Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Devil's Eggs

In the spirit of Halloween, I thought I would do a post on eggs. Deviled eggs, that is. One of most popular snacks at parties, deviled eggs are what I like to call "addicting". I cannot explain it, there is just something so great about an egg that has been boiled and filled with creamy goodness. But then again, why worry about the reason when I know I love them?

First things first. How to boil an egg. Hrmm. I can think of thousands of ways. But how to boil an egg and make it edible? That's the question. The way I have adapted is that of the Brown (as in Alton). It produces a creamy, done yolk while preventing the graying and rubbery texture that accompany harsh cooking. How? An electric kettle. If you don't have one of these, I strongly recommend one. Its how I boil eggs, make tea, keep stock hot for rissoto (don't worry, I wash it) among other things. Great multitasker (the really good ones dont have the heating element in the kettle, giving more room and more even heating). But back to the eggs. I simply add as many eggs as I want to boil into the pot, cover with about one inch of water, turn the kettle on until it boils, switch it off and set a timer for 10 minutes. Drain, shock in cold water (this prevents the membrane from sticking to the shell and makes peeling easier), and peel soon after. For those of you without one, do the same thing on the stove top, just cover your pot when you put it on the heat (boils faster) and try to avoid super high heat. Easy enough, and the results are consistant.

So with egg prep out of the way, let's move on to the recipe.

Deviled Eggs

Dried mustard

Wait, no quantities? Nope, I honestly cannot quantify this recipe. Depends on the size and amount of eggs every time. Here is what I do. Split eggs in half, remove yolks to small bowl, mash with fork. Add just enough mayo for the yolks to come together and mash into a smooth paste. Add about 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard (do NOT use the liquid kind) and 1/2 teaspoon salt per 6 eggs. Taste. Adjust mustard, salt, and mayo levels (just remember these are egg filled, not mayo filled) to your liking. You can spoon into the whites or empty your mixture into a baggie. If using the baggie, seal is, snip one corner off, and use as a pastry bag. Top with a sprinkle of paprika. Have a party.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Cinnamon Rolls

Let me be upfront about this recipe. I did not create it. It's Alton Brown's, and he (and his team of crack researchers) get all the credit. I changed a few words and ingredients of the recipe to make it easier to relate, but all in all its his.

So why post someone's recipe on a blog where I share my own cooking experiences with people? Well, have you ever had one of these cinnamon rolls? They are fantastic, and are horded among those in my family and household. Yes, they take a little bit of work, but so do most breads. And it beats Pillsbury to the ground. I will not waste space by adding extra words here, I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Cinnamon Rolls

4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 large whole egg, room temperature
2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/4 cup
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
20 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil or cooking spray

8 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
1 1/2 T ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
3/4-ounce unsalted butter, melted, approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons

2 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened, approximately 1/4 cup
3 T milk
5 1/2 ounces powdered sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups

For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours (place in a warm area to help this along).

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the 3/4-ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 30-35 minutes.

While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Increase Your Kitchen Carbonara Emissions

I am usually good at planning out my meals before I head to the store. However, from time to time I manage to screw something up, forget that I need to make dinner on a certain night, or I am just plain lazy. In these instances I turn to my pasta carbonara. Or the phone for pizza. But this is not about pizza, this is about pasta.

This recipe has a thousand variations. I started with Rachel Ray's because it literally helped to start the relationship with her husband. I mean, it must be good, right? And it is. Garlic, bacon, cheese and eggs not only make a great breakfast, they make a good pasta dish as well. And you can more than likely make the sauce in the time it takes to boil the pasta.

I prepare my carbonara in a pretty simple manor. Chop ingredients, cook bacon, mix remaining ingredients in bowl, toss pasta with bacon, add bowl ingredients to pasta, toss, and eat. More or less that is the recipe you will find below. I like mine pretty spicy, so I held back on the included red pepper flake. Same goes for the garlic. Adjust as you see fit. I also include a tempering step (adding a small amount of liquid to the eggs before adding to the rest of the ingredients). This will prevent the eggs from scrambling and giving you a nice, thick sauce.


1 pound spaghetti pasta

1/3-1/2 pound bacon, chopped
3 T olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1 t red pepper flake
1/2 c white wine
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1/2 c Romano or Parmesan cheese, shredded + extra for topping
1/4 c chopped parsley
salt and pepper

In a large pot, bring water to boil with copiuous amounts of salt and about 1 T oil. Boil pasta until slightly al dente. In the meantime, heat a skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. When hot, add the bacon and cook until slighlty crispy, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flake and cook for one more minute. Add white wine to pan to deglaze and let evaporate almost all the way down. Reduce heat to medium.

While bacon is cooking, in a medium bowl whisk the eggs, cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add 1 ladleful of pasta water while stirring to temper the eggs. When the pasta is done, drain (don't rinse!) and add to skillet, tossing with the bacon until coated. Add the contents of the bowl to the skillet, stirring and tossing the pasta quickly until the eggs start to thicken and a sauce forms that will coat the pasta. Serve, using extra cheese to sprinkle on top.


Thursday, October 16, 2008


After making the chocolate cream pie for a blog post, I was not entirely satisfied with the texture and consistency of my pie. Time for tinkering, which just meant that I needed to make another one. This rarely raises objections in my house.

First thing to tackle was the crust. It was a bit too crumbly for my liking, so I decided to let it set up a bit more. After making the crust, I popped it in the fridge for 15 minutes before baking it slightly longer in the oven. This allowed the crust to become a bit more uniform in texture and cut easier.

Next I needed to fix the darn thickness of my filling. Not happy with it, as it was slightly runny. I added an egg yolk to the mixture, which would lend itself to helping the "custard" set more as well as adding a bit of richness to the pie. I also swapped out cornstarch for flour. This has a two fold effect. First, you don’t have to stir as long to get the filling to thicken, and cornstarch has a more stable structure over time, so it is less likely to go all runny on you. While I believe the egg did little for the mixture (It already has three), the cornstarch did wonders. I sliced a piece last night and it came out just like I wanted it to, thick and pie like while still tasting delicious. To make the pie come together faster, I now recommend almost simmering the milk before adding the chocolate and other ingredients. This is because cornstarch's thickening ability is improved over a certain temperature, so the quicker you get there the faster it works (and fewer lumps are formed).

I have amended the original recipe and put a link at the bottom of this post.

Chocolate Cream Pie

Next up- Pasta Carbonara


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dinner at the Blue Fin

I dined at the newly minted (well, it's been open since July) Blue Fin Bistro last Friday evening and wanted to present my thoughts below. The place had a lot of buzz about it and I was truly looking forward to dinner.

The ambiance is nice enough; I guess you would call it fine-modern or something like that. Blue Fin spins itself as an upscale joint, offering fresh fish, sushi, and a pan-Asian take on dishes. This was countered by the nice woman singing Alanis Morissette and the "pick a song" request lists on the table. Kind of a contradiction if you ask me. But you didn't, so I should continue.

Service? Terrible. After the meal I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I was quickly (and properly) corrected that it stunk. When it takes 20 minutes to get a bottle of wine, you have to ask for bread even when you bring it to other tables, and there is little flow in your approach, it just comes back as bad service. Not a good start to the night.

The wine and drink list was nice enough, and I give major complements to a place that has a page of blue drinks to compliment its name (not enough places do things like this). The wine list, albeit a bit pricy, was nice, and the Argentinean white we selected was good. The food, not so much. The menu was expansive and expensive. Very expensive. They offer a large variety of seafood, sushi, steaks, and other Asian inspired dishes. I chose a spicy seafood noodle dish, while my other half chose a lobster and mushroom ravioli (let's face it, the fish dishes and crazy sushi were a little out of our budget range). We were then given the gift of no bread on the table and a 45 minute wait for our food. When it arrived, it was pretty tasty, but I have to main beefs with the meal. First, don’t call something on your menu "spicy" and then have it be as tame as a piece of chicken. I want some heat in the back of my throat. Second, overcooking your shrimp, slicing a scallop with some onions and peppers, adding chile paste with garlic, and tossing it all with noodles does not constitute an interesting or inspiring dish. If I can pick out exactly what went into it, why wouldn’t I just make it at home?

All in all, I cannot say I recommend this place. Because the experience was pretty shoddy (company was good). I really expected a bit more out of a hyped up, fine dining restaurant, but what I got was instead a poorly serviced mediocre experience. To top it off, the coffee they served me post meal (they proudly brew Starbuck's) was lukewarm. Not Han Solo-hot, but lukewarm. Bah.

Now that I have been a negative Nancy, I promise to post some positive thoughts next restaurant writing (I have a good one).


Monday, October 6, 2008

Baked Rigatoni

I have always found that the best time to write blog posts is soon after I have eaten the dish I want to write about. In this case, I am currently feeding my face of this stuff. Because it's tasty and I like food. This dish is getting fast tracked into the blog thanks to something my better half said last night, that she would order it in a restaurant. Never has she said that, and I make a big deal out of it because it’s a huge compliment and its not "maybe we should get pizza" (I get that every other month or so when I make something off the wall). Now, on to the cooking!

This recipe makes use of the tomato sauce from the last post. It also takes inspiration from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, a fantastic Italian cookbook that I would recommend to anyone. So what is this baked pan of pure love? Pasta, cheese, and two sauces. Traditional Italian dishes such as lasagna call for two sauces, a red and a white, which allows a creamy texture and still lends itself to full flavor. The red sauce is usually a tomato or Bolognese sauce. In this instance I went with tomato. If you do not have home made tomato sauce, try this instead. Take a jar of tomato sauce from wherever you buy it, and taste it. If you are content with it, use as is. If not, adjust seasonings (salt, pepper, basil, and oregano are good places to start) until you are satisfied. People often just take bottled sauces at their word and find them to be flat once used. If I ever use any kind of pre packaged sauce or something, I always taste it first and adjust its seasonings. This will save you a lot of heart ache in the end.

The white sauce that is used is a béchamel, which is equal parts flour and butter combined with milk. It’s the same sauce I used with my ron con con. However, since we want some of the sauce to be absorbed by the pasta, this sauce will be a bit thinner and contain no cheese. This recipe multiplies nicely and is also my new favorite for pot lucks. It can be prepared in under 15 minutes, which is an added plus.

Baked Rigatoni

2 cups red sauce (tomato or Bolognese)
3 T butter
3 T flour
2 cups milk, heated
½ cup shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 pound rigatoni

Preheat oven to 400°F. On stove, heat a large pot of water to boiling with a copious amount of salt and about 1T olive oil.

Meanwhile in a medium sauce pot over medium heat add butter until melted, whisk in flour and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often. Add milk a little bit at a time, whisking to make a sauce (adding the milk hot will allow the sauce to come together quickly and prevent lumps). Cook sauce for a minute or so, it should have a creamy but not extremely thick consistency. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Boil pasta until still chewy, about 3 minutes under recommended time. Drain and place in large bowl. Add the white and red sauce and half of the cheese, toss to combine. Butter a baking dish and add pasta mixture. Top with remaining cheese, bake for about 15-20 minutes until top starts to brown. Let the pasta sit for about 10 minutes after removing from oven to absorb the rest of the sauce.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Lafayette Eats

In case the Purdue title did not give it away, I currently reside in West Lafayette, IN. While there are some mighty tasty places to eat in this town, no one really pays attention and reviews them (I'm looking at you town paper). I recently came across this site, which posts reviews and thoughts on area restaurants. I have done one or two with my blog and would like to do more in the future, so its nice to see someone else having similar thoughts. Enjoy

Lafayette Eats


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Red Everywhere! (Easy Tomato Sauce)

With the plethora of good ingredients to be found at my local farmer’s market, I am often looking for ideas on how to prolong the fresh (and cheap!) flavors I come across. The problem lies within what exactly to use an ingredient for that will yield multiple uses. Items like corn can be frozen directly, potatoes store for a while on their own, and apples can be made into pretty much whatever you want. But what about tomatoes? With long term storage, you have a few options. You can make a lot of salsa and preserve it, you can stew them and use them as an addition for dishes, or you can make sauce. When I was handed a large bag of tomatoes over the weekend, I opted for the last option, sauce making. I delved into a few cookbooks for some inspiration and found some common themes, though some did not really follow what I wanted out of this sauce. I wanted something that was unlike what’s in the can (though I use that stuff and it’s perfectly fine). I wanted rustic texture, full flavor, and something I could just add to pasta or pour over chicken and be happy with it. But first, some prep needed to be done.

Tomatoes have one part that is overall undesirable in sauce. The skin. Getting rid of it is quite easy. All you will need is a medium or large pot of water, a bowl, some ice, a slotted spoon, and a knife. Got it? Good. Heat the pot of water over high heat until almost boiling. Wash the tomatoes and score and x along the bottom side of the tomato, piercing the skin but not cutting deep into the flesh. This will allow the skin to pull back when in the hot water. Lower (use the spoon to avoid splashing and blisters) the tomatoes in the water, being careful not to overcrowd, and cook for one minute. Remove from the water and shock in a bowl filled with some ice and water. When the tomatoes are cool (about another minute), peel away the skins using your fingers or a small knife and place in a bowl to hold until they are needed. I prefer to use larger tomatoes for this, as they have a better yield of flesh. You can also use an equivalent weight in crushed tomatoes for a nice alternative at other times during the year.

Some people might say “wait, what about the seeds”? Contrary to some beliefs, the seeds do not make the sauce bitter, so I say leave them in. If you have a food mill, by all means, strain out the seeds using a larger setting. Since I don’t have a food mill, I attempted running my tomatoes through a mesh strainer and then realized all the good stuff I would be leaving out (namely the juicy pulp surrounding the seeds). No good. So I opted instead for my immersion stick blender once the sauce was finished. This gave my sauce a slightly coarse texture, which I prefer. You can also use a blender or food processor, but make sure to cool the sauce slightly before letting it rip. It also works well chunky.

One last point. This sauce is made from mostly tomatoes. Which are acidic. So use a non reactive pan such as anodized aluminum or enamel coated cast iron. Non stick will work too, just pay attention to it. This also means that simmering this sauce for hours will make it taste like gross. Try to limit the timing, though if you want your sauce thicker you can reduce it down slightly or add a thickening agent (such as corn starch and water).

Rustic Tomato Sauce

1 c onion, diced
½ c celery, diced
½ c carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, skins removed and chopped (or 1 1/2 pound crushed, canned tomatoes)
3 T + 2T olive oil
¼ c red wine
Salt (at least 2 T)
2 T fresh basil, chopped fine
1 T fresh parsley, chopped fine
2 bay leaves
1 T tomato paste

In a large pot, heat 3 T olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until wilted, about 5 minutes (you can brown them, it adds more flavor depth to the dish). Add the celery, carrots, and some salt, sauté until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bay leaf and wine, allowing the wine to mostly bubble off. Add the tomatoes and bring the sauce to a simmer. Once it reaches this, simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the 30 minutes is up, add the basil, parsley, and tomato paste. Cook for another 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings to your liking, blend to a coarse sauce if desired, cool, and use. Can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen for future use.


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