Wednesday, January 27, 2010

1/27/10 - Paella....any way you pronounce it!

Today I was getting ready to make Paella for the first time I had a good laugh when I searched for a recipe. I am usually a fan of Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) and I saw that she had a pretty popular recipe posted on the Food Network site from her Barefoot Contessa at Home cookbook. Of course that was one of the recipes that I searched on and I came to this interesting discussion on Ina's accent / pronunciation of certain words (Martha Stewart is not spared either). Pie-ella or Pie-aye-ya doesn't matter to me and to be honest and now that I have said this word about 100 times to myself while cooking I don't even know how I say it anymore!

As always I didn't follow this recipe exactly - as some mentioned in the comments lobster seems a little rich for such a strongly flavored dish and well I didn't have any on hand. I did however have more than enough clams and muscles! So many in fact that I had to actually take another pan out to cook them all. In order to make this dish light but satisfying I decided to cut down on the amount of rice that I used but added quite a lot of seafood. My paella included 1/2 of an andouille sausage (which was spicy!), muscles, clams, scallops, haddock and delicious. The flavor of the sausage might have moved this paella into the cajun style of cooking rather than traditional spanish so I guess this is more of a fusion type dish.

Cajun Paella
1 c paella rice (many other recipes call for basmati or other long grain white rice)
3 c chicken broth
1/4 white onion - diced
1/4 red bell pepper- diced
1/4 green bell pepper - diced
3 cloves of garlic - crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp saffron
1 tbsp smoked paprika
salt & pepper
1/2 andouille sausage - diced
1/2 lb haddock -diced
1/2 lb scallops - bay or diced
1/2 lb jumbo shrimp - shelled
12 little neck clams
12 muscles

1) in small pan heat chicken broth and saffron
2) in a frying pan or paella pan - add oil and sweat onions and peppers
3) add garlic - careful not to burn it
4) add rice to mixture - coat with oil - mix for about 7 min till completely coated
5) add 2 c of the chicken broth - stir to evenly distribute - allow to cook 15 min without stirring or disturbing
6) in a separate stir fry pan add the remaining broth and allow to reach boiling - add the clams and muscles and cover to steam
7) add diced fish, shrimp and scallops to the top of the rice mix - cover and let cook 10 min
8) shut off heat on paella pan and allow to sit for 10 min
9) remove open clams/ muscles and discard any that did not open
10) gently mix seafood into rice mixture, add paprika, salt and pepper (crushed red if you like) and serve
11) serve a spoonful of rice mixture topped with the clams/ muscles

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Mac & Cheese Bar....Make it your own

I don't think that there is any other food that has come to be more associated with comfort food than mac & cheese. From the instant stuff in the blue box to secret blends of cheese handed down from southern grandmothers, its hard to find someone out there that doesn't enjoy a nice bowl of melted cheese and pasta.
In recent years there has been a trend to re-make mac & cheese an "adult" treat as well - keeping all the things you love about mac and cheese but putting a little more flavor and taste into it. Additions of pork (with bacon as king) are probably most common, high end additions like lobster and truffle oil tend to find there way into many recipes as well. I decided that I was going to push the limits of additions to mac and cheese and create a toppings bar so that everyone could make their favorite. After polling friends about the additions they would most like to see, some taste testing at home and scouring some local restaurants for their secrets our menu was born.

Mac & Cheese bases:
4 cheese (Gruyere, Gouda, Jarlsberg & brie) w campanelle pasta
Jalapeno Jack w shells
4 cheese w pancetta w campanelle pasta
Baked Classic Cheddar w elbows

Mix-in toppings
hot dogs
roasted cauliflower
sauteed mushrooms
roasted garlic
roasted red peppers
crumbled potato chips
garlic chili sauce
salt & fresh pepper

The idea was simple - allow my guests to create their "ultimate mac & cheese". While I kept my combos pretty simple and themed - Tex-Mex M&C with Jalapeno Jack M&C base, bacon, salsa, broccoli, scallions, cilantro and some potato chip topping and an Mediterranean Blend with the 4 cheese with pancetta, extra pancetta, sauteed mushrooms, roasted garlic and roasted red peppers - others got creative and blended in just about a little of everything!

We ended the afternoon with a strawberry shortcake from Martha's Country Bakery in Queens which was amazing as always. There was also a choice of homemade ice creams thanks to my new ice cream maker - peppermint stick w chocolate chunks, maple walnut, cinnamon and peanut butter w mini pb cups. Of course we topped it all off with a dollop of whipped cream to make everything a little sweeter!

Now for the results! Here is a listing of some of the creations that were made today - feel free to leave a comment and vote on your favorite combo or list one we haven't though of.....

Andrew: Jalapeno Jack M&C , Bacon ,Broccoli, Jalapeno, Salsa, Cilantro

Robyn: 4 cheese M&C , roasted garlic, scallions and potato chips

Mary: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, pancetta, bacon, scallions, potato chips,fresh black pepper

Tova: Baked M&C, Jalapeno Jack M&C, salsa, croutons and potato chips

Corinne: Baked M&C, Jalapeno Jack M&C, 4 cheese M&C, broccoli, roasted cauliflower, roasted garlic, cilantro, scallions

Erin: 4 cheese M&C, Baked M&C, broccoli, roasted cauliflower, sauteed mushrooms, roasted garlic, scallions

Kelly: Baked M&C, 4 cheese M&C, broccoli, sauteed mushrooms, scallions, potato chips

Andrew #2: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, roasted cauliflower, pancetta, roasted red peppers, jalapeno, fresh black pepper

Tim: Baked M&C, Jalapeno Jack M&C, 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, bacon, roasted red peppers, garlic, cilantro, potato chips

Adam: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, cauliflower, broccoli, bacon, roasted garlic, jalapeno, fresh black pepper

Bob: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, hot dogs, pancetta, bacon, posted red peppers, garlic chili sauce, cilantro, salt & pepper

Jessica: 4 cheese M&C, pancetta. hot dogs, bacon, roasted garlic, broccoli, scallions, salt

Adam #2: Baked M&C, mushrooms, roasted red peppers. scallions, fresh black pepper

Beth: 4 cheese w pancetta M&C, broccoli, salsa, scallions, roasted garlic

Special thanks to:
Tova - for bringing the cake, shredding the cheese and doing more dishes than I thought humanly possible
Erin - for coming over early and helping to keep the chaos to a minimum while chopping all the ingredients for the mix-in bar
Jeremy- for taking all the photos and helping me to have all these crazy little parties at our place

also a big Thank you to Food Buzz for picking my 24, 24, 24 idea out of their submissions! We had a lot of fun today and hope to be able to participate again

1/20/10 - Chicken, Kale and Rotini

With my mac & cheese party coming up I decided that I should make a test run with my bechamel sauce to see how long it would take me to put the different blends together. I had chicken left over from one I had roasted earlier in the week and the kale was purchased for what was going to be a chicken sausage and white bean soup but my broth wasn't ready yet and I didn't have time so cheesey gooodness it was!

This spin on Chicken Ziti and Broccoli was just as delicious even if we made a few changes to it. When you are working all day it pays to be flexible - sometimes things don't always go as planned and you still need dinner for the night.

Chicken Kale and Rotini
1 lb pasta - cooked according to directions
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 c warm milk (microwave)
2 c shredded cheese
roasted garlic
bunch of kale
1 c water (or chicken broth)
olive oil
garlic clove
2 c cooked chicken breast- diced
salt & pepper

1) In large saute pan, warm oil and garlic clove - add kale and saute till softened and then add a water and cover
2) make roux with butter and flour - simmer to allow flour to lose raw taste
3) slowly add warm milk and mix to combine
4) add cheese and continue to stir to combine
5) add chicken chunk and combine
6) add pasta and cheese sauce to kale and chicken and mix till combined

1/15/10 - Pork Chops w Mashed Baby Red Potatoes

I was able to created mashed potatoes on a week night because I used mini baby red potatoes which don't need that long to boil up. I mashed them up skin and all . I added some sour cream for a better texture.

Also I finally made my own Chimichuri sauce which was so easy and now I can have it all the time!

Chimichuri Sauce
1 bunch parsley - leaves only
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper

1) blend all ingredients till smooth

Thursday, January 14, 2010

1/12/10 - Surf and Turf: Fillet Mignon and Mako Shark

Tonight's dinner was a bit of an after thought but luckily with a little team work (and some know-how courtesy of Alton Brown on Good Eats) I think it came out wonderfully! I had planned to make a repeat of the white chicken chili we had a week or so ago as it was delicious (and I had a breast left over from my roasted chicken....yes I am officially addicted to roasting chickens now - a few minutes of prep and an hour plus in the oven is like 3 days or more of meals!) I found out around 5 pm that our pescetarian friend would be joining us. Since I am not one to ever say no to an opportunity to host I had about an hour and a half to come up with a new dinner plan before I had to leave to go to my pilates lesson (which means I wouldn't be home till 9pm... late dinner night sorry!)

Luckily I had jut bought some mako shark (on sale for less than half of the swordfish and it looked & tasted almost exactly the same!) in the afternoon so his part of dinner was all set but there wasn't really enough fish for all of us. I decided on a surf and turf dinner as it was fast to prepare after I got home from pilates and who would say no to surf and turf. My only issue.....the steaks were still frozen solid! Yikes I only had few hours so I needed them thawed out and fast. Luckily I had recently seen Alton Brown's Good Eats episode on duck and he explained some different thawing methods. While thawing in the fridge is definitely the safest (especially for larger cuts) you can also use cold running water to quickly defrost meats. Place the steaks (sealed in a zip top bag) in a bowl filled with cold water and allow the faucet to slowly drip into the bowl (to keep the water moving) and before you know it they are ready to cook (for the record I don't recommend using this method usually as the steaks seemed to taste a bit less juicy and tender but in a pinch it works!)
While I was at pilates the guys hung out and were kind enough to switch the rice maker on (a basmati medley from trader joes) and even noticed that I hadn't plugged it in. When I got home the steaks (beef and shark) went into a hot pan and were seared, while the green beans went into some boiling water. Just moments later the table was set and the meat rested and topped with some chimichuri sauce.... dinner is served!

1/11/10 - Hot Buttered Rum

Our favorite guest bartender Mary was over to make another exciting concoction for us. This time it was something warm and seasonal. Given the freezing temps outside which just won't go away I think it was a perfect night for it. Hot Buttered Rum is basically a mixture of dark Rum with a "batter" (ie butter, sugar & spices). We liked this drink more when we added some cream to it (whipped cream and ice cream to be exact!) and since drinking butter isn't exactly low cal anyway you might as well go all out and enjoy!

The above picture is our first batch.....and you will have to trust me that the second one came out even better (or maybe it was just that after 2 shots of rum everything tastes better?)

Hot Buttered Rum Batter
1/2 c butter (1 stick)
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp all spice

1) cream butter with sugar and add spices to taste

To make the drink add 1-2 tbsp of the batter to a cup, 2 oz of dark rum (we used Meyers), 4 oz tea or hot water (we used cinnamon spice herbal tea) and top with whipped cream and a cinnamon stick. For the second batch we used half as much tea (so only 2 oz) and added some coffee creamer (all we had in the house!) and a small scoop of pumpkin ice cream as well (vanilla or cinnamon would be great too)

1/6/10 - Seared Mahi Mahi w Grilled Asparagus and Spiced Curry Yogurt Sauce

Another meal another recycling project....with the left over dip from our new years party starting to get a bit questionable I decided that I better get at least one more use out of this dip. It was a huge hit and definitely outside of my normal comfort zone (Most Asian food I can understand but Indian curries are a whole 'nother story)

This meal is a simple pan seared Mahi Mahi fillet with some grilled asparagus (tossed in olive oil and salt/ pepper first) but the addition of the curried yogurt dip (which as I mentioned earlier came out a bit thinner than I was expecting) tied it all together and made this look like a 5 star meal!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

1/5/10 - Grilled Strip Steak w Broccoli

I took advantage of the left over bechamel sauce from the mac & cheese I made this weekend to liven up this grilled steak and steamed broccoli dinner.

1/4/10 - Pork Spinach Mushroom Enchiladas

This is a repeat recipe however I made a little switch to it (pork instead of chicken) and it was delicious. I used boneless pork that was sliced however I think that I would dice it up (or grind it) next time so that it was a bit more of an even bite.

Though you are suppose to use corn tortilla with an authentic enchilada I used flour since they are easier to find and manipulate. Last time I attempted this recipe using the proper tortilla I ended up with burned fingers and a messy lasagna like casserole.

A close up shot of the filling

1/3/2010 - Chicken Tortellini Soup

I think I have admitted before I spend way to many hours online checking out others blogs so when I saw this recipe for pull brisket on Smitten Kitchen on her first use of the crockpot I had to comment. As I was doing this I happened to read some others comments and saw this wonderful tip from one of her readers (#30) left about making stock in the crock pot. Now I love the idea of making homemade stock but I have to admit except for the matzoh ball soup that I created for Passover last year (and the trial run) I've never really done it! Coincidentally, I happened to be roasting a chicken just when I read it...what luck! So you can guess what happened to the Pineapple Orange Rosemary chicken that was pictured from the other day....into the crock pot with some aromatics and 12 hrs later I was staring down about 3 -4 c of freshly made broth! (for the record the chicken was a multi-tasker and also supplied a breast for some amazing chicken salad that he ate for lunch another day)

The recipe for the broth couldn't have been easier - place the chicken carcass in the crockpot with some carrots, onions, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, and parsley then add water 3/4 of the way filling the crockpot and leave on low for about 12 hrs (overnight-ish) then strain (and seperate fat out if you wish). Even though it might seem a little wasteful you should toss all the veggies that you use to make the stock as they will be mushed by the time the stock is ready.

Chicken Tortellini Soup
4 c chicken broth
1 bag frozen cheese tortellini
1 c shredded chicken meat
10 baby carrots - in coins
2 stalks of celery - diced
1/2 onion- diced
3 scallions - diced
1/2 red bell pepper - diced
10 mushrooms - sliced
2 cloves or garlic - smashed and diced
1" ginger
2 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp cilantro
1 tbsp oil

1) Add oil to large pot and saute on medium the carrots, onions, celery until softened
2) Add the garlic, ginger, peppers and scallions
3) Turn up the gas slightly and add the broth - let it come to a boil
4) Add the tortellini and cook (until they float)
5) Reduce to med and add the chicken , mushrooms and the herbs
6) Allow to simmer for 10- 20 min and serve

Sunday, January 3, 2010

1/2/2010 - Simply the Best Mac & Cheese

Last night was just one of those nights.....cold and windy (with some snow flurries), bottle of wine chilling in the fridge, a dear girl-friends racing over for a bit of a bitch/whine /moan session...nothing fits better than rich creamy cheese, bacon and carbs....lots of carbs! A girls other best friend.....This recipe was greatly inspired by a post on, however I have always been a make it and eat it kinda girl when it comes to mac & cheese so the gratin was not attempted (though I am sure it would be delicious). I had a box of Barilla's Campanelle pasta in my cabinet and this some what "fancy" mac and cheese seemed the perfect use.

Unfortunately as you might imagine there is no evidence of the mac and cheese that was made from the "fancy" pasta but I think you all know what mac & cheese looks like (plus I am sure to make it again...soon!)

If you have never made a roux or bechamel sauce check out this video

Mac & Cheese Recipe
5 slices of pancetta - diced (or a handful of the cubes if you can find those)
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2 c milk - warmed (I microwave but feel free to dirty another pan if you like)
3 oz brie -rind removed and diced into cubes
3 oz gruyere - diced
3 oz jarlsberg - diced
3 oz chedder - shreded
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
salt & pepper
1 tbsp truffle oil

(optional - 1 tbsp butter, 1/2 c breadcrumbs and a sprinkle of paprika)

1) In a large pan cook the pasta according to the directions - if you will be baking it remove slightly before al dente otherwise cook to taste
2) In a medium sauce pan - add the diced pancetta to med heat allow to brown
3) Add the butter and melt
4) Add the flour sprinkling it in the pan to avoid any lumps and mix in completely
5) Allow roux (butter & flour mix) to cook for about 3 min to avoid any "raw flour" taste (however make sure its on low so it doesn't burn! if you see any black specks you need to start over!)
6) Add warm milk in parts slowly - stir to completely combine with each addition
7) Once cream sauce is combined and thick start to add brie - stir after each addition until completely melted
8) Repeat with remaining cheese
9) Season with a bit of red pepper and salt & pepper as necessary (you can use white pepper to avoid black specs in your cheese sauce but I don't ever mind them)
10) Combine cheese sauce with drained pasta
11) optional - pour mixture into a casserole dish and top with butter and bread crumbs bake at 350 until crusted over
12) top each portion with a small drizzle of truffle oil

1/2/2010 - Another brined chicken....Pineapple Orange Rosemary Chicken

I know that I said I would never abandon my cider brined chicken but after watching Alton Brown brine a duck in orange pineapple juice on Food Network the other day I had to try it out! Since I didn't cut my chicken up I needed to use about 2x the brine however it was a very easy recipe to double. I also added a few other aromatics to the mix (bay leaves & rosemary... I didn't have and fresh thyme).

Brining really is so easy and if you have 2 gallon zip top bags it doesn't really add any extra mess to your kitchen. With a cold brine like this (ie stir salt into cold liquid so you don't have to heat and then cool the brine) it only takes a few extra moments of work and a little foresight (at least 3 hrs but overnight is better I think!) The chicken was removed and rinsed of the brine, patted dry, stuffed with a quartered orange & 4 cloves of garlic, trussed the chicken and then rubbed with butter and rosemary and then roasted at 400 F for 1 hr 30 min or so until inside reaches temp (recommended is 165F however I usually end around 150F and haven't gotten sick yet!) We ate this as is without any gravy as it was so moist but feel free to use the pan drippings to make a gravy as well. And if you like the skin...then just wow wait until you try this!

Pineapple Orange Rosemary Brine
2 c pineapple orange juice
2 c water
1/2 c kosher salt
4 bay leaves
2 tbsp whole peppercorns
2 tbsp dried rosemary (or fresh if you have it)
4 garlic cloves - smashed

1) in a 2 gal zip top bag placed inside a large bowl add all the ingredients and stir until salt is dissolved
2) clean out chicken (discard gibblets etc) and wash out - add to bag with brine
3) remove any air from the bag and rotate so chicken is submerged
4) place in fridge for 3-12 hrs

Friday, January 1, 2010

12/30/09 - New Years Eve Eve Celebration

With the end of 2009 only a few hours away but plans spreading my friends over a few states I decided to throw a party to celebrate New Years....a day early! My first thoughts we a formal dinner party with lots of courses and wine but in the end scheduling a sit down dinner around 15 people schedules is difficult and a cocktail type party seemed to fit better. Luckily Santa was very good to me this year and outfitted my kitchen with quite a few new goodies that I was very excited to pull out. From my homemade guacamole in my stone mortar and pestle , my lacey cake stand or my adorable appetizer plates.... some of you out there just might see your present in the pictures!

(sorry for the messy table but the party was already started and I didn't want to have another dinner with no pics!)

The Menu
crudites plate
cheese plate
baked phylo wrapped brie
hot spinach dip
spiced curry yogurt dip
red pepper cheese straws
Parmesan cheese sticks

sun dried tomato pesto palmiers

mini deviled crab cakes
sesame soy beef
chili lime shrimp
tomato and mozzarella crostini
cheezy garlic crostini

(dessert was graciously provided by some amazing friends)
coffee cake (by bethany)
chocolate fudge walnut cookies (by robyn)
carrot cake (from tova)

Most of these recipes were new to me as well. I found them in the Hors d'Oeuvres cookbook

Curry Spiced Yogurt Dip
6 tbsp mango chutney (found in the indian/ ethnic section of the store)
1 c cilantro- chopped
4 scallions - diced fine
2 limes
3/4 c cream cheese
1c plain yogurt (strain or greek style if you want it thicker)
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp tumeric

1) mix all ingredients except salt and tabasco together and use blender to combine
2) add salt and tabasco to taste
3) refridgerate

1 jalepeno (seeds removed)
1 red onion
1 red pepper
3 avocado
juice of 2 limes
1/2 c cilantro - chopped
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
salt & pepper

1) finely chop (or use food processor) and combine peppers, onion and cilantro
2) in mortar and pestle combine pepper mix, avocados and lime and mix together
3) season to taste with spices
4) if storing, press plastic wrap to surface to prevent discoloring

Sesame Soy Beef Marinade
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 scallions diced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
2 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp chinese hot chili sauce
salt & pepper

Lime Chili Shrimp Marinade
2 garlic cloves
1/2 " piece of ginger - grated
2 tbsp cilantro - chopped
1 tbsp chinese hot chili sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp lemon juice