stems and set aside onto your cutting board. The intact caps can be set aside into a bowl. The caps that don’t make it, well they can join the stems. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and drizzle a bit of olive oil in. Coarsely chop your mushroom stems. Add the stems, along with the diced red pepper and chopped scallions to the sauté pan and cook a few minutes, until it smells fragrant and the mushrooms have purged a bit of liquid.
Dump the lot of this mixture into your Cuis’ Food Processor. Add the Ritz. Pulse mixture until it reassembles a stuffing-ish mixture. Return your skillet to the heat, lower the stove a bit, to medium and melt your butter. When the butter is melted, pour it over the stuff in your Cuis’, pulse some more. Until all the Ritz are chopped up well and there aren’t any large, identifiable half crackers floating around in there. Stuff your mushroom caps with the stuffing mixture (der). Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
TOMATO, BASIL & FETA SALSA with PITA CHIPS
For the Chips:
One package large or small pita. This is a great thing to do with pitas that are too stale to eat. When you bake them up, they’re like a whole new beast.
Garlic Salt (optional)
For the “Salsa”
*Any type tomato will do here. Since it’s winter, I use any good looking cherry tomatoes I find at the store and cut them into halves, or quarters, depending on their size. The last batch I picked up were gargantuan, so they got the quarter treatment.
One of the good things about this recipe is you can make a huge batch for a party or just a small amount for yourself. It gets tastier as it sits overnight in the fridge, but is also great immediately after you make it. It’s a very forgiving and versatile, like my long grey sweater, that’s why I like it. I also whip this up a lot in the summer as a side dish, sometimes adding diced purple onion.
Preheat oven to 350. Cut your pitas into triangles. The option here is to split them, to make thin chips, or leave them together. Your call. My mom likes them thicker and therefore leaves them together, I like to split them so they’re lighter and you can make more of them. Arrange cut pitas on baking sheet. Pour a palm full of olive oil into your hand and rub both hands together. Using your hands distribute the oil over the pita slices. Repeat if necessary. I don’t like mine too oily, so I go light. My mother makes her pita chips not with olive oil, but with melted butter, because well, she’s trying to kill us all. Sprinkle with sea salt and garlic salt. Bake for 15 minutes, flipping half way through.
Meanwhile, rinse your tomatoes and slice into halves or quarters. If using full size tomatoes, cut into a chunky dice. Chiffonade a couple handfuls of basil. To do this, take a few leaves at a time and roll them up, then cut thin, vertical slices across your rolled up leaves. The result is delicate ribbon-y threads of basil that look cute. Add basil to tomatoes, and add feta. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper and stir everything together. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with pita chips. Open your ears to hear the compliments, and try not to pull a muscle patting yourself on the back!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Please do not be alarmed that the word “sausage” is in the title of this soup. Honestly when trying to name this mish mash of a soup that I made up last week, I really did not want to include sausage in the title. There’s something about the words “sausage soup” that make me picture a gigantic bread loaf hollowed out and filled with baked potato, cheese and cheddar soup with carmelized kielbasa or something in it. Something that adds 7 pounds to my ass if I even look at it sideways, and something that if you eat the only words to describe your condition afterwards are “completely” and “destroyed.” The concept of sausage soup also reminds me of a certain menu item that would appear periodically at the unnamed American bar & grill where I used to sling food. That menu item was BLT soup and yes, it was just as disgusting as you are imagining right now. I mean BLTs: good; soup: good. BLT soup: NOT GOOD. Any soup with flecks of floating lettuce in it is just not okay with me. And if it’s okay with you I’d like you to keep that to yourself because I really like you and I don’t want that to change. It made me wonder how the cook who’s brainchild this recipe was could take two seemingly wonderful food items and by combining them together create something almost inherently evil. One day when he was preparing this culinary abomination he asked “Jess, you’re a vegetarian right?” to which I pishawed him and said “no” and he was like, “oh, well here, I want you to try the soup of the day.” “What is it?” “BLT soup” “Oh, um, honestly, I don’t really feel well right now and I just don’t think I can eat anything with bacon in it. Thanks though. It sounds so good.” I lied. I really didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but I was not about to make smiley faces any yummy noises as I slurped down a nappy dish of the Worst Soup Ever Made by
But sincerely though, even though I am not happy with the title of this soup per se, I don’t believe it would have come out quite as good if I had skipped the sausage. A nice browned meat can add a lot to the flavor of a soup, even bacon, just don’t combine it with wilted, wet lettuce and don’t let me think that maybe you may have included mayonnaise as one of your soup ingredients (ugh! I just got the chills when I typed that!!). Wow Jess, you are really doing a spectacular job of working up appetites over here. But honestly, I swear MY soup is good, and there’s no lettuce in it. And there never will be any lettuce in any soup that comes out of the Porky Test Kitchens. Lettuce has a place: in salads and on tacos, let’s keep it that way. So anyways though, focusing our attention back to the soup:
Two sweet Italian or fennel sausages*
One bag baby pearl onions**
Two cloves garlic, minced
Salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
Splash of sherry vinegar
2 russet potatoes, diced
Chicken broth or stock, to cover
* The sausages I used in this soup were leftover from a package of Dom’s sausages from Dom’s Sausage Company in Malden. This place is amazing. Their meats are great and their prices are reasonable. My friend Michelle drives up there to stock up every few weeks and on her last visit she gifted me with some of these sweet, fennel sausages. I’m normally a hot sausage girl myself (hehehe- sorry) but these changed my mind. Ah-mazing.
**I purchased myself a satchel of the most adorable baby onion blend from where else? Trader Joes. They were a blend of baby purple, white and yellow onions and they were so great, because not only were they so cute, their flavor was wonderful. You could likewise use regular diced onions or the normal baby pearls, or even cipollini.
Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat, add your bag of onions and blanch them for a few minutes (I left mine in approx. 3). Drain onions and let cool a bit. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Remove sausage from casings and brown, breaking up with a wooden spoon or spatula until well browned. Peel onions from their skins and add to pot. The easiest way to do this I found was to nip the end off with a pairing knife and then squeeze the little suckers out of their skins. Be fair warned that some of these onions will fly across your kitchen. It’s sort of hilarious. Sauté the sausage and onions together for a bit, add the garlic, a bit of salt, pepper and some crushed red pepper. Add the tomato paste and stir everything together well. Dash in some of the sherry vinegar and let the vinegar cook off. This only takes a moment, really.
Add your potatoes and chicken stock to cover. Turn the heat up to a boil. Let boil until potatoes are tender and cooked through. Once the potatoes are tender you can serve or turn down and let simmer until you’re ready to eat. Top with crunched up crackers or pita chips and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
Oh by the way, I also served this to myself with a grilled cheddar, avocado and bacon sandwich. Good fat meets bad fat in a battle of the fats. Clearly in this battle, my tastebuds win.