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Friday, January 29, 2010

gorgeous goat cheese gougeres

Tott (in case you are not a regular reader, Tott is "The Official Taste Tester," otherwise known as Bethany, my best friend and gourmand extraordinaire) and I had a "date" tonight. We had talked of grand plans of pot roast and mashed parsnips, but she showed up, and we were both tired and sluggish, and we were just too lazy. (Did you know pot roast takes 4 hours? I get off work at 6. I cannot wait until 10 to eat.)

So, we settled on my French onion soup. Delicious (and perfect for the nasty rainy night), but kind of boring--I mean, I've made it a million times. I wanted to try something new!

I found new. I found new and awesome. I found new and French and delicate and light and creamy and crispy and brown and baked. What I found, my friends, was gougeres.

I have no idea what gougeres are supposed to taste like. I have only been to France once, and it was only a few days, and it was very, very hot and so Drew and I just sat in the hotel room and took cold showers, separately, repeatedly. We did not eat gougeres.

I saw beautiful pictures, however, and lovely descriptions, on the many food blogs I read. Apparently, they are like little puff pastries. So, I decided the try them myself. And they turned out wonderful. Right now, I am biting my lip, trying to restrain myself from going and eating the three I saved for Drew for when he gets off work.

Goat Cheese Gougeres

1 cup of water
1 teaspoon of salt
3 teaspoons of sugar
6 tablespoons of butter, cut in little pieces
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
5 eggs, beaten (4 eggs set aside in one bowl, and one in another)
8 ounces of goat cheese
black pepper

Put the water, the butter, and the salt and sugar in a little pan. Cover it, put it on high, and bring to a nice rolling bowl. Don't let it boil over, because water with butter in it burns when it boils over. Once it's boiling, add the flour and take off of heat. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until it forms a smooth ball pulling away from the pot. You may need to put it back on the heat, but I didn't.

Put the dough in a bowl, and add the 4 beaten eggs a little bit at a time. Stir like heck with a wooden spoon until it's smooth and glossy and gorgeous. Add the goat cheese a little bit at a time, stirring like heck.

Take a cookie sheet, covered in parchment paper. Put little balls of dough on the paper (I scooped mine with a little ice cream scoop. (By the way, I seem to be quite fond of parentheses tonight. Sorry 'bout that.)) Brush with the remaining beaten egg. Sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper.

Put them in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. Take them out and let them cool a little but then eat them.

(Doing this will result in beautiful, brown, crispy-on-the-outside-but-really-goat-cheese-creamy-on-the-inside gougeres. If you want them less gooey on the inside, poke little holes in them and let the steam escape. Give them a few more minutes in the oven to let them dry out a little on the inside. I like mine gooey, because I do not know any better.)

By the way, I have no idea how to pronounce "gougeres." Tips would be welcome, because right now, I say them like this: gow-jer-eez. I am sure that is incorrect. Please help in the comments if you speak French.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

meat's favorite cookie

Folks at the hunting camp tired of petit fours? Need something to bring to a potluck bachelor party? Is your Marine Corps battalion having a bake sale? Are you hosting a pork-themed dinner party? Not enough protein in your dessert?

Fear not. Your problems are solved. Because cookies were once too healthy, I bring you…

Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies!
(makes about 3 ½ dozen)

1 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup Butter Flavor Crisco
2 Tbs milk
1 Tbs vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
½ cup peanut butter chips (heaping)
9-10 slices bacon

Cook the bacon. You want it as crispy as possible. It’s easiest to do in the oven, I think. Cook at 425 for 15-20 minutes. Once the bacon is crisp and cool, crumble it. (I pulsed mine in the food processor a few times.) You should end up with about a heaping ½ cup.

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine brown sugar, Crisco, milk, and vanilla, and mix well. Stir in the egg.

Add flour, salt, and baking soda, and combine.

Stir in the peanut butter chips and bacon.

Use a spoon to scoop out portions of the cookie dough that are roughly 1 1/2 inch in diameter, and drop them on an ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 9 minutes. (This is the perfect time for my oven to produce soft cookies - you may need to adjust the time by a minute or two.)

Remove cookies from the pan immediately, and cool on a cooling rack.

** I also made a batch using some dark chocolate chips instead of PB chips. They were good (Kaytie preferred them), but I think the peanut butter bacon cookies are best.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

uptown cookies

I set out to make a fancy dessert a few nights ago: pots du crème. I followed Emeril’s recipe, and it was a failure. (Not that the white chocolate pots weren’t delicious – they were. But they didn’t firm up as much as I thought they should.) I could go on and on about my dislike for Emeril and his incoherent babbling, but I’d hate to sound rude…

I was saved, however, by the Florentine cookies that were meant to be served along with the pots. This recipe I did change a little; I added some almond extract and subtracted some vanilla. They’re fantastic, light and crisp - not nearly as rich as the cookies I normally make.

Florentine Cookies

1 stick butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
¼ tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup pecans (or pecan pieces)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth.

Beat in the egg.

Add the vanilla, almond extract, baking soda, and salt. Mix until smooth.

Put the oats and pecans in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Emeril claims you can use a blender for this, too.

Add the pulverized mixture to the creamed mixture, and beat until it’s incorporated.

Drop teaspoonfuls about 3 inches apart on the baking sheets. Flatten them a little with your fingers.

Bake for 6 minutes, until golden brown. (In my oven, I baked them for 4 minutes, turned the pan for even heating, and baked them for another 4 minutes.)

NOTE: Only bake about 5 or 6 cookies at a time. Why, you ask? Because of this next step.

After you remove them from the oven, let them cool briefly. While they are still warm, roll them carefully into cookie cigars. I found that sliding a knife under the cookies got them off the parchment paper best, and I could only get 5 or 6 cookies rolled before the rest cooled too much to roll. (Though they taste just fine if they’re flat.)

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

who dat? crawfish pasta

What a game! In case you didn’t know, the Saints are going to the Super Bowl for the first time ever. Who dat! As a graduate of Tulane and a resident of Jackson (where the Saints train in the summer), of course I’m thrilled. In honor of the Saints’ victory, I have created this tasty, easy crawfish (not crayfish) pasta recipe. Perfect thing to serve at your Super Bowl party!
Now, to tell the truth, I was planning on making this pasta tonight, win or lose, because we brought home leftover shrimp and crawfish from the Crawdad Hole last night, and I needed a good way to use them up. Still, it’s nice that it’s a celebratory pasta instead of a consolation pasta, right?

Who Dat? Pasta

4-6 cups of pasta, cooked (I used farfalle)
1 pint heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ cup shredded parmesan
1 link of andouille sausage (or smoked sausage if you can’t get andouille), diced
1 tsp. Tony Chachere’s
1 can whole corn kernels, drained
2 bunches of green onions, sliced very thin
1 package of frozen cooked crawfish tails, defrosted and washed
1 package of frozen deveined & peeled uncooked shrimp, defrosted and washed. (optional)

Heat saucepan to medium. Brown sausage. Add butter. Add garlic once butter is melted. Brown but be careful not to burn. Add cream and Tony’s. Let come to a boil, then reduce heat. Don’t let it boil over! (Okay, so mine boiled over, but it wasn’t the end of the world.) Once it’s reduced by about half, add the corn and parmesan. The parmesan should thicken it up.

If you’re using shrimp, add the shrimp now, and cook until just pink. Then remove sauce from heat, and add the crawfish tails. Let crawdads get warmed through, then pour over pasta. Top with green onions and more parmesan if you like.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

soup, soup, beautiful soup!

Beautiful soup! (apologies to L. Carroll)

So, my most recent post concerns twice-baked potatoes. This recipe take that recipe and says: "Ha! You think you are delicious! I will show you! I am delicious and low-fat-ish! And I will feed an army! Take that, you fool!" Which, honestly, is really an un-called-for level of aggression, but you get the point.

Baked potato and leek soup. This is easy! My recipe, as always, is imprecise, but when I am struck by the mood to create, taking the time to write down measurements is such a drag, man.

Baked potato and leek soup:

4 potatoes
6 leeks
6 slices of turkey bacon, diced
2 cups of baby portabellas, sliced
2 cans of chicken stock (unless you have homemade, in which case, 4 cups homemade chicken stock)
Fake butter in abundance
1 % milk
Fat-free sour cream
Pinch dried sage
1 bay leaf

First, heat the oven to 400. Put 4 Idaho baking potatoes, pierced, in the oven for an hour. In the meantime…

Take a large stock pot. Heat it up to medium high. Add a dash of olive oil, about one tablespoon if you want to be anal about it. Let oil get hot but not smoking. Add diced bacon. Let it get kind of crispy but not burnt. (Is “burnt” a word? I had a Crayon labeled “burnt orange” as a child. Therefore, “burnt” is preferable to “burned” in my book.) Add sliced mushrooms. Saute a few minutes. I think I might have added a dash of Worchester sauce and a sprinkle of sugar, but hey, my memory’s not so hot. Then add the leeks and salt. Saute until soft. Add the chicken stock and herbs.

Ok, so now your potatoes should be close to finished. Once they are, proceed to make somewhat runny mashed potatoes with them and your milk and fake butter (reserve the skins). If you don’t care a fig about fat, make them with real butter and cream. Otherwise, if you, like the rest of us, occasionally cannot fit into your pants, make with margarine of choice and 1% milk.

Once the potatoes are mashed, add to the stock and stir vigorously to incorporate. Add the container of sour cream and stir with even more vigor. Voila! You have potato and leek soup!

The piece de resistance, of course, is topping the soup with fried potato skins. To do so, take the skins of the baked potatoes. Slice them into strips. Take a generous amount of olive oil (1/2 a cup?) and put in a sauté pan. Heat to high heat. Add the strips of skin and fry until very brown. Scoop out and drain on plates lined with paper towel. Season liberally with garlic salt and pepper. Top soup with fried potato skins and, if you are a true gourmand, shred a delicious cheese of your choice and add to the soup before adding the skins.

The TOTT, a true connoisseur of soups, gave this her hearty stamp of approval, as did her disgusting little pug-dogs as they licked drippings off the ground. I hope you concur.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

twice-baked is better than half-baked

Well, hello, gorgeous. It's been such a long, long time. I won't make excuses, but as an apology, let me offer you the easiest, cheapest, most d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s recipe I can think of: truffled twice-baked potatoes.

Drew decided to woo me this past Saturday night with steak Diane; I flirted back with these babies. They are rich, creamy, and so wonderful. Oh, and in case you didn't know, the skin is able to be eaten (and, indeed, is one of the best parts).

My recipe is pretty loose: you need one potato per couple. Let's pretend we're making it for two. Take one Idaho baking potato. Scrub it good. Sprinkle it with some salt. Pierce your potato several times with a fork. Pre-heat your oven to 400. Put your potato in for an hour. Once an hour has passed, remove. Cool for a few minutes, then split with a big knife. Take a fork or a spoon and scoop out the meat from each half into a bowl, being very careful to keep each skin intact.

Take the potato meat and mash it with some cream and some butter. The proportions are really up to you, and dependent upon how big your tater is. I'd guess I used 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 of cream for 1 potato (decadent, I know). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now, I always add 2 drops of truffle oil. Truffles go wonderfully with potatoes (and eggs, incidentally). If you don't have truffle oil, it'll still be good, but truffle oil elevates these to FANCY. You could also add Asiago or Romano or Parmesan to these, either in place of or in addition to the truffle oil.

Anyway, mash up your taters (I just use a fork, but you can use whatever implement makes you happy: ricer, masher, egg beater, what-have-you. I did read once, however, that you want to manipulate the taters as little as possible, or else they get kinda glue-y.) Once you have a tasty mash, fill the shells back with the mashed potatoes. Put a lil' pat of butter in the middle, then put them back in a 250-degree oven for about 20 minutes. For the last two or three minutes, put under the broiler to make the tops nice and brown. Top with chives, chopped scallions, or chopped parsley.

Missed you much! XOXO.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

breakfast sandwiches

We went to church this morning, and when we got home, my lovely wife asked for brunch, crawled in bed, and promptly went back to sleep. (That’s one of the things I admire about Kaytie – she’s a champion sleeper.)

I knew I’d have to make something tasty to tempt her back into the waking world of the afternoon, so I stuck my head in the fridge and got to thinkin’.

Which brings me to a joke I just made up. (Or possibly I heard it a while ago, and now my subconscious has pushed it to the surface. Either way, it makes me laugh.)

What is a frog’s favorite sandwich?

A croque-monsieur!

Sometimes, I’m so funny, it hurts. (Usually, it just hurts other people – I crack myself up. For instance: What do you call a little donkey? A burrito!)

A croque-monsieur is a French sandwich, basically a grilled ham and cheese. A croque-madame has a fried egg on top.

I created a croque-hermaphrodite, I suppose.

It’s a ham and cheese sandwich, soaked in egg and cooked like French toast.

French Toast Croque-Monsieur

sandwich bread
cream cheese
pepper jelly
salt & pepper

Spread cream cheese on one piece of bread. This is easier to do if you warm the cheese in the microwave for 15-20 seconds.

Spread pepper jelly on another piece of bread. (I’m always looking for new uses for pepper jelly. Two years ago, when we actually had a garden, I preserved pounds of peppers as pepper jelly, and I still have way too much in the pantry.)

Use the two pieces of bread to make a sandwich with some ham inside.

Heat up a frying pan or griddle over medium heat, melting a little butter on it.

While the pan is heating, scramble eggs in a wide bowl with a flat bottom, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add a splash of milk as you scramble. (I used 3 eggs to make 2 sandwiches, and I only had a little left over.)

When the butter is bubbling, place the sandwich in the egg mixture, let it soak for a few seconds, and flip it over. Transfer the sandwich to the hot pan. Cook one side and then the other, letting each side brown a little. You can lift a corner of the sandwich to check how brown it is getting.

After the 2 main sides are cooked, I like to cook the crusty edges, too, so there won’t be gooey, uncooked egg on them. I do this by standing the sandwich up on each edge for about 5-10 seconds.

Serve warm. I topped ours with peach syrup that Santa brought me from Woody’s Smokehouse. You could dust yours with a little powdered sugar, or just eat it as it is.

PS- The sandwiches were great. Kaytie woke up, ate half of hers, got full, and went back to sleep. I should have made coffee, too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

slap your mama

We try to limit desserts at the Christmas party. Not because we don’t like desserts; I love them. We have learned, however, that people don’t eat a lot of sweets at our cocktail parties. So, we just have some small bowls of M&Ms, peanut butter balls, and some sort of cookie.

This year, Kaytie suggested a cranberry and white chocolate cookie. Sounds decadent, no? It is.

This recipe is a riff on the basic chocolate chip cookie. It is also one more reason to keep Butter Flavor Crisco in your pantry.

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

3/4 cup Butter Flavor Crisco
1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tbs milk
1 Tbs vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp orange zest
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecan pieces

Heat oven to 375.

Put Butter Flavor Crisco, brown sugar, milk, and vanilla in large bowl. Blend until creamy.

Blend in egg.

Combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture, gradually, stirring well as you go.

Stir in orange zest, chocolate chips, cranberries, and pecans.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls (about 2 measuring Tbsp.) of dough 3 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 8-10 minutes.

Remove from cookie sheet immediately and cool on a rack.

Friday, January 8, 2010

more party food

Phyllo cups are great. Not by themselves, of course – they stick to your teeth and barely taste like anything. They are, however, good little vehicles to deliver something delicious.

For the party this year, Kaytie made a shrimp and parmesan stuffing for the phyllo cups. It was creamy, warm, and filling, just what partygoers are looking for on a cold December evening.

I do not have the recipe for the shrimp filling. (We’re not always good about keeping track of what goes into recipes.) I know we boiled shrimp and then chopped it up. A can of corn and some mayonnaise were involved. Green onions, too. And a bunch of parmesan. Probably some salt and pepper. If you’re adventurous, you can probably make the filling with that information. Then, just fill the frozen phyllo cups and cook about 10 minutes according to the directions on the package.

If you are not adventurous, make this corn, crab, and brie dip. It is quite simply awesome. We made it for the 2008 Christmas party. You can serve it as a dip with pita crisps or Fritos, or you can scoop it into phyllo cups and follow the directions on the box for heating them.

Corn and Crab and Brie Dip

2 packages Alouette creme de brie
1 package cream cheese
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 stick butter
1 can whole kernel yellow corn
1 package fresh lump crabmeat, rinsed and picked over for shells
1 clove of garlic, minced
3/4 bunch green onions, diced
1-2 shakes of Louisiana hot sauce
Salt and pepper

Melt butter. Add garlic and sauté for a couple minutes. Add cream.

Turn heat to high until cream bubbles, then reduce heat and let cream simmer until reduced by half. You have to watch it or it’ll boil over.

Add everything else and stir until all the cheese is melted. Serve hot.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

christmas party 09 - heavy hors d'oeuvres

Kaytie’s boss thought it was hysterical that the invitation to our Christmas cocktail party asserted that we would be serving “heavy” hors d’oeuvres. I’m not exactly sure why; it seems that best way to describe what we do. We like to cook, and people like to eat our food. That’s why we have the party – to show off and bask in praise. (And it’s nice to see all of our friends…)

Anyway, the first couple of years, we did not advertise that the hors d’oeuvres were heavy, so people ate dinner before arriving at the party, and then they ate our food, and then they were uncomfortably full. By printing “heavy hors d’oeuvres” on the invitation, we avoid all of that. People show up hungry and leave happy.

This year, we had several old favorites on the menu. Pumped up jalapeno poppers, venison tenderloin medallions on gorgonzola-horseradish crustini (always a favorite), and truffled devilled eggs (Kaytie’s regular devilled eggs, plus a couple drops of truffle oil).

Kaytie also made a pate mold (see above). This is a secret family recipe that I will not post because the main ingredient is bologna. Bologna, mayonnaise, and pickle relish. I was not a fan of this – it tastes like bologna. Kaytie and Tott both liked it, so we served it.

Kaytie made shrimp toast cups (post coming soon), and I made little pork bites. These were braised pork on Mexican cornbread muffins with a cranberry-balsamic reduction. They tasted good, but the cornbread was a little too dry. We should have spread some butter on the mini muffins.

Braised Pork

6-8 lb pork shoulder, bone-in
12 oz beer
10-12 oz molasses
1 ½ cups kosher salt
2 cups orange juice
6 cups water
2-3 bay leaves
4-5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp garlic salt
1 Tbs ground chipotle peppers (or chili powder)
1 Tbs onion powder
1 Tbs paprika

The night before you want to cook the pork, prepare the brine. Combine the molasses, salt, OJ, water, bay leaves, and Worcestershire sauce, and stir. Trim off any really large pieces of fat from the pork. Immerse the pork shoulder in the brine. (I put it in a large pot and put a stack of dinner plates on top to weight down the meat and keep it under the surface of the brine.) Let it soak in the brine for 8-12 hours, in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 325.

Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.

Mix together the spices for the rub. While wearing latex gloves (this will make the rub stick on the meat, and not on your hands), rub the spices all over the pork shoulder, especially in the crevices.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the pork on all sides, about 3 minutes each side.

Dump the beer into the dutch oven, and cover tightly.

Put it in the oven for 3 ½ to 4 hours, until the meat pulls away from the bone. I use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. The man recommends we cook pork to 160 degrees; I stop cooking around 150. You decide.

Use tongs or forks to pull the meat away from the bone and separate it from the fat. Serve with a balsamic reduction or BBQ sauce.

Friday, January 1, 2010

easy cheesy black-eyed peasy

Well, here we are. Another New Year's Day. We started this blog a year ago with lists of our resolutions. Some, we were able to check off, and some will be added the list for 2010. I suppose that's the way it goes. (Pretty profound, huh?)

Anyway, let's get down to business. (I've never been one for nostalgia or for waxing poetic.) It's New Year's Day. Time to eat black-eyed peas and watch bowl games.

Cheesy Black-Eyed Pea Dip

approximately 16 oz Velveeta
1 can black-eyed peas, drained
1 small can green chilies, not drained
½ onion, diced (OR 3-4 green onions, sliced, depending on what's in the fridge)
4-5 dashes of Louisiana hot sauce
salt & pepper

If you are using a white or yellow onion, go ahead and sauté it in a little butter over medium heat until the onion is translucent. If you’re using green onions, don’t worry about it.

Cut the Velveeta into large cubes. (This will facilitate the melting process.)

Dump the "cheese" into a microwave-safe bowl, and then dump everything else in the bowl, too.

Heat in the microwave until melted and well-combined. The best way to do this is to heat for a minute, stir, heat for a minute, stir, and so on.

Serve with Fritos.

**I did not use the microwave this morning. I did it the way the pioneers did, in the top of a double boiler. (Kaytie gave me an old-school aluminum double boiler for Christmas, and I was excited to try it out. She also gave me some pink Himalayan salt, which comes in large rocks that have to be scraped on a tiny grater. She’s so cool.)