Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hunter's Stew

I'm a guy who loves game meat.  My former father-in-law and myself used to raise chickens and rabbits for meat.  We had coveys of quail that nested and fed in his backyard.  Wild turkey roosted in the trees down by the river where the deer also bedded down during the heat of the day.  Wild pig rooted on the hillsides up the ridge.  Needless to say that I've had my fair share of game meat.  Pig roasts were common for weddings or graduations and when folks took a deer or a bear, there was often a cookout that followed.

A few months back, I'd picked up a couple of whole, trimmed rabbits from a local butcher who carries them and I finally decided to pull one out and do something with it.  It's been getting colder here of late and a nice hearty stew seemed like the perfect thing to do with a rabbit.  I figured the slow cooker would be a perfect way to break down the meat off the bones and impart a good savory flavor to the meat as Jen isn't too fond of the "gamey" taste of many wild meats.  Personally, I like it.  It also helped me clean up a few leftover veggies I had sitting around and I made up some barley to serve it over.  A great old-timey comfort dish.  Jen said it reminded her of some sort of hunter's stew so that's what I decided to call it.

Note:  If you have an aversion to eating Bambi, Thumper, or any other cute, cuddly woodland creatures, poultry may be substituted for rabbit but your cooking times will be much shorter.  Probably no more than 6 hours or so.

A little Jawbreaker "West Bay Invitational" seemed apropos as I would gladly have invited everyone to the West Bay, or Humboldt since I then wouldn't have to drive, to a kick-ass party where I would serve much cerveza and plenty of rabbit stew.  With kick-ass live music of course. - justin



Hunter's Stew

Time: 8-9 hours
Servings: 6-8
Difficulty: Easy
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp seasoned salt
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp Chinese Five Spice
  • 1 tsp Herbs De Provence
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup very dry sherry
  • 1 whole 3lb rabbit, trimmed (paws, head, fur, skin, tail, and innards all removed)
  • 1/2 cup wild rice
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup fresh scallions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of raisins
Thickening the Broth
  • Liquid from the slow cooker
  • 1 cup chicken stock 
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
Get your oil, shallots, carrots, celery, mushrooms, garlic, kosher and seasoned salts, black and cayenne peppers,  Chinese Five Spice, Herbs de Provence, basil, 2 cups chicken stock, water, and dry sherry in the slow cooker and set it to low for 8 hours.  Every 2 hours, turn the rabbit if the liquid doesn't cover the entire animal (we have a 7 qt slow cooker so my liquid left half my rabbit exposed).  After 6 hours stir in the rice, red wine, scallions and raisins.  After 7 hours, remove the rabbit and pull the meat from the bones.  Most of the meat is located in the hind legs but don't forget the back straps, the shoulders, and the breasts hold a good bit of meat as well.  I find the easiest way is to pull as much meat off with a fork as possible and use your hands for the rest, once the meat has cooled a little, that is.

Add the pulled meat back to the slow cooker for the last hour.  When the 8 hours is up, place the butter in a skillet over medium high heat and melt.  Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes or until the roux is a light brown color.  Strain the liquid from the slow cooker into the skillet, add the last cup of chicken stock and whisk quickly until thickened.  Add the thickened sauce/gravy back to the veggies and meat in the slow cooker and serve over rice or barley.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Smokey Squash Soup

So we have all of these autumnal veggies sitting around the house and in an effort to use them before they start to go bad, I decided to make some squash soup.  I'd already been on a mission one day to make soup stock out of a chicken carcass and ended up going the extra mile to make a pork stock as well.  It seemed like the perfect base for a squash soup.  I went the smokey pork rout for the stock and tossed in a smoked pork femur, some trimmings off of a ham steak, and a healthy dose of bacon.  The result was awesome.  Some crumbled bacon and fresh chopped scallions made this an amazing comfort dish, perfect for a cold day or for the morning after a long night of debauchery when your body needs nutrients other than hard drugs and alcohol.  Hearty and filling, healthy veggies, smooth and silky texture.  Warms you from the inside!


Since it's a healthy and hearty soup it would naturally pair with some Supersuckers which is more like country/punk with a side order of "kick me in the teeth".  A little "Born With a Tail" makes this good soup seem a little more edgy so here ya go.  You can feel a little more rock-n-roll-devil-child while you eat your healthy squash soup. - justin



Smokey Squash Soup

Time: 1 hr
Serves: 6
Difficulty: Easy
  • 2 cups butternut squash
  • 2 cups sweet baking pumpkin
  • 1 lb bacon, chopped
  • 2 cups onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry sherry
  • 6 cups pork or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 cups scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano, grated 
I was working with a whole squash and a whole pumpkin so I simply cut them in half, seeded them, and roasted half of each, cut side down, on an cookie sheet covered in oiled aluminum foil in a 425 degree oven for 45 minutes.  They came out perfectly.  If you are working with diced veggies, use the 4 cups and toss them in a little olive oil and roast in a 425 degree oven and check them after 25 minutes.  Pull when they are fork tender.

Brown the bacon in a large stock pot over medium heat until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crisp.  Remove bacon and dump all but 3 tbsp of the bacon fat.  Add the chopped onion and sweat until translucent and starting to brown.  Add the salt, black and white peppers, paprika, chili powder, ginger and garlic and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the vermouth or sherry and cook for 2 minutes or so to deglaze.  Don't forget to scrape the pot with a wooden spoon or silicon whisk get all those yummy bits off the bottom.  Those are called flavor.

Add the stock to the pot along with the squash and pumpkin and add 1/2 of the crisped bacon.  Didn't think I'd forgotten that did you?  Puree with whatever method you have available.  We have a stick blender and that makes it easy but a food processor or blender would work as well.  Just work in batches.  After a smooth consistency has been achieved, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes or so.  When the desired consistency has been achieved (continue simmering if you like a thicker soup) stir in the cream and butter.  Once they have been fully incorporated, serve with rest of the crumbled bacon, chopped scallions, and Pecorino Romano as a topping.


I also thought that a dollop of sour cream would be good on this.  Or maybe some roasted apples or something.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Baba Ghanoush Hummus

Having just survived through Thanksgiving, I've been in the mood for stuff on the healthier side.  I decided to make some baba ghanoush, but ended up kind of crossing it with hummus.  Came out way tasty!  Makes me think of the show MXC, which is only the best show that's ever been on television, because Vic and Kenny always name one of the contestants Baba Ghanoush.  But Justin also came up in an instant with the best song EVER for this dish!  Nerf Herder's "Nose Ring Girl".  This is an awesome live version!  "...and rice cakes! Rice Cakes! Rice Cakes! Rice Cakes!"  Admit it... Nerf Herder and MXC are a beautiful union.  Just like baba ghanoush and hummus.  -jen



BABA GHANOUSH HUMMUS
So awesome!
Time:  1 hr roasting/10 minutes prep
Level:  E-Z 

Roasted Veggies
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1/2 of a large onion
  • 1 head of garlic
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil (this helps clean up!)  Cut eggplant and zucchini in half lengthwise.  Score the flesh of each in a diamond pattern, cutting all the way through the flesh, but not through the skin.  Drizzle olive oil over each, salt and pepper.  Place both vegetables scored-side down on baking sheet.  Chop onion into large chunks, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on baking sheet.  Cut the top off of the head of garlic to expose some of the heads.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on baking sheet.  Roast all of the veggies at 400 degrees F for 1 hour.  Set aside to cooled enough to handle.

Dip
  • roasted veggies listed above
  • 1 can (15.5oz) garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro (depending on taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic (or 1 fresh clove)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Accent or MSG (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon (or a few cranks) of black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
In a food processor, combine the scooped out flesh of the eggplant (discard the skin), the zucchini, and the onions.  Squeeze out the roasted flesh of the garlic head (discard the paper/skin) and add to processor.  Then add the garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, vinegar, cilantro, minced garlic, cumin, coriander, salt, Accent, red pepper flakes, and black pepper.  Process at high speed, slowly drizzling in the olive oil.  1/4 cup makes a thick dip, but you may want to add as much as 1/2 cup olive oil to your dip to thin it out more.  Blend at high speed until garbanzo beans are completely broken up and dip is smooth and creamy.

Serve as a dip with toasted pita chips, tortilla chips, crackers, or fresh vegetables like carrots, bell peppers and cucumbers.  Or use as a condiment for lettuce and tortilla wraps, burgers, or sandwiches! 

Olive oil drizzled in the center

Friday, November 18, 2011

Coffee Toffee

I'm not much of a candy fan, but I do love English toffee.  Started making it when Justin and I first lived together, but that was about 6 years ago and I haven't made much since.  Until yesterday.  We had picked up some coffee toffee made locally and it was black, which was awesome!  Tasted great too, but it was expensive!  Like $2.50 for three tiny little pieces.  Knowing I could make toffee, I decided to try my hand at my own coffee toffee.  It came out great (though not black).  I'm still going to experiment; I don't know why I need it to be black, but I so want it to be black!  This recipe only has ground beans in it, which like I said, is delicious... but I'm thinking if I put a tablespoon or two of espresso in it when cooking... it might come out black.

This song is a little throw back and I had to be cheesy and use it.  More new wave than punk, I suppose.  They used to play the video on MTV all the time in the early/mid 80s, and I was like six or seven years old when I decided I wanted Annabella Lwin's shaved hair style!  Actually, I think I have had that hair style, only with dreads!  Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy".  -jen


COFFEE TOFFEE 
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5-7 minutes
Level: Super easy!
Special Tools:  Candy/Oil thermometer
Note:  Be very careful making this.  The melted butter/sugar can burn you badly and it sticks like a mofo!
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter + some for pan
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup (though I've made it without this too)
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground coffee beans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  (If you don't have parchment paper, you can just generously butter the baking sheet.  The bottom of your toffee will be a little buttery but it'll still be tasty!)

In a large 2-quart saucepan, combine 1/2 cup butter, sugar, corn syrup, salt and ground coffee beans.  Using a wooden spoon, stir over medium-high heat, bringing candy temperature to 300 degrees F (hard crack stage).  Immediately remove pan from heat, quickly stir in vanilla, and spread onto parchment paper lined pan.  Sprinkle pecans over the top quickly while toffee is still hot and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.  Flex the pan a little and candy should release. 

If you're not a fan of coffee, you can leave it out and just make plain English toffee!  Sometimes I sprinkle a little course salt over the top of the toffee for that "salted caramel" flavour.  Another option is chocolate.  Instead of sprinkling pecans on it immediately after pouring it out, you could sprinkle chocolate chips or shaved chocolate across the top.  The residual heat will melt it after a few minutes and you can spread it smooth across the top.

Made this one with pecans, salt and milk chocolate drizzle.  Left the coffee beans out.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Gratin

If you don't think you like brussels sprouts... you should try these.  You might change your mind.  These sprouts are so creamy and cheesy and delicious!  Loved 'em!  Even half-way through the cooking process, before the cream and cheese were even added, they tasted awesome!  I might have just stopped there, except I had the gratin game plan.

I was on a little psychobilly kick while cooking these... it somehow seemed appropriate, since I think of brussels sprouts as throwbacks to the 50's.  But these definitely aren't your mom or grandma's sprouts!  I kept coming back to the Horrorpops, so here's their "Miss Take". -jen


 BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND BACON GRATIN
  • 3/4 pound bacon, chopped into 1" pieces
  • 3 tablespoons butter (divided)
  • 2 medium shallots, sliced
  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, cut off brown ends
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth, seasoned*
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1/4-1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
* I seasoned the chicken broth with about a teaspoon of the KFC Copycat seasoning.  If you don't have that, you could use seasoning salt or just salt and pepper.  The seasoning is really up to you.
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large skillet (that has a fitted lid, which you'll need later) over medium-high heat, cook bacon until browned and crisp.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on some paper towels.  Set aside.

In the same skillet, keep about 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat, discarding the remainder.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter.  Melt over medium-high heat and add shallots.  Cook for several minutes until tender.  If your brussels sprouts are large, cut them in half.  If they're small, you can leave them whole.  Add brussels sprouts and just toss them around for 2-3 minutes to get a little browned.  Add the chicken broth to deglaze the pan (scrape up the crusty bits) and the red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat to simmer for about 7 minutes or until brussels sprouts are slightly tender when pierced with a fork.

Note:  At this point, you could just stop and eat the sprouts like this because they're delicious and it would be a lower-fat, lower-carb dish.  Or you can continue into the awesome, evil world of cream and cheese and bread crumbs!

If your skillet is oven safe, you can leave everything in it.  If not, transfer sprouts and shallots into a buttered 2-quart baking dish.  Add cream, shredded cheese, and crisped bacon.  Toss.  Melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and toss with panko.  Sprinkle buttered panko over the top.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until browned on top.

Shown here with some homemade chicken strips.

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Copycat KFC Chicken with Waffles

    Chicken and waffles have always had a magical place in my heart and stomach.  Jen had seen some show not too long ago where the guy, Todd Wilbur, tried to discern the secret blend of herbs and spices in the KFC Original Recipe chicken by deconstructing the finished product.  He apparently got incredibly close so we decided to give it a go, as I could think of no better tasting chicken to go with waffles and maple syrup (my favorite topping for the dish)!  We didn't have everything his blend called for in terms of the tellicherry and the savory so we made a few substitutions but the finished product was juicy and tasted amazing.  The waffles were Jen's creation and were golden and crispy with a little cornmeal crunch that was perfect.

    Note: This is not health food.  No one should in any way mistake this for a low fat, low carb, low sugar, light meal.  This seasoning blend contains MSG, commonly known as Accent, and though it's a small amount some folks are particular about not consuming MSG.  Also, this is fried chicken.  You'll need a deep fryer or a large dutch oven and some frying oil.

    Was in an old school punk mood so I went with some Circle Jerks "Wonderful" as that is exactly how I felt about this dish.  Wonderful! - justin



    Prep Time: 2 hrs
    Cook Time: 40 minutes
    Serves:  4
    Level: Easy

    BRINE

    The recipe called for a brine which I will include here but I didn't use it.  I had a quart of my own brine left over from a previous recipe and it worked out just fine!
    • 8 cups water
    • 1/3 cup salt
    • 1 tbsp Accent (MSG)
    Dissolve the salt and Accent in the water and add chicken for at least 2 hours.  Chicken can be left to brine for as long as 24 hours in the fridge.  Remove from brine, rinse, and pat dry.

    BREADING
    • 9 oz all purpose flour
    • 1 tbsp kosher salt
    • 1 tbsp Accent (MSG)
    • 2 tsp granulated sugar
    • 2 tsp ground black pepper
    • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
    • 1/2 tsp paprika
    • 1/2 tsp ground tarragon
    • 1/2 tsp ground sage
    • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp ground marjoram
    • 1/4 tsp onion powder
    • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
    Combine all ingredients in a ziplock bag and shake thoroughly to mix.

    Jen's Note: After the chicken was so awesome due to the seasoning, I made a double batch (minus the flour) just to keep on the counter as an awesome seasoning salt! 

    DREDGE
    • 4 eggs
    • 2 cups milk
    Beat eggs in a large bowl and stir in the milk.

    Heat oil or deep fryer to 300 degrees.  When oil is hot, dredge each piece of chicken in the egg mix and cover with breading.  Make sure it is well coated and set aside for 5 minutes.  Shake off any excess breading and fry 2-4 pieces at a time or whatever your fryer may allow.  Don't crowd the chicken though.  Fry for 18-20 minutes or until the chicken becomes golden brown.  Drain on a rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.  Chicken can be kept in a 200 degree oven to maintain temp until served.

    WAFFLES
    • 1-1/2 cups all purpose four
    • 1/4 cup cornmeal
    • 1 tbsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1-3/4 cups milk
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    Mix all your dry ingredients in a bowl and lightly whisk the eggs, milk and oil in a separate bowl.  Add the liquid to the dry ingredients, whisking until just mixed together.  Let sit for 10 minutes before cooking as per your waffle maker's instructions (ours cooked about 7 minutes).

    Serve chicken with waffles and cover with a generous splash of real maple syrup and you have achieved comfort food!

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Caramelized Onion Jam Pork Roast

    So, I'd had a desire to make some onion jam recently and finally found a recipe I liked as well as the motivation to actually attempt it.  It came out delicious!  With roasted garlic and some apple cider how can you go wrong?  Once it was done, however, I needed to use it on something.  So we got a nice, big pork tenderloin roast and carved it out into a flat sheet, brined it overnight, smothered it with the jam, cranberries, raisins, pecans, and rolled it back up and baked it.  Awesome is the best way to describe it. The brine is good for both pork and chicken and the jam works well on bagels with cream cheese, most meats, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are next on my list to try.

    To back it up musically, I've got some Cock Sparrer with one of my favorites from them "Take 'Em All".  Nothing like some gutter punks to compliment a nice fall meal! - justin


    Brine

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 20 minutes
    Makes: Approx 2 quarts
    Level: Easy
    • 5 cups water
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup kosher salt
    • 2 tbsp black peppercorns
    • 1 tsp cumin seed
    • 1 tsp brown mustard seed
    • 1 tsp whole allspice berries
    • 1 tsp whole corriander seed
    • 4 whole bay leaves
    • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flake
    • 1 whole cinnamon stick
    Add all ingredients to a 3 qt saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool completely.  This can be frozen for later use if desired.

    Caramelized Onion & Roasted Garlic Jam

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 60 minutes
    Makes: Slightly less than 2 quarts
    Level: Easy
    • 4 heads of garlic
    • 4 cups onion, chopped
    • 1 cup raisins
    • 1/4 cup butter
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
    • 1/2 cup lemon juice
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tsp ground mustard
    • 1 tsp kosher salt
    • 1 tsp ground white pepper
    • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
    • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
    • 5 cups sugar
    • 2 oz dried pectin
    Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Remove the papery outer skin from the garlic heads but do not peel or separate cloves.  Cut off the top inch of the garlic bulbs and brush with olive oil.   Wrap each bulb in heavy duty foil and bake for 35-40 minutes or until soft.  Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.

    In a dutch oven, saute onions in butter for 30-40 minutes or until lightly browned. Squeeze softened garlic into pan. Stir in the cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, white pepper, ginger, cloves, and smoked paprika. Bring to a rolling boil. Gradually add sugar, stirring constantly. Return to a boil for 3 minutes. 

    Add the pectin and bring to a rolling boil.  Boil for one minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and allow the liquid to cool for 5 minutes, scraping any foam off the top afterward.  Pour mixture into sterile quart canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space.  Adjust the caps and process in boiling water for 10 minutes if long term storage is desired.  Otherwise the jam can be stored in the fridge for immediate use.


    Onion Jam Pork Roast


    Prep Time:12 hours
    Cook Time: 2 to 2.5 hrs
    Serves: 8 people
    Level: Medium
    • 5 lb pork tenderloin roast
    • 1 qt pork or chicken brine
    • 1 cup Caramelized Onion Jam
    • 1/2 cup raisins
    • 1/2 cup pecans
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • 1 tbsp kosher salt
    • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
    Fillet the pork roast out into a flat sheet, like a flank steak.  Take a large knife and cut an inch thick piece along the length so the as you roll the roast away from the knife you create a sheet of meat.  Place in a gallon ziplock bag and all enough brine to cover the top of the meet.  Place in a spill proof container overnight.

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Remove the pork from the brine and rinse with cold water to remove the brine.  Pat dry with a paper towel.  Lay the pork out flat, over three pieces of butchers twine (cotton string) cut to 1 ft in length, and cover evenly with the jam, raisins, pecans, and cranberries.  It should look like this when you are done:


    Roll the roast back up and tie off at even intervals with the butchers twine.  Place in a roasting pan, sprinkle the top with the salt and pepper and place in the oven for 30 minutes a lb, or until the center of the roast reaches an internal temp of 150 degrees.  Remove from heat and allow the roast to rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.



    Serve with the jam as a condiment or topping and enjoy!

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Apple-Pecan Bread Pudding

    A few days ago, we helped at a spaghetti dinner cancer benefit and at the end of the night, they sent us home with three giant loaves of french bread that were left over.  We used one loaf just for bruschetta, but by the second day, we were sitting on two loaves of stale bread.  It was bread pudding or stuffing... and since I actually had all the other ingredients at home (from the previously posted baked pumpkin recipe), I decided to go with bread pudding.  I really had wanted to use whiskey in it, but hadn't realized that Justin had finished the Jameson, so I used what we had - rum.  And it was great!

    We're also trying to remember to give you guys some additional information such as cook time, prep time, serving size, and difficulty level.  Thought it might help.

    Samiam is just who was playing while I was baking.  "Full On".  -jen


    APPLE-PECAN BREAD PUDDING

    Prep Time:  20-30 minutes
    Cooktime: 50-60 minutes
    Serves: about 10
    Level:  Easy
    • 3/4 French bread loaf, day old (about 9oz), cubed
    • 2 tart apples, chopped
    • 3/4 cup raisins
    • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped
    • 3 cups milk
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 4 tablespoons rum
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously coat 2-qt baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

    Combine cubed bread, apples, raisins, and pecans and place into baking dish (may come up over the edges a little, but that's okay.)

    In a large saucepan, combine milk, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, rum, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Over a medium-high heat, bring just to a simmer, then turn off heat.  Temper eggs by ladling about 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the eggs, beating constantly so they don't turn into scrambled eggs.  Then pour egg mixture into milk mixture and whisk.  Take wet ingredients and carefully pour over the bread mix in the baking dish.  Using a spatula, gently press the bread down into the liquid so it's all saturated.  Let sit for 10-20 minutes to absorb the liquid.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes.

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Apple and Oats Stuffed Pumpkin

    Right before Halloween, Justin and I headed to the pumpkin patch to get our carving pumpkins... it's something I have to do every year.  While we were there, we grabbed some acorn squash, butternut squash, carnival squash, and a few sugar pie pumpkins.  We had ideas for them... until the lady who was running the show told us how good they were stuffed with apples and raisins.  Well, we did a little research, and then like usual, we winged it.  It came out so awesome!  I felt like it was a dessert, though it wasn't overly sweet (which is how we like our desserts).  My sister in law topped it off with whipped cream to add a little kick to it.  Justin thought it was a perfectly good meal and had no need to be labeled "dessert".  Next one I make, I think I'm going to add some oats to it to give the stuffing even more body.  Either way you eat it... it's going to be awesome!

    Here were this year's pumpkins - mine is evil, Justin's is the cyclops.


    And so, even though it's past Halloween, we're going to lay down some Misfits' "Halloween".  -jen



    APPLE AND OATS STUFFED PUMPKIN
    • 1 small sugar pie pumpkin (2-3 pounds)
    • 2 medium Granny Smith apples, chopped
    • 1 cup old fashioned oats
    • 1/2 cup raisins
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 2 teaspoons amaretto liqueur (or whiskey, or brandy, or rum - it's all good)
    • 2 tablespoons butter, cubed small
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    Cut the top off of your pumpkin.  Scoop out the seeds and string insides, discarding.  Mix all of the remaining ingredients except the butter.  Pack firmly into the pumpkin until about half way.  Sprinkle with half of the cubed butter.  Pack the remaining filling into the pumpkin and top with the remaining butter.

    Place the lid back on top of the pumpkin.  Place on a baking sheet or in a pie pan and bake for 1.5 - 2 hours, until pumpkin insides are tender.

    Slice the pumpkin into quarters and serve topped with the stuffing.  Depending on the size of your pumpkin, you may have leftover filling that wouldn't fit inside.  I suggest saving it and mixing it in with some oatmeal for breakfast the next morning!

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Fall Harvest Pork Chops

    So I've been tromping around the wooded hills here in Humboldt lately, and after harvesting some wild apples, onions, and some laurel leaves, I made a nice pork recipe.  I saw a lot of pig sign in the hills, taking walks every day, that reminded me of my hunting days, several years back.  When I returned home, the wife said she'd be brave enough to try my concoction, so I decided to make it tonight.  Up in the hills, I had fresh laurel leaves, or what most folks know as "bay", and that has a very different flavor than the dried "bay" leaves.  However, there's no loss of flavor in the dish, simply a different one, when using dried "bay".  The apples, onions, and peppers all combine to make a delicious medley of flavors that the pork chops only compliment.  

    The trick to this meal is that it can mostly be done ahead of time and the total prep time, in terms of work hours, is less than 30 minutes.  And it yields a great end result!

    The brine is the key in this dish.  It can be used for the chops, a loin roast, chicken thighs, a turkey, etc.  When one figures out that its uses, and subsequently its variations, are endless, then one truly becomes "Lucky".  It can be made, and used, days ahead of time or used for as little as 2 hrs, if necessary. - justin

    Osker: Lucky


    FALL HARVEST BRINE
    • 5 cups water
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup kosher salt
    • 1/4 tsp red pepper flake
    • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
    • 1/2 tsp herbs De Provence
    • 1 star anise pod
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
    • 1/2 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
    • 2 bay (or fresh laurel) leaves
    • 10 whole cloves
    • 4 large, bone-in pork chops, approx 3 lbs
    Bring all ingredients, except the pork, to a boil and reduce to a simmer for five minutes, to allow flavors to incorporate.  After five minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool.  Place pork chops and brine in a Ziploc bag or air-tight container and refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

    FALL HARVEST PORK CHOPS
    • 2 cups chopped red bell pepper, deseeded
    • 2 cups chopped yellow onion
    • 2-1/2 cups chopped green apples (I used Granny Smiths)
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp ground black pepper
    • 4 large, bone-in pork chops, approx 3 lb, brined
    • 2 tsp Dry Meat Rub
    In a 13x9 baking dish, combine the chopped bell pepper, onion, apple, olive oil,  salt, and black pepper and toss thoroughly.  Place the brined chops on top of the veggies and apples, spacing them evenly apart.  Sprinkle 1/4 tsp of Dry Meat Rub on each side of each chop. Bake in a 350 degree F oven until an internal temp of 145 is reached, or approximately 45 minutes.  Cover dish with aluminum foil and allow meat to rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

    Prep time: 4-6 hrs
    Cook time: 1 hr
    Servings: 4-6
    Difficulty: Easy

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Pumpkin Molasses Spice Cookies

    I'd just had a craving for something pumpkin.  I'd had a can of pumpkin just hanging around.  And I love molasses as a sweetener.  So I thought I'd give it a shot.  I'm not into baking a whole lot - it's not that I can't, it just doesn't interest me as much as cooking does.  With cooking, it's pretty easy to experiment and not mess things up.  I don't know quite enough about baking to experiment successfully all the time.  Like the other day, I thought I'd make some blondies with chocolate chips in 'em.  I had a pretty quick, basic brownie recipe that I'd used before and I thought, "Oh, I'll just discard the cocoa powder, make it the same, no problem."  What I didn't think about until they were half way done baking was that it was 1/2 a cup of dry ingredients I just tossed.  And... my blondies came out like chocolate chip cookie soaked in butter for a day.  However... the Pumpkin Molasses Spice Cookie experiment came out awesome!  I'd make these again any day.  I went a little heavy on the spices, because I really like to taste the spice in spiced cookies... if you're not into spice, I guess you could probably just decrease the quantities.

    Pumpkin... Halloween... naturally, it brought me to a toss up between The Cramps and The Damned.  But these spicy cookies had way more drive, like The Damned, and so I went with them.  Everyone who knows The Damned knows "New Rose".  Maybe it's just me, but I never get tired of this song, no matter how much I hear it.  It's one of those wake-me-up-in-the-morning songs for me. -jen


    PUMPKIN MOLASSES SPICE COOKIES
    • 2.5 cups flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 8 tablespoons butter, room temp
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup molasses
    • 1/4 cup 100% maple syrup
    • 3/4 cup pumpkin pure (100% pumpkin)
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/2 cup coarse sugar, for rolling
    In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and black pepper.  Set aside.

    Using a stand mixer or hand held mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy.  Add the brown sugar, molasses and pumpkin until combined.  Scrape the sides and add the egg, beating until combined.  Slow mixer speed and add the dry ingredients, 1/3 of it at a time, combining well before additions.  Do not over-mix dough.  Dough will be soft and wet.

    Spread out two large sheets of plastic wrap and divide the dough in half, one half on each sheet.  Fold up tight and freeze for 30-45 minutes, until firm, or refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Place sugar into shallow dish.  Roll dough into 1.5-2" diameter balls.  Roll balls into sugar to coat, and place onto cookie sheet, 2-3" apart.  Using the bottom of a glass, press dough balls into 1/4-1/2" thick cookies.


    Bake one sheet at a time for 12-14 minutes until tops feel set and edges are starting to brown.  Remove from oven and slide parchment paper and cookies onto a cooling rack for about 5 minutes.

    Makes 30-35 cookies.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Thai Spring Rolls with Asian BBQ Chicken

    A few weeks ago, we went to try a new restaurant in town and got their spring rolls as an appetizer.  After that, I was craving them like crazy.  We'd made them before, I knew how simple they were, but I couldn't remember why the hell we didn't eat these largely phallic delicious, nutritious goodies more often!  (Perhaps because I like to mention to my hetero life mate how phallic they are?  Could be.)

    I almost feel guilty even posting this as a recipe (especially without a peanut sauce recipe), because there's really nothing to it, it's just baking some chicken, chopping up veggies, cooking some noodles, and rolling them up.  But I don't know many people who make spring rolls at home... and maybe it's because they didn't know how easy they were. 

    A note about the peanut sauce: I can't really post a recipe for it, simply because I used a random recipe I found online for a non-cook peanut sauce, and it came out like peanut butter with garlic in it.  So, rather than tossing it, I thought I'd try to save it... I threw it in a pot, put it on the stove, added more coconut milk, more soy sauce, more fish oil, some rice vinegar, and more garlic.  However, in my haste to not waste almost a whole jar of peanut butter, I didn't write down what I added.  It actually came out pretty tasty, but I can't even begin to guess at measurements.  So... you could go to your local Asian store and buy a peanut sauce, or you could find a recipe on line to make one.  I'll have to find a different way of making one and post it later.

    I think I posted a Fugazi song a few recipes back, but I heard their song "Ex-Spectator" the other day and had forgotten how much I loved it.  And... you could make these spring rolls with tofu or just veggies, so it could very easily and deliciously be a vegetarian dish that even Ian MacKaye could love. -jen


    THAI SPRING ROLLS WITH ASIAN BBQ CHICKEN
    • 3 chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
    • 3 tablespoons Hoisen sauce
    • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 3-4 tablespoons Thai peanut sauce
    • bean thread (or cellophane) noodles
    • rice paper wrappers
    • butter lettuce leaves
    • 1 large carrot, shredded
    • 3-4 green onions, chopped
    • 1/2 cucumber, chopped into matchsticks
    • whole basil leaves
    • whole mint leaves
    Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

    Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (this helps clean up tremendously.)  Peel the skin back from the chicken thighs and place a tablespoon of Hoisen on the chicken, coating the top of it (this gives it that barbecue taste).  Place skin back over the chicken.  Sprinkle each thigh with a tablespoon of soy sauce, and then rub a tablespoon of peanut sauce over each chicken skin.  Bake on lined baking sheet for 20-25 minutes, until inner temp reaches 160 or until juices run clear.  Allow to cool.

    Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and discard, then take the meat off the bone and place meat into a food processor.  Grind the meat until it is finely chopped (but don't process it too much or it'll turn into a paste!)  It should be about the same consistency as canned tuna or chicken.  Set aside.

    Cook noodles according to package (usually at a boil for 12-15 minutes, until clear and al dente).  Drain and set aside.

    Prepare rice paper one at a time.  Take a large dinner plate or pie plate and add hot water.  Press the dry wrapper into the water and using your finger tips, gently move the wrap back and forth a little until it reaches an edible pliability (about 30 seconds).  Carefully, so as not to tear the wrap, remove it from the water and lay on counter top, cutting board, or even a kitchen towel.  Wrapper will be wet, but dries quickly.

    Arrange your vegetables in your wrap.  I found the best way was to put two layers of lettuce on the bottom, being sure that you leave about 1" of wrapper on each side (like you would for a burrito, so you can tuck the ends in).  Add a layer of the basil and mint leaves.  Then your chopped scallions, followed by the cucumber matchsticks and the shredded carrot.  Take a handful of noodles and shape them to fit over your vegetables.  Then mold 3-4 tablespoons of the ground chicken on top of the noodles.


    Pull the bottom of the wrapper tightly (but carefully!) over your filling, give it a roll, tuck in the left and right sides, and finish rolling.


    You'll want to place a damp paper towel over your finished rolls as you make them.  And I found a good way to store them is by wrapping them in damp paper towels and putting them in a Ziploc bag.

    Serve with a peanut sauce for dipping.  Makes about 8 spring rolls.


      Friday, October 7, 2011

      Macaroni and Cheese

      We're always trying to make the perfect macaroni and cheese.  This one comes pretty close for our likings.  I think it's the shallots that do the trick.

      I have no connection for this recipe and this song.  But I'm a huge Kinks fan... I wore out my parents' Kinks vinyl more than they did, and I loved this song when the Kinks did it.  But then, one of my favourite bands did a cover, and it was awesome!  Close to the original, just a little bit of their own flare.  I always hope that tomorrow, I'll find better things... and if not, I'll just listen to some Bouncing Souls and eat some mac and cheese

      Drew... this recipe was made with you in mind, bro. -jen



      MACARONI AND CHEESE
      • 3 tablespoons salt
      • 3 cups dried macaroni
      • 1 egg, slightly beaten
      • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
      • 1 large shallot, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
      • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
      • 1/4 cup flour
      • 2-1/2 cups whole milk
      • 2 heaping teaspoons dry mustard
      • 2-3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
      • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Srirachi hot sauce
      • 1 pound cheese, shredded (we used 1/2 pound sharp cheddar, 1/4 pound champagne aged cheddar and 1/4 pound mozzarella for a little stringiness)
      • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 


      Fill a large stock pot 3/4 way full of water.  Add 3 tablespoons salt and bring to boil.  Add macaroni and cook 9-12 minutes, until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

      For a creamier, saucier macaroni, preheat your oven's broiler (this only takes about 5 minutes so you could do it later).  For a thicker, more custard-like macaroni and cheese, preheat oven to 350 F.

      Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to generously grease a large baking dish.

      In a small bowl, lightly beat egg and set aside.

      In a large pot (I just use the same one I cooked the macaroni in), melt remaining 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat.  Add shallots and garlic, stirring frequently until shallots are tender and translucent.  Sprinkle flour into pot and stir, cooking another 3-4 minutes.

      Turn up heat to medium-high and while whisking, pour in milk and vigorously whisk to avoid any flour lumps.  Add mustard, Worcestershire, and Srirachi.  Stir continuously until sauce begins to thicken (if it starts boiling, lower heat to medium.)

      Temper egg by adding a little of the sauce into the bowl of egg, whisking to combine.  Then add all of the egg back into the sauce.  Set aside about 1 cup of the cheese for later.  With the remaining cheese, add a handful at a time to the sauce, waiting to add the next handful until the first one has completely melted.  Once all the cheese is incorporated, remove from heat and taste.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  (Some cheeses are saltier than others, so always taste your sauce first!)

      Pour the drained macaroni into the sauce and stir until combined.  Pour macaroni into the prepared baking dish. 

      For a creamy, saucy macaroni, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and place under broiler until cheese is golden brown... only takes a few minutes.

      For a thicker, custard-like macaroni, place in oven for 30 minutes, adding the remaining cheese to the top for the last 10-15 minutes of baking.

      Wednesday, October 5, 2011

      Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup

      So we've just started getting some fall weather up here on the North Coast and Jen and I decided that on a cold, rainy day we had to have some cheese soup for dinner.  There's not much better than a hot bowl of some stick-to-your-ribs soup in the winter.  And since the wife spent part of her childhood in Wisconsin we had some comparisons and adaptations to make for the Humboldt version.  Some California cheese, a little chopped, fresh hot pepper, and some Sierra Nevada Pale Ale make this a Nor Cal soup all the way.

      What better to accompany a Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup than some original Wisconsin tunes from an iconic 80's alternative rock group, The Violent Femmes?  Here they celebrate this crazy whacked out country of ours, in a way that only they can, with their hit "American Music"! - justin


      Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup
      • 1/2lb Smoked Polish Sausage (Kielbasa)
      • 1/2 cup butter
      • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
      • 1/2 cup carrot, chopped
      • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
      • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
      • 1/4 cup fresh pobalano (or other mild pepper), deseeded and chopped
      • 1 tsp salt
      • 1 tsp ground black pepper
      • 1 cup flour
      • 2 cups chicken broth
      • 12oz beer (I used Sierra Nevada Pale Ale)
      • 2 cups whole milk
      • 8oz extra sharp Cheddar, shredded
      • 8oz Colby Jack, shredded
      • 1 tsp prepared yellow mustard
      • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
        Dice the Polish Sausage and cook in a skillet over medium high heat for 5 minutes, or until cooked through.  Drain off excess fat and set aside.

        Melt butter in stock pot over medium heat and add yellow onion, carrot, celery, green onion, fresh pepper, salt and ground black pepper.  Sweat until translucent, approx 5-7 minutes, and add the flour.  Stir in the flour until all the butter is absorbed and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring to avoid burning.  Add the chicken broth and beer and stir to incorporate flour until liquid returns to a boil.  Add the milk to thin out the thickening soup base and then slowly add the cheese in small increments, making sure it melts before adding more.  After the cheese is incorporated, add the yellow mustard and the Worcestershire sauce and stir in the cooked sausage.  Voila!  Serve hot as the soup will thicken further upon cooling.

        Cinnamon Apple Fritters

        I quit my job yesterday.  Still woke up at 7:30am this morning and didn't really know what to do with myself.  We had apples.  So I got out the deep fryer, emptied the old oil, cleaned it out, filled it with some fresh peanut oil, and in about 10 minutes, whipped up some apple fritters!  Best way to start off the first day into the unknown!  And I had no idea how easy they were!

        Justin put on some Murder City Devils... and it just seemed..... right.  So here they are, singing "Dancin' Shoes".  I couldn't find a good live version, but the song is still awesome.  I love The Murder City Devils. -jen

        P.S.  If anyone has work for me, let me know!


        CINNAMON APPLE FRITTERS
        • 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
        • 1/2 cup milk
        • 1 teaspoon amaretto liqueur (or vanilla extract)
        • 1 egg
        • 1 tablespoon baking powder
        • 1/4 teaspoon salt
        • 1-1/2 cups flour
        • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
        • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
        • 1 medium apple, chopped with skin on
        • 1/2 cup sugar
        Preheat 3" oil in skillet or a deep fryer to 325 degrees F.

        In a large bowl, beat cooled butter, milk, amaretto liqueur, and egg.  In a separate bowl, combine baking powder, salt, flour, and cinnamon.  Add to wet mix until blended.  Fold in lemon zest and apples.

        Carefully drop large spoonfuls of batter into hot oil.  Fry for about 4 minutes (until deep golden brown), turning to cook evenly.  Toss in sugar as soon as they come out of the fryer. 

        Makes about 6 apple fritters.

        Note: These were delicious as is.  But we both thought they might be a little better if the dough itself was slightly sweetened.  So next time I make them, I'm going to try maybe 1/4 cup of brown sugar mixed with the butter before adding the milk, egg, etc.

        Sunday, October 2, 2011

        Death By Chocolate Bacon Brownies

        I'm no philosopher, but I truly believe there are two things that can bring people together in a beautiful, happy way: weed and bacon.  And you could use both in this recipe - it does use 3 sticks of butter, which would be a hell of a lot of bang butter... I'm just sayin'.

        However, this recipe isn't about pot!  It's about the beauty of bacon and rock, and how it connected us with a guy named Mike in a kick ass band called Death By Stereo, whom we soon discovered loved food and punk rock (and bacon!) as much as we do.  We spoke of collaborating on our mutual art forms, but due to the 14 hours distance between us and the expenses, we had to settle for combining ideas instead for THE ULTIMATE AWESOME DESSERT!!!

        It seems like a lot of death in the kitchen... Death By Stereo... Cooking To Die For... but then, six eggs, 3 sticks of butter, and a pound each of bacon and chocolate will probably bring all of us death, so it's apropos. 

        And so without further ado, I present you with an idea brought forth by Mike Cambra, and put into action with a few twists by me... Death By Chocolate Bacon Brownies.  While you salivate over the recipe, you can listen to DBS' "Bet Against Me, You Lose", from their first album. -jen

        Don't forget you can find Cooking To Die For on Facebook too!


        DEATH BY CHOCOLATE BACON BROWNIES
        • 3 sticks (1.5 cups) butter
        • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
        • 6 large eggs
        • 1 cup granulated sugar
        • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
        • 1 teaspoon salt
        • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
        • 1+ 2/3 cup flour
        • cooking spray
        • 1 pound bacon
        • 2 tablespoons 100% maple syrup
        • chocolate ganache (see recipe below)
        Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

        In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter and bitter sweet chocolate until combined and smooth.  Set aside to cool for a moment.

        In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract until combined.  Add the cooled chocolate mixture.  Then fold in flour.  Coat a 9x11 baking dish generously with cooking spray.  Pour in brownie mix and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.  Center may be a little gooey still.

        While brownies are baking, cut bacon slices in half length-wise, to create long strips.  Then dice into small 1/2" squares.  Cook in skillet over medium-high heat until brown and crispy (10-15 minutes, stirring occassionally).  For the last two minutes, stir in maple syrup (no need to drain the fat first).  Remove bacon from skillet with a slotted spoon onto a plate (not a napkin, it'll stick).


        After brownies have cooled, sprinkle candied bacon bits over the entire pan of brownies.  If bacon has cooled and clumped, just microwave for 10-15 seconds until it's warm and loose again.  Then cover bacon with chocolate ganache and allow ganache to firm up a little before cutting and serving brownies.

        CHOCOLATE GANACHE
        • 1/2 cup heavy cream
        • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
        • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
        Cook all ingredients over a double boiler until smooth, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.

        Friday, September 30, 2011

        That's A Spicy-a Meataballa!

        Alright, I'll admit it. We were watching Disney's Lady & the Tramp.  We still have hearts, man.  Souls.  Feelings.  We don't always want to punch some smarts into people.  Sometimes we just want to watch some freakin' feel good Disney movies!  And laugh at the awful, ethnic stereotypes - "Whattsa matta for you, Joe!  I break-a your face!"  That's family entertainment!  And also a direct quote from the movie.  And then we craved meatballs!  So we made them.

        We try meatballs anywhere we can... and we are disappointed, every time.  Too dry.  Too mealy.  Too big.  Too bland.  Well I'm going to go out on a limb and say that these are the best meatballs I've ever had.  They were perfect (for what we like).  I spiced the hell out of these balls, because Justin made the sauce, and he was feeling like a less-seasoned marinara than we usually make, so they balanced each other out perfectly.  The combo was killer.  And we're not big on pasta... we eat it now and then, but we don't crave it, so we just ate our Meatballs and Marinara with some rustic buttered bread.

        And Fugazi... need I say more? "Waiting Room".  It's my favourite Fugazi song; I'm not alone there.  But I'm not alone there for a reason. -jen



        BASIC MARINARA
        • 2 cans (28oz each) whole, peeled tomatoes
        • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
        • 1 red onion, diced
        • 1/4 cup chopped celery greens
        • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
        • 2-3 tablespoons minced garlic (depending on taste)
        • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
        • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
        • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
        • 1 teaspoon rosemary
        • 2 bay leaves
        • 1 teaspoon sea salt
        • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
        • 1/2 cup Marsala wine
        • 1 can (14oz) can tomato sauce
        • 1 shot (1.5 oz) dry Sherry
        • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
        Empty whole tomatoes into a large bowl and break them down with your hands so that they're crushed.  (Careful, they squirt!  Wear an apron or be prepared!)  Set aside.

        In a stock pot, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil to medium-high heat.  Add chopped onion and celery greens and sweat until onion is translucent, 3-5 minutes.  Then add minced garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook an additional 2 minutes.  Add fresh basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, bay leaves, salt and black pepper.  Cook another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Then add Marsala and let reduce for a couple of minutes.  Add the tomato sauce and whole tomatoes that were crushed earlier.  Simmer, covered, for 1 hour, then blend with a stick/immersion blender or pour into food processor and carefully blend (it's hot!) and return to stock pot.

        Simmer uncovered for an additional 1.5 hours (You can start making your meatballs here).  Ten minutes before it's done, add Sherry and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.  (For a spicier, more seasoned version of this sauce, we just add an additional 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning and 1 teaspoon Thudium's Herb Seasoning.)

        Note: All the simmering and cooking down isn't absolutely necessary if you're in a hurry, but it definitely helps the flavour of your sauce if you have the time.

        SPICY MEATBALLS
        • 3 slices bread, cubed small
        • 1 cup milk
        • 1.5 pounds 15/85 ground beef (we used Angus beef, yum)
        • 1.5 pounds Italian sausage
        • 1 egg yolk, beaten
        • 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
        • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
        • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
        • 2 tablespoons olive oil
        • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or Romano or Asiago)
        • 3 tablespoons salt
        • 2 teaspoons black pepper
        • 4 teaspoons dry Italian seasoning (or a variation or oregano, thyme, rosemary)
        • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
        • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
        •  1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
        Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

        In a small bowl, soak bread and milk.  In a large bowl, combine all remaining ingredients.  Squeeze out some of the milk from the bread and crumble the soaked bread into the mixture, just mixing until combined.  Refrigerate for about an hour.  Place a baking rack over a baking sheet and roll meatballs about 2" in diameter.  Place on rack and partially bake meatballs for 12 to 15 minutes at 375 degrees F.


        Using tongs, place the hot meatballs into the simmering marinara and cook for another 15 minutes or until internal temperature of meatballs reaches 140 degrees F.  (If you want to bake the meatballs in the oven until completely cooked through because you won't be cooking them in sauce, bake for a total of 20-25 minutes.)

        Tuesday, September 27, 2011

        Asian Chicken Thighs

        I don't have much of an intro for this; it's been a long day.  But these are delicious, and they were a pretty quick fix for us... we usually have all of these ingredients on hand. It'd still be worth buying the stuff if you don't have it, because chicken thighs are cheap and easy (like your mom) and this is better than just plain ol' thighs.

        Here is a completely random song that has nothing to do with Asian Chicken Thighs - Millencolin singing "Devil Me". -jen



        ASIAN CHICKEN THIGHS
        • 1/2 cup soy sauce
        • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
        • 1 heaping tablespoon Hoisen sauce
        • 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
        • 1 heaping teaspoon lime relish (or juice and zest of 1 lime)
        • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
        • 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
        • a few dashes of Sriracha hot sauce
        • 8 skinless chicken thigh*
        * In the picture, you can see I used thighs with the skin on, but I wouldn't recommend it because the skin won't crisp up due to the marinade, and you'll end up with some soggy, gelatinous chicken skin. 

        Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

        Combine all ingredients except chicken in a bowl and whisk.  Place chicken and marinade in a Ziploc bag and marinate no more than 3 hours (or your meat will get tough from the vinegar).  Place in a shallow baking dish and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken has reached 160 degrees and the juices run clear.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

        Sunday, September 25, 2011

        Once Baked Potato Casserole

        I'm not really much of a potato person, but I do love a good twice-baked potato.  They seem like such a waste, though.  You can't scoop all the inside out, or your shell is too thin, and then most people just eat the stuffed innards and toss the skin.  With this recipe, we use it all!  It's like twice baked potato casserole... but, it's once boiled, once baked.  Whatever it is, it's awesome.

        If you have cholesterol problems or are a physician, you might not want to continue.

        Here's a little Social Distortion.  They go with potatoes really well.  -jen



        ONCE BAKED POTATO CASSEROLE
        • 4 large Russet potatoes
        • 2-3 tablespoons salt
        • 1 pound bacon
        • 6 tablespoons butter + 1 tablespoon butter, room temp
        • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temp
        • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
        • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
        • 1 tablespoons chives, chopped
        • 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
        • black pepper
        Thoroughly clean potatoes and dice into large cubes, leaving the skin on.  Place diced potatoes into a large pot.  Add water just to cover the potatoes and stir in the salt.  Turn heat on high and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, cook 10-12 minutes until potatoes are fork tender.  Drain.

        Meanwhile, chop bacon into small pieces.  Heat large skillet over medium-high heat and add bacon when skillet is hot.  Stir to keep from sticking and brown bacon until crispy, 7-10 minutes.  Remove using a slotted spoon and scoop onto a paper towel covered plate to drain.  Set aside.

        Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

        In a large bowl, combine potatoes, 6 tablespoons butter, cream cheese, and cream.  Using a hand held mixer, blend until desired consistency - we like ours chunky.  Stir in shallots, chives, bacon and 1.5 cups of the cheese, setting aside the remaining 1/2 cup.  Pepper to taste.

        Using the remaining tablespoon of butter, generously grease a 8x8 baking dish.  Spoon in mashed potatoes.


        Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top and bake an additional 15 minutes, or until cheese has begun to brown.

        Saturday, September 17, 2011

        Wild American Shrimp Etouffee

        My grandma and your grandma we're sitting by the fire...  So, lately, I've been wanting to do some southern-style cooking and the other day something reminded me of a commercial that was running on TV right after hurricane Katrina.  Jen and I always loved it because the one we had seen locally actually used the words, "All up in your etouffeé."  The video I found online is a bit shorter and says, "Right there in your etoufeé" instead but the point is that it inspired me to do some Cajun cookin and I decided on shrimp etouffeé.  I used a pearled barley in place of the rice, as Jen and I prefer it, but you could use anything you want since etouffeé is just a French word that means "smothered".  Smother whatever you wish!

        Since the dish was inspired by wild American shrimpers, I figured it would only be apropos to accompany the dish with some Dead Kennedy's "Holiday in Cambodia".  Why, you might ask?  Because of some connective process by which one has to be aware that the biggest competition for wild American shrimpers is Southeast Asian shrimpers.  And Holiday in Cambodia seemed fitting.  If you read the next recipe post, I'll show you how to get from The Dead Kennedy's to Kevin Bacon in under three moves.  -  justin


        Shrimp Etouffee
        • 3 cups water
        • 3 tbsp salt
        • 2 cups pearled barley
        • 2 tsp kosher salt
        • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
        • 1 tsp white pepper
        • 1 tsp black pepper
        • 1 tsp dried sweet basil leaves
        • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
        • 1/3 cup chopped onion
        • 1/3 cup chopped celery
        • 1/3 cup chopped fresh pepper (Bell, Anaheim, Poblano) - I used poblano
        • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
        • 1/2 cup flour
        • 3 cups seafood stock 
        • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
        • 2 lbs peeled, de-veined shrimp
        • 1 cup finely chopped scallions
        Bring the water and 3 tbsp of salt to a boil over high heat in a saucepan and add the pearled barley.  When it returns to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and let cook for 30 minutes.  No lifting the lid!  After 30 minutes, set aside to cool.  This can be made far in advance if desired.

        Thoroughly mix the salt, cayenne, white and black peppers, sweet basil and thyme and set aside.  In a separate bowl combine the onion, celery, and fresh peppers. 

        In a large skillet (preferably cast iron), heat the oil over high heat until it just stars to smoke, around 4 minutes or so.  Mix in the flour gradually, stirring with a whisk until the mixture is smooth and continue cooking over high heat, whisking constantly, until the roux is a dark reddish-brown color, about 3-5 minutes.

        Remove from heat as soon as you are at the desired color and immediately add the chopped vegetables and 1 tbsp of the seasoning mix.  Stir in with a wooden spoon and continue stirring until the roux has cooled, approximately 5 minutes or so.  The idea is to stop it from cooking or the residual heat will carry it far beyond where you intend, even burning your roux after it's been removed from the heat.

        In a 3 quart saucepan bring 2 cups of the seafood stock to a boil over high heat.  Add the roux in increments, making sure to completely dissolve it before adding the next bit.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes while continuing to whisk.  Remove from heat and set aside.

        In a large saucepan or stockpot, melt 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), over medium heat.  Stir in the shrimp and green onions.  Sauté for a minute or two, stirring constantly.  Add the remaining stick of butter, the last cup of seafood stock, and the stock/roux mixture.  Cook until the butter melts into the sauce, about 5 minutes, constantly shaking the pan in a circular motion over the heat, rather than stirring*.  Add at least 1 tbsp of the remaining seasoning mix and stir it in.  There should be 3 tbsp left and I used 2 for some spicy zip!

        Serve over rice, or barley, and enjoy with a tall glass of iced tea or a cold, dark beer.

        *A note on shaking the pot as opposed to stirring.  There are scientific reasons as to why this is a better way to combine butter in a sauce over medium heat instead of stirring but I don't know them.  What I do know is that it helps the oils released from the melting butter to better incorporate in the sauce than stirring does.  It works.  It just does.  If your sauce comes out looking oily or separated, add 2 more tbsp of stock or water and shake the pot for a couple minutes and the sauce will blend.

        Tuesday, September 13, 2011

        Roasted Sage Chicken with Mushroom Sage Stuffing

        This came out to be such a tasty, home cookin' kinda meal!  We'd just had the whole chicken in the freezer for a while, not sure what we were going to do with it.  Justin had mentioned brining it.  But I left work early today and decided I was cooking up a meal.  We had a lot of the stuff on hand - that's often inspiration enough for us... trying to see what we can use up in the fridge and still create something fantastic.  We had the garlic sourdough bread, the leftover corn bread, we had onions and lemon... so I really just picked up a few odds and ends to complete it.


        Oddly, we weren't really listening to much music while cooking this tonight.  So as I posted this, I had this random stream of thoughts that made their way to Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls On Parade" in a ridiculously long, out-of-the-way though process.  Punk?  Well, not really, though I can think of a handful of arguments on how you could call Rage punk.  But I get to break my own rules whenever I want.  And if I want to post some Rage, I'm gonna post some Rage! :)  -jen



        ROASTED SAGE CHICKEN
        • 1 whole chicken (about 5 pounds)
        • 1 cup sage butter (recipe below)
        • 1/2 a lemon, quartered (use other 1/2 in butter below, zest whole lemon first)
        • 1 large carrot stick
        • 1/2 a medium onion, quartered
        • 1-2 celery sticks
        • a handful of fresh parsley
        • a handful of fresh basil
        • salt and pepper
        • butcher's twine
        Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

        Make sure all innards are removed from chicken cavity.  Generous salt and pepper the chicken cavity.  Stuff lemon, carrot, onion, celery, parsley and basil into cavity.


        Tie legs tightly together with butcher's twine.  Then gently lift the skin from the chicken and using your hand, rub a generous amount of sage butter under the chicken skin.  Rub remaining sage butter over entire outside of chicken.  Place chicken in a roasting pan and cook for about 90 minutes, or until the breast reaches 160 degrees F and juices run clear.

        SAGE BUTTER
        • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp
        • 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
        • 3 tablespoons fresh sage
        • 2 teaspoons parsley, chopped
        • zest of 1 lemon
        • juice of 1/2 a lemon
        • several cranks of fresh cracked pepper


        MUSHROOM SAGE STUFFING
        • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
        • 1.5 medium-sized yellow onions, chopped
        • 3 cups roughly chopped crimini mushrooms
        • 1 cup chopped celery
        • 5 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
        • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
        • 1 teaspoon salt
        • several cranks of fresh cracked pepper
        • 6 cups stale bread, cubed (I like 4 cups sourdough, 2 cups cornbread)
        • 3/4 cup chicken broth
        • 2 eggs, beaten
        Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

        Melt butter over medium-high heat and add onions, mushrooms, and celery.  Saute until tender, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in sage, parsley, salt and pepper.  Set aside to cool.

        In a large bowl, combine bread, chicken broth, and beaten eggs.  Mix in sauted vegetables.

        Pour into a buttered 9x13 baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees F.  Remove foil and continue baking for an additional 30 minutes.