Shamleless Plug

I'm embarking on a new part of my life that is happier and going in a direction! It's really refreshing.

I was married May 19th, 2012 to a great guy I met at the C.I.A and we're go excited to embark on a life together. He has as culinary degree to match my baking and pastry degree. It's going to be a Good life.

I hope you enjoy my thoughts on food and cooking. I am but a humble baker, who happens to love cooking and embraces the joy of food.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Potato Skins

Ever had potato skins at a chain restaurant? Growing up, my family would occasionally go to Bennigans; usually on New Year's Eve. I remember laughing over the name "Fuzzy Navel", eating burgers, Turkey O'Tooles and  fudge brownie sundaes.

But mostly I remember potato skins. They were probably deep fried skins. Which was hidden by melty cheddar cheese, greasy bacon, chopped chives and cold sour cream. The whole thing was a greasy, cheesy oily mess. And they were addictive as eating whipped cream straight from the can.

My 9-year old self never knew potatoes had a better topping than ketchup. Who knew?!

I haven't enjoyed potato skins in so many years. Matt and I have about four slices of extra thick cut bacon in the fridge, along with a half  pound block of cheddar cheese and sour cream. I don't need to tell you where this is going....

I know they wont be as good as what you could get in a chain restaurant circa 1994; there was a lot more leeway on assorted fats back then. I baked the potatoes and scooped them, and will just broil them later instead of deep frying the tasty skins. But the bacon will be greasy, the sour cream full fat and creamy and the cheese will be plentiful.

I'm saving the inside potatoes and the bacon fat for pierogies tomorrow.

Rendering the bacon fat is worth the slow effort. The bacon we picked was very lean, but it yielded a surprising amount of fat. It smells all bacony with a touch of smokey in here. I'm using extra sharp New York Cheddar, sliced slightly thick. It's going to melt beautifully draped over the chopped bacon. 

Holy Goodness. I have missed potato skins. The middle of each potato skin was full of melted cheddar, slightly crisp and salty bacon and sour cream. Like a surprise party for your mouth.

Okay, okay, okay. Sure. You can totally make these "healthy" Some kind of vegetable combination instead of bacon, less or no cheese, light sour cream...But...uhh..why? I understand healthy eating is great and can be completely delicious. I know. But what's life without enjoying your meal?...But that's another post.

Every time I bit into a bacon loaded, cheese laden mouthful of potato, it was like an explosion of awesome. Some bits of the bacon were slightly fatty and soft, providing incredible flavor. Sour cream, cheese and bacon. Could there be a more flavorful trifecta on a potato?

These potato skins were such a great splurge. Incredibly easy and a filling meal for a Friday night.

If only I had a good beer to go with it.....


Mmmmm...rendered bacon fat......


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Brinner!!

Our menu of dinners has been varied the past few days. Delicious, but in need of special prep. I'm starting to want something simple and completely different.

Which brings me to the magic of Brinner.

Brinner, if you haven't heard of it, is one of those combinations of meals. There's Brunch (Breakfast for lunch or even lunch for breakfast) Linner (lunch for dinner; in my mind it's mainly soup and sandwiches) and Brinner. Breakfast for dinner. I'm sure there's a dinner for breakfast (Dreakfast?) combination but 75% of my breakfast meals over my lifetime has been leftovers from dinner or non-breakfast food items (ranging from Pastina to burgers). 

Brinner is admittedly a lazy meal. You really don't need to go to the store. Crack a few eggs, pull out the bisquik and fry up some bacon. You can throw together a frittata with whatever you cooked the night before. And who (besides me) doesn't like a short stack for dinner sometimes?

It is the quick and easy dinner. Clean-up is a snap and everyone's happy.

I'm making Brinner tonight because I'm in the mood for a change. I'm also dying for bacon. We usually try to keep it in the fridge, but while I was job hunting I'd rather spend 5 bucks on a 5 pound chicken than 16 slices of cured pork. At work I'll have a cream cheese bagel with bacon, but I'm yearning for my Maple Bacon.  Maple bacon is one of the tastiest things I will ever eat at breakfast time....but that's another post.

We got this extra thick cut applewood smoked bacon. A little drizzle of maple syrup and brown sugar and you have created something so palette pleasing and sweet and the sweet bacon fat is just so........I'm losing track here. Bacon is mighty distracting.

Anyway, I don't really like categorizing meals into their own little boxes. I love a burger for breakfast as much as I do for dinner. I can put away an egg/sausage/cheese bagel for dinner or lunch. At work, I don't blink an eye if someone asks for Diet Coke at 8:30 in the morning. Hell, when I went into work during my externship at 4 am I'd start my shift off with some Diet Coke!

Don't go all cannibal on me, but meals are a lot like people. We shouldn't put them into these boxes and expect them to conform to what we think they should be. Why can't you have pancakes at 8pm? Why can't you have a chilli dog in the morning? Brinner, Brunch, Linner, Dreakfast, Dunch (?), why label? If you want to eat it my friend, don't let us judge you! If you order a turkey club at the diner at 7 am, I'll feel less embarrassed when I order my pattie melt, deal?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Shortcakes

This is probably my main motivation when making risotto. Yes, it is creamy and parmy and full of starchy goodness, but risotto cakes are where it's at.

Soft. Crispy. Moist. Compressed cakes of indulgence.

But that's not the cakes I'm writing about. I came across incredible looking strawberries today for a price that felt a little like stealing. Strawberries! They actually look deep red, ripe, plump and delcious!
I bought two packages for shortcakes for dessert.We had left over heavy cream from last night. It was such a beautiful sunny day, so it just felt like a shortcake night.

I used the raw sugar for the shortcakes, and sprinkled some on top to create a sweet sugary crunch.

The whipped cream was more or less an afterthought. I wasn't really planning on it, but Matt insisted.....I am so glad he did! I haven't had good whipped cream in months. Months and months. Before I quit my job. Their whipped cream was always over whipped and under flavored.

I took a spoonful to check the sweetness factor and was hijacked into airy heaven. It was perfect. Medium peaked, smooth, airy and creamy. A whole different kind of creamy than risotto. I couldn't have made it go better with the strawberries and shortcake; the medium peaks eased seamlessly into the fruit. It didn't just sit there like a dead bird. Ever had too whipped cream? It really ruins a great dessert.

I've missed fresh whipped cream! And strawberries. The strawberries were ripe and sugared just enough to bring out the flavor of the fruit without overwhelming it with sugary sweetness. It went really well with the shortcakes; the sweet crunch was every few bites, so it was an extra burst of sweet sugary flavor.

What a fabulous kick off into warmer days. If I wasn't so full from such a great meal and dessert I'd go back for more.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Risotto.

Cheesy creamy short grain rice. If I were to have an "issue" with food, it would be Risotto. I love it more than tuna and Doritos, more than beef stew. More than fresh marshmallows.

Risotto is a bowl of creamy Parmesany haven. It is a labor of love, needing care and patience, just the right amount of liquid and stirring. Stir too much, and you have a starchy mess, stir too little and you have a bowl of rice. Just the right amount of stirring and you are left with an evenly cooked, tender and creamy bowl of Risotto.

Basic risotto just has the main ingredients of cream, parm and white wine. Classic but stylish.
Risotto lends itself to any savory addition. vegetables, salmon, sausage, chicken, bacon. But I think bacon would be such an incredible indulgence with the risotto my tongue would surely die a thousand blissful deaths. It's a one dish meal. But it's not so much "healthy" or "quick" but you will soon find the end result is worth all that stirring and time.

But there's so much more to this dish. Leftover Risotto turns into cakes of pan fried, crispy on the outside soft on the inside risotto cakes. And those, my friend, are worth making risotto just to have the crispy cakes.Which are worth a post all by themselves. Risotto. Pan fried. There is no need for further explanation.

Risotto is a special meal for Matthew and I, partly due to the work involved and partly due to the amounts of rich ingredients. We made it for New Year's Eve 2010...Or what I refer to as my "Emancipation and leaping into a brighter future." So the dish is now a little more special. My freedom meal. That creamy mouth feel? That's my bright future, baby!

Anyway...If you've never had risotto, I cannot imagine why you haven't! It's like a high ten from the classic great chefs.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Over Efforting the Pizza

At my new job, I work 4-9 hours a day 6 days a week. So on my day off, I like to do as much as I can with my time. After going to the gym yesterday, I had to figure out dinner. Pizza would be quick and easy, but I was bored with the usual veggie/sausage. I wanted something different and a little sweeter.

Which made me think of BBQ chicken pizza.

I had been roasting chicken thighs at under 300 degree heat for about 3 hours, and added a thrown together BBQ sauce in about an hour ago. It turned into a thick, sweet, bbq saturated mass of delciousness. Matt told me that 45 minutes at 350 with the size of the thighs would have more than sufficed, but when did I ever do anything the easy way? I was home, reading and studying Bruegger's material, and had time to kill. What trouble was it to let chicken slow cook?

I suffered horribly as I caramelized two onions. But the end justified the means. The caramelized onions were worth the eye squinting watery pain when I spread it across my tomato sauce sweetened with what was left of the bbq sauce.

You know what? I really miss good parm. When I go to any grocery store I always pause in the cheese section, pick up a hunka hunka aged Parmesan and inhale. The fruity and nutty notes of incredible hard cheese makes me want to spend the 15.99 a pound pricetag.The real stuff goes so well sprinkled lightly on top of pizza. But for now, I just have the mozzarella and provolone.

The pizza came out really well, I bought a jar of yeast at the store and feed it with honey and a little molasses for a change of pace, so the dough has a darker tinge to it, but is still chewy and tender. Using chicken thighs really gave the pizza a deeper chicken flavor and the condensed flavors of the bbq sauce enhanced the pizza overall.
It was a really nice change to our usual pizza night. Can't wait to make it again! Maybe next time I'll do an Alfredo like sauce or even just a sauceless pizza!