Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Crock Pot Chili

This isn't how I do chili on a regular basis at all, but this was pretty good, for a ghetto-fied recipe! Here's what we did:

Crock Pot Chili

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • 1 can red beans
  • 1 Hatch, NM Chili(you can find them in the grocery store's Hispanic section)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 onion, medium diced
It tasted pretty good!
 Saute beef in a pan until brown. Drain the fat and put in the crock pot. Add the remaining ingredients and fill up one of the cans with water to both rinse it out and add to the pot at the same time. Turn it on high and let it go for 3 or 4 hours.

Serve with saltines.

More crock pot recipes to come!

Also, New Years Eve is fast-approaching, so expect party foods, made with things you probably already have in your cabinet.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Chocolate Spritz Cookies

Super quick and fun, and amazing to practice your piping skills with!

Chocolate Spritz Cookies
  • 6 oz powdered sugar
  • 1 stick(4 oz) butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 6 oz flour
  • 2 oz dark cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • White chocolate A/N
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Prepare a piping bag with a large star tip.

Using the paddle attachment on your Kitchen Aid/electric mixer, whip the butter until fluffy and a light lemon color. Stop the beater and add in the powdered sugar. Begin the beater on slow(so as not to make a huge mess) and then gradually work up to a high whipping speed to really incorporate the air.

Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing for at least 1 minute after each egg to ensure that it is mixed in thoroughly. Add the vanilla and the salt; beat well, scraping down the sides with a spatula as needed.

Sift in the cocoa powder, flour, cornstarch and baking powder to the wet ingredients. Beat together slowly and then quickly to mix well, scraping down the sides as needed. Load the batter into the piping bag and pipe rosettes onto the baking sheet. Let the cookies air dry for 10 - 15 minutes at least. (Ideally, you want to do this for an hour.)

Using a microplane, grate white chocolate over the cookies like snowflakes. Bake the cookies for 8 - 10 minutes. While the cookies are still hot, grate more white chocolate over the cookies to let them melt on like freshly fallen snow. Leave them on a plate for Santa, along with some carrots for the reindeer; they have feelings too.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yuletide Times - Let It Go, Let It Go, Let It Go

Modern Christmas is a marriage of new Christian traditions and Old Pagan Ways. I, being one of the old Faith, choose to celebrate both because:

a.) My family is Catholic
b.) Twice the celebration means twice the cookies
c.) Just because I'm one religion doesn't mean I can't respect others' belief systems too

So to all the uber Christians out there who post hate letters on other peoples' doors because they put Christmas lights up and to all my uber hardcore Pagan friends who keep their kids from celebrating contemporary Christmas with their friends because you feel like Christianity has ruined it all:

GROW UP, LARD ASS. EAT SOME COOKIES.




See? CELEBRATE THE SEASON. Not the religion.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Rieger - Pig Tastic!

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you'll know I went to the Rieger last Tuesday for a field trip with my Garde Manger class. Many of my esteemed classmates joined our Chef, the illustrious David Derr, for a tasting of what the Rieger had to offer on the Charcuterie end.


The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange on Urbanspoon
For those of you who don't know, Charcuterie is basically the art of preparing meats like bacon, sausage, pates, et cetera. It's kind of become a lost art in the mainstream as of late, but - fortunately for us foodies - it's coming back with a vengeance. We studied Charcuterie for about three weeks or so in Garde Manger, and by the end of that three weeks all of us were a touch burnt out.

Don't get me wrong, sausage never gets old. That being said, you can only aspic so many galantines and pate en croutes before you get sick of it. This field trip was something we all needed to rekindle our love of it.

When you see the Rieger, it looks unassuming enough on the outside. Coming in, a friendly hostess with a pixie haircut greets you at the door and offers the coat hooks by the door for your usage. The lighting isn't quite dim, but it's not bright by any means. It is intimate, like a lounge bar you see in a sexy movie. The glasses are tall and thin, and water is served in big glass bottles at the table that give such an elegant feel without it being too pretentious. Wait staff is cleanly attired in black from head to toe.

I found my seat along one of the walls along with the big table of my friends. I sat with David and Brian at the shorter table, where other friends were joining us and we spoke about how amazing the mustard was. It was a grainy mustard that - I later found out - came from a jar, but they do have House mustards available with various dishes for you to try.

Admit that it's beautiful and we can all move on with our lives
Once all of our drink orders were taken, all twenty of us were served a beautiful platter of Charcuterie with toasted brioche, cornichons and that gorgeous grainy mustard. Chef Howard Hannah came out with a big, bearded smile and walked us through our wonderful journey. Let's go from left to right, or - in this case - closes to the furthest away.

We have first a foie gras that was so silky smooth it was like butter. It had that wonderful fatty texture that all foie gras has, but without that weird membrane-y ness that sometimes restaurants leave on or forget to take off. Chef Hannah explained the process, but honestly I was too lost in the beautiful texture that I wasn't paying attention.

Next we have a slice of mortadella, which is an emulsified sausage. Emulsified sausages are ones that we, as Americans, are most familiar with(think hot dogs/frankfurters, bologna, etc). The flavor was excellent, and more pronounced as it was made from a fine bit of pork shoulder. The texture was nice and velvety, yet had this nice toothsomeness that brought enough to the table that made me want to put it on a sandwich. I remember thinking: "okay so the Foie gras will be my butter and the mortadella will be like the ham to my grilled cheese..."

Next we have an apple-fennel sausage that, I think, was my favorite of the night. I remember David and I(along with several others at our table, mind you) talking about how amazing that sausage would be if put in a poppy seed hot dog bun. The fennel made it  so aromatic and it had a nice chewiness that only comes in a fresh sausage skin.

Finally, we moved onto the pate, known simply as Pate Grandmere. This is translated as Grandmother's Pate, which is a wonderful country pate of pork butt, herbs, spices, fat...and, well, you can find a fun blog on Pate Grandmere here. It was velvety smooth but with such an amazing flavor that I can only describe it as pate-a-licious. The pork was so tender, so it was like...a meat butter that was too thick to spread, so I wanted to deep fry it and serve it with eggs. Does that make any sense?

Either way, the stuff was amazing. Chef Hannah was even kind enough to break out a few of his favorite cook books on charcuterie and let us read it. (I would have taken down the titles, but I was too busy licking the pork off my plate.)

Anyway, we were all done licking our plates when Chef Hannah said "Hang on, I have something else I'd like to show you."

David's thumb in its BIG BLOGGER DEBUT
Upon his return, he brought this beautiful molded thing on a block of cedar. "What's that?" I whispered to Tim, who was next to me.

"This," said Chef Hannah, "is a Pig ear Terrine. I'm not going to lie, some of you will probably hate it, but I love it and it's cheap to make - so why not keep it on the menu?"

Well, you can't argue with logic like that, can you? Not only is it using every part of the pig in the kitchen, but it looks really pretty in its own complex way.

To be honest, I did not like this dish. I liked the flavor, but the texture was this weird balance between crunchy and chewy...but there were people at the table that absolutely loved it, so it must have been something good on some level. Even Chef Derr said "The thickness on the slices are just perfect."

So what's the conclusion to the pork tasting?

Go to the Rieger and find out for yourself. No, really - it's a tad pricey for this broke college student to go very often, but aside from the pork/charcuterie menu, it has a tasteful variety of menu items from Rabbit Roulade to Sous Vide Lamb Shoulder to Risotto. My glass only needed a moment before it was filled again by our waiter, and I truly look forward to going there again someday. Try to get a seat near the kitchen so you can watch the Chefs work!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bouche de Noel

So thanks to my dear friend Sellina, I have pictures of her final from Capstone, a culmination class of our Senior year in school at the Art Institutes International - KCMO. She made a wonderful French pastry, the Bouche de Noel. She also made this beautiful thing I don't remember the name of...but it was beautiful. Here's a few pictures!

Aaaaand how pretty is this?
For those of you who don't know, a Bouche de Noel is a really fun cake that's traditional around the holidays. You can find a good recipe in just about any Bon Appetit nowadays, but I like to stick to Food Network. Here's the recipe that they had:


Ingredients

Coffee Buttercream:

Marzipan:

For Finishing:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Red and green liquid food coloring
  • Confectioners' sugar

Directions

To make the buttercream: Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.
Turn the genoise layer over and peel away the paper. Invert onto a fresh piece of paper. Spread the layer with half the buttercream. Use the paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder Transfer to baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until set. Reserve the remaining buttercream for the outside of the buche.
To make the marzipan: Combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the sugar in the bowl of the electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until the sugar is almost absorbed. Add the remaining 1 cup sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary; the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly. Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.
To make marzipan mushrooms: Roll 1/3 of the marzipan into a 6-inch long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths. Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms. Smudge with cocoa powder. To make holly leaves: Knead green color into 1/2 the remaining marzipan and roll it into a long cylinder. Flatten with the back of a spoon, then loosen it from the surface with a spatula. Cut into diamonds to make leaves, or use a cutter.
To make holly berries: Knead red color into a tiny piece of marzipan. Roll into tiny balls.
To make pine cones, knead cocoa powder into the remaining marzipan. Divide in half and form into 2 cone shapes. Slash the sides of cones with the points of a pair of scissors.
Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end. Position the larger cut piece on the buche about 2/3 across the top. Cover the buche with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark. Transfer the buche to a platter and decorate with the marzipan. Sprinkle the platter and buche sparingly with confectioners' sugar "snow."
Storage: Keep at cool room temperature. Cover leftovers loosely and keep at room temperature.

Chocolate Genoise Sheet:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa
  • Special equipment: 10 by 15-inch jelly-roll pan, buttered and lined with buttered parchment
Set rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

Whisk the eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees (test with your finger). Attach the bowl to the mixer and with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume.

While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour, cornstarch, and cocoa.
Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until well risen, deep and firm to the touch. (Make sure the cake doesn't overbake and become too dry, or it will be hard to roll.)

Use a small paring knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a rack and let the cake cool right side up on the paper. Remove the paper when the cake is cool.
Storage: Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several days, or double-wrap and freeze for up to a month.
Yield: 1 (10 by 15-inch) sheet cake

And just because, here's the picture of the other tasty pastries that Sellina had. Maybe if she likes my blog enough, she'll be kind enough to share HER recipe with us?

  Now how beautiful is THAT? They look way too pretty to eat, right?

Don't worry, though. I totally did. I thought my eye was going to get poked out, but then I remembered I'm a pan-face(laughing at yourself is healthy) and don't really have that danger.

The spun sugar was so delicate - it tasted like what I imagined gold to taste like. It was obviously a wonderful "meal". So glad I could capture her talent!

 
Also, I went to the Rieger Grill and Exchange last night with my Garde Manger class for a field trip, so look for that blog/review soon. I will also be doing a review on the Grunauer here in KC very soon. And if you're not doing it already, follow me at Twitter.com/WannaBGourmande, or on my Tumblr account for fun photos of food at any time. 

And just for kicks, here's a picture of all the people enjoying Sellina's treats.

I think it's weird when people look at the camera on "candid" shots

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Borscht. Not as thought.

As some of you may know, I'm smack dab in the middle of Finals week. I just finished my Garde Manger practical final and written exam, and now it is onto my Classical European cuisine class, where I have drawn "Eastern European" as my Final. So what does this mean for your Wannabe Gourmande? It means that on Wednesday I must prepare:

  1. A pot of Borscht
  2. Beef Stroganoff
  3. Spaetzle
  4. A mystery vegetable, which I will only find the identity of the day of the exam, prepared in an Eastern European fashion of cooking

How fun for me, right? And it's fun for you, because you get to learn while I'm learning. Also I figured out that the best way for me to study is to write and re-write it down. But what's the point of writing if nobody else is going to read it?

According to Wikipedia.com, Borscht is defined as a soup of Ukranian origin, that is made of beets as its main ingredient. According to UrbanDictionary.com...well, let's not go there. The point is that borscht is kind of this iconic dish that we think of when we hear "Russian cuisine" that we have little to know real knowledge about. It has just always been the first thing I think of when I think of what Russians eat... That, or wolf milk. (I have no idea if Russians drink wolf milk. It just seems funny enough to be true.)

I remember the first time I even heard the word 'borscht' was when I was, like, six or seven and watching that episode of "Rugrats" where Chucky got sprayed by a skunk and the only thing that worked was bathing in Borscht. Gross, but effective, apparently.

Never thought Russian food could be tasty, did you, you anti-Marxist jerk?
Borscht can be served hot or cold. The hot variety is the kind that we prepared in class last week(pictured here). It is almost always made of beet broth(beets boiled in chicken stock, in our case) and had a bunch of starchy veggies like potatoes. Traditionally it's garnished with sour cream, which is kind of weird to me, but whatever.

The cold variety is, apparently, a big staple in many culinary traditions, including Ukranian, Latvian, Polish and Lithuanian cuisines. (I have to say that this doesn't phase me much, considering I don't even know where Lithuania is.)

The preparation for the cold stuff involves mostly young beets being cooked together with their leaves(when available) and, when cooled, they are stirred up with sour cream, yogurt, or soured milk, depending on the region. A garnish happens with more sour cream and some dill, and some more raw, chopped veggies like cucumbers are added, along with some chopped, hard-boiled egg. So kind of like an Eastern European gazpacho, in a way? Only instead of being emulsified with olive oil, you use dairy. And there's no bread. Kinda.

What was I talking about again?

Anyway, Borscht is awesome. I found lots of fun recipes via Bing.com(best search engine EVAR), and it just so happens that Epicurious.com has a great selection of recipes for this tasty dish. Here's the recipe for the Borscht we prepared in class:


  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 oz bacon, 1/4" dice
  • 4 oz onion, diced
  • 1 crushed, minced garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 2 cups beets, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes, canned
  • 4 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 1 cup green cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 cup potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 sprigs parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Sour cream and Dill for garnish
  1. Melt butter over medium heat and render the bacon; do not brown.
  2. Add the onions and cook 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes until both are translucent. Add the celery and carrots, and cook another 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in th ebeets, red wine vinegar, sugar, tomatoes, 1 tsp of salt and a dash of pepper. Add 1 cup of the stock and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining stock, cabbage and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, submerge the parsley and bay leaf and simmer, partially covered, til the potatoes and cabbage are tender, but still retain their shape.
  5. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a touch of dill on top as a garnish.
Have fun with it. And serve with a Russian accent.

Move Over, Cupcake!

Sorry to my faithful readers(all two or three of you) for not posting more often; finals are upon us at the AI-International in Kansas City, and the seniors did their final Capstone projects. It was a big turnout! And everybody did fun little hors d'oeuvres, either in sweet or savory form.

So I have something to say to all of you. Some might be upset, and some might be relieved...but the Era of the Cupcake is dying. Time for a new Hero: a multi-dimensional hero with endless possibilities for sweet and savory, flaky and tender...I'm speaking, of course, about pie.
Cupcakes, I'm leaving you.

Pie???

Yes, pie!

Pie is the new cupcake, and not just in its big 9" form, either. My friend Thomas did phyllo dough pumpkin pies for his Capstone project, and LOOK AT HOW FUCKING CUTE THEY ARE.

When I picked one up to taste it, it was buttery and flaky - like pastry made of paper! The custard itself was rich and velvety, like an old love affair. And the best thing about it is that cupcakes can go bye-bye!

Pies have so many more possibilities than cupcakes do. With crust infusions and custards, with shepherd's pie and mini-trifles...everything is new and fun again! Just like Car Radio Pie, or Jenna's First Kiss Pie.


Okay, just watch this trailer. Or see the movie. Or both.

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm totally and completely 100% thrilled that cupcakes are out and pies are in. Pie is awesome!

And if you'd like to meet another pie enthusiast that's twice as hilarious and three-times as obsessed as I am, head on over to I Eat Butter.Tumblr.com. She is amazing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Project: PORK

This is just a copy-paste from a school project. But Marie(my beautiful and fabulous editor at StyleCoven.com said she wanted to eat it. Also, I got an 89 on it at school. It's technically an Asian F, but to white people it may as well be an A. At least that's what my Dad said... (Fellow Twinkies know what I'm talking about.)

Here we go!


stolen from FoodTease
Pork is a glorious and wonderful meat that comes from a magical animal known as the pig. It may not be a magical animal to some – in fact, it has gotten a reputation of being a filthy creature and even forbidden to eat in certain religions – but, as Jim Gaffigan once said, “It eats an apple and makes bacon, and that’s magical.” I’m pretty sure that bacon is the most-beautiful thing on earth, but we aren’t here to talk about just bacon. We are here to talk about pork and all the great things you can do with it.
Pork, unlike beef, is not broken down into “sides” when being butchered, but is usually just broken down into their primal cuts, which are:
  • ·         Jowl
  • ·         Boston butt
  • ·         Picnic shoulder
  • ·         Belly
  • ·         Side
  • ·         Loin
  • ·         Pork leg(Ham/Hindquarters)
  • ·         Hock
The pork primals are broken down into smaller cuts, called sub-primals, which are the portions that we cook off for service, for our families, et cetera. The beauty of pork is that it is truly one of the most-versatile meats on the market today. From the fatty belly to the lean pork butt(or shoulder), we can do just about anything with it.
Starting with the jowls of the pork primal, I’m reminded of the head cheese we are making in Garde Manger class. However, I know most of the jowl from my mother, an immigrant from the Philippines. The jowl is one of those ‘waste’ parts that we often forget about, since it’s right on the face of the pig. It’s commonly used in most ethnic recipes, and it is rich and dense with plentiful amounts of fat.  It makes a beautiful Head cheese, but is most-often found smoked in todays’ markets. If one were to go to the Philippines, however, you would find it cured in the form of Guanciale, a Filipino pork jowl bacon. Mom always used hers in sour stews or pastas, tossed without any cream.
Next we move onto the Boston butt, or the top shoulder. If we think about the tops of our own shoulder, we imagine a tight area where we often carry a lot of tension. Thusly, it’s a long-fibered piece of meat with little fat in it. Larding could be used to introduce some fat to the party, but Boston Butt is a favorite of many Kansas City BBQ-ers, as it is amazing when smoked over low temperatures for a very long time. Pulled pork is stringy, but when cooked slowly it’s really a beautiful dish and beautiful addition to a sandwich, salad, you-name-it.
The picnic shoulder is just below the Boston butt, and is another leaner part of the animal. It is a fairly inexpensive piece of meat and does very well for stewing or sautéing. I personally like it slow-cooked with some ginger, vinegar, bay leaf and garlic overnight, and then pulled, stuffed into a lumpia wrapper and deep-fried.
The pork belly contains the ribs as well as the belly part, which we use to cure and make bacon. There is a beautiful recipe for pork belly courtesy of the British Isles in International Cuisine, in which it is simply slow-roasted over a period of three hours, letting the fat render and the meat become caramelized. Ribs are best marinated to absorb in flavor and smoked slowly.
FilipinoFoodLovers.com is awesome too
The loin of the pork carcass is quite-easily the winner of the People’s Choice award. Not only does it contain the chops, but it contains the ever-lovely tenderloin, a long “rope” of meat that is oh-so-tender. Most prefer a light sear on tenderloins to make steaks out of, since it is such a tender morsel of meat. Many cooking methods can apply to this one, but grilling and searing seem to be a favorite, which goes for the pork chops as well. This is a part of the pig, however, that can go from juicy to bone-dry in a matter of seconds, so it’s very important that it isn’t overcooked. As far as the chops go, think of them as your pork ‘steaks’, so grill or sear accordingly.
In the pork leg we have many leg cuts, as well as the ham – which is most-famous for curing and honey-roasting(thank you, Honey roasted ham store) – and the pork leg itself is an interesting piece of meat. With the leg you have a log of nice lean muscle going on, so that means it can be tough – which means long cooking methods like slow-roasting on low temperatures or braising, which seems best to help break down the long fibers of muscle and make it nice and tender. Slow-cooked meat from the leg can even be set in a crock pot with some barbecue sauce and a little white wine and a chopped shallot for seven or eight hours and make some delicious BBQ tacos when you get home from work.
No real point. I just wanted to put up a picture of Miss Piggy...
Hocks are parts of the pig that, in theory, could be considered a waste part. It’s basically the little last bits of the leg on the pork primal, and they are a touch tricky. However, if we were to go back to a fundamentals point of view and look at another animal with a similar piece of meat – say, oxtail or something – we just have to think about slow stewing and braising, like a pork osso bucco. There is in fact a wonderful German recipe for pork hocks and sauerkraut, which is simply slowly simmering the pork hocks over a period of two hours, draining most of the water and adding kraut and some caraway seed for another quick half-hour cook. It seems overly simple, but it’s really a great way to utilize the pork hock.
Truth be told, the pig is a versatile animal that can be used for almost anything. I have, of course, a few personal favorites on how the meat is cooked, and I will probably never stop loving it. On an ending note, here’s the recipe for the Pork Chops & Fried Rice that my dad and I would make.

Dad’s Pork Chops n’ Fried Rice
·         4 pork chops, marinated in:
  • o   ½ cup soy sauce
  • o   1 green onion, chopped
  • o   1 splash vinegar, preferably white
  • o   1 tsp butter
  • ·         2-3 Tbsp olive oil
For the fried rice
  • ·         3 cups cooked rice
  • ·         Enough soy sauce to color it light brown, usually 5 or 6 big splashes of it
  • ·         1 egg, scrambled in the pan
  • ·         2 green onion, chopped
  • ·         Salt and pepper to taste
  • ·         1 small lime, quartered
Grill the pork chops over charcoals, using the marinade as the basting liquid. When off the grill, dot each pork chop with ¼ tsp of butter and allow to melt. For the fried rice, simply add enough oil to the pan so the rice won’t stick, and pan-fry while tossing with the soy sauce and green onion.
For the egg, beat with a drop of water and a splash of milk, and season lightly. Then push all of the rice over to one side and tilt the pan to create a separate egg cooking section. Scramble the egg lightly and set the pan down straight to combine with the rice. Toss gently and squeeze lime juice over the top to give it one last little kick.

Knowing how to cook pork isn’t so much about knowing the animal itself, but learning to slowly master the techniques needed. Everything is technique, really, and anyone can learn it with some practice. All in all, pork is delicious and I don’t think anybody will stop eating it any time soon.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Back Home...To Bumsted's!

For all of my not-so-avid readers that do not know, I am a Tucson native. Born-and-raised in the Arizona sun, this Prickly Pear Blossom is sweet and spiky for a good bit of local food(I'm not counting the four years I lived in Lake Arrowhead, CA when I was like two). Like my parents, I'm a big supporter of the Green Movement(would it be Beige Movement in Tucson?), so I'm all about shopping locally. I like supporting local businesses and Tucson Originals, otherwise known as independently owned and operated by Tucson locals - and you can check out their website here.

So I only had five days in Tucson, and what time wasn't spent with my family and boyfriend running around like crazy chickens with our heads cut off. We did everything from shopping at Silver Sea Jewelry on 4th Ave(which is a really neat shop to check out on Facebook) to the Sonoran Desert Museum way the heck out there on the east side. But this is a blog about Bumstead's, which is not a Tucson Original, but is tasty nonetheless.



My loving boyfriend A. and I met my old high school chum Jessica at Bison Witches, which is another neat place to eat at on 4th Ave, but was unfortunately packed to the brims because it was a Saturday. Fortunately, Bumsted's was right down the street, and I'd never eaten there before - so off we went.

Bumsted's on UrbanspoonThe first thing I was semi-surprised about was how spacious it was. I mean, seriously, it went really far back. It had a combination feel of an old diner with a dive bar, only huge. It was rather dark on the inside, or maybe it seemed that way since I was being blinded by the bright sun, but there were some very comfy seats by the windows off to the right. In the middle is a rather large fish tank with a "Nemo" fish and a "Dory" fish, as Jessica described it. There were other fish in the tank as well as some coral, and it looked a bit murky to be honest, but it was still very neat to look at.

There wasn't any uniform that our server was wearing, who was a big, thick red-head with a beard, but he was very friendly and informative. My only real complaint about him is that his visits with us were few and far between, but that's the kind of vibe that 4th Ave sometimes gives. Maybe it's just me trying to defend a Tucson local legend, but I understand the service industry and I know that when it's a slow day, you sometimes can relax and chat with other customers, chat with the line cooks, etc. I generally give people the benefit of the doubt, and when someone's friendly, they get a good tip. Also, he recommended some really good ideas for the orders we placed, and was very accommodating.

The menu was rather large(almost too large, to be honest), and had a very creative amount of names to their food. The hot subs section was dubbed "A Hot Affair" and all of the meatloaf dishes were named after - ha ha - Meatloaf songs. All of the burgers were named after mullets(wtf?), and the sense of humor continued throughout the menu. I think there was even a sandwich in there called M.I.L.F, which was some kind of turkey sandwich with avocado on it...or maybe not.

Anyway, the menu was big and random, but was funny enough to make me laugh. Jessica, instead of ordering one big entree, opted to just order a couple of small appetizers to nibble on - the mac n' cheese and chicken fingers - and I had the Michael Bolton Bleu Burger, which was a burger with bacon, blue cheese, grilled onions and had a marinated portobello mushroom cap as the protein - but the waiter was nice enough to have them replace it with an Angus beef patty instead.

The food took forever to make(like, over 25 minutes), but was uber tasty. And the portion sizes were huge. I was nowhere near hungry enough to eat the amount of food I was given, but as far as bang for your buck goes, it's a Winner. I mean, $10 for a huge burger that had to be eaten with a knife and fork and a huger than huge amount of fries? (Safe to say I took half of it home, but that's another story.)

The mac n' cheese got cut out of the shot :(
The Mac n' Cheese was unimpressive, but portioned well. The pasta was cooked fine and was basically just shredded cheese tossed in butter and hot pasta. It was baked in a little ramekin and nicely presented on a lettuce leaf on a larger plate. It was really kind of a slap-together thing, but passable. The chicken was nicely cooked and tender, and had this really great seasoning on it that I can't quite describe. The presentation was very nice too.

And the burger? Insanely good. Blue cheese melted nicely(which is kind hard to do right sometimes), bacon was cooked very well, and the burger was juicy and tender. Nice big toasty warm bun. The waiter was great enough to bring me a steak knife to cut into that bad boy.

So all in all, Bumsted's is a great place. If you're starved and want a big f#cking sandwich or a place to hang out with your friends, go there. They play a lot of great music(especially if you're into Lady Gaga!), and have a pretty chill atmosphere. So definitely go. And tell me how the other 98% of the menu is.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Recap

So Thanksgiving was amazing. Like, historically so. Those of you who saw my twitter posts(if you're not following me, you can do so here at Twitter.com/WannaBGourmande), I made a gravy so awesome that my dad thought it was soup(and he recently went vegetarian). I also made a beautiful Fennel Vichyssoise(which I will be posting the recipe for in a future blog(probably tomorrow, but most-likely later today)), a slew of pot de cremes, and the turkey.

There were about 20 or so of us in Grandma Janie's house, so we made two turkeys. Dad said it was the best turkey he's ever had(but he's my dad so he has to say that), and the family of mine that had some said it was amazing, too. My aunt even asked what my secret was. Well, the secret is brining, and it's in my previous blog, which you can find it here.

At 9 am, after two or three turns in the brine overnight, I took the turkey out and patted it dry. A little trick to browning meat is drying it properly, so remember that. Then I roasted:

  • 1 red onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 gala apple, quartered
  • 1 garlic clove
...all in the oven at 400 degrees on a sheet pan for 5-7 minutes, or just until it got a little soft. I wasn't looking to cook it, just soften it a tad to get the flavors released. Then, take a container of whole cloves and stick each piece of apple with two. So you should have 8 cloves. That's ALL YOU NEED. Stuff the garlic, onion and apple into the cavity of the turkey(DO NOT STUFF IT) along with two sprigs of tarragon.

Once that is done, set it in your roasting pan. Then rub a palm-full of rubbed sage powder all over the bird, and crack some black pepper over the surface. THEN(here comes the cool part) take a large, relatively square piece of tinfoil and fold the corners together to form a kind of triangular shield. Mold the shield to the turkey breast. If you have to, make another triangle shield to cover the breast portion entirely. We want to create a barrier because, let's face it, the dry turkey breast on Thanksgiving is one of the things that we don't have to deal with anymore.

With the oven still at 425, pop your turkey in and let it hang out for 30 - 45 minutes, just until it's browned on the surface. THEN(here comes another cool part) we open the oven door and slide out the turkey to place our shield on the breast. This will keep it moist without having to sacrifice the beautiful and iconic browned turkey color that we all adore. Slide it back in the oven and lower the temperature to about 325 degrees and continue roasting for the duration of the cooking period.This dual-temperature cooking method will allow us to keep the bird moist and cook it all the way through.

We had a 20 lb bird, so it took about 2.5 hours to get it to the sweet spot of 140 degrees in the thigh meat, which is really where you want to check. Always use a thermometer when checking for meat doneness. There are actually super-neat probe thermometers that can go inside the oven with a long wire, while the gauge sticks outside on the oven or countertop and goes off with a beep when its at the right temperature. You can find them at Bed Bath & Beyond for about $20. This is a good model right here.

Anyway, once the thermometer reaches about 150 degrees, simply turn off the oven off and leave it for another 20 minutes. The residual heat in the oven and in the bird will continue to cook the bird, and will leave it so moist. It will look like this once its done.

it's like ZOMG perfect an' stuff!!!!1!
To make the gravy, remove the bird from the pan and set it on a cutting board lined with aluminum foil(to catch extra juices), and pour all the drippings in a sauce pot. Use a ladel or a soup spoon to skim off all but a few tablespoons of the fat. Mix the fat with an equal amount of flour and drop that in the drippings. Cook over a low simmer for about 6-8 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Add about two cups of room-temperature milk once that's all done and let simmer longer to develop more flavor. It should simmer for about 10 minutes with the milk, but never boil. Taste often for seasoning, but you shouldn't really need any, since the turkey is seasoned already. Whisk often.

Anyway, once everything was all done, we packed up and went over to Grandma Janie's house. Here's what we ate:

  1. 2 turkeys(one was mine, one was Grandpa Jim's)
  2. 2 stuffings(one was Grandma Janie's, one was Aunt Evonne's)
  3. Roasted squash with pumpkin seeds and balsamic vinager
  4. Mashed potatoes
  5. Green bean casserole
  6. Sweet potatoes
  7. Grandma's homemade rolls
  8. 2 different kinds of gravy
  9. Fennel vichyssoise
  10. Ambrosia
  11. Cranberry relish
  12. Kale salad
  13. Wild rice dried fruit pilaf
  14. Roasted cauliflower
  15. Pecan pie
  16. Pumpkin Pie
  17. Pot de Creme
  18. Sweet Potato Pie
So there you have it. Thanksgiving at my Grandma's house. A. was with us and said it was probably one of the best Thanksgivings he's ever had. I couldn't really move much after that. I'm pretty sure they had to carry me out. Or at least assist. Anyway, we're going over there in a few hours for leftovers. It will definitely be awesome, especially considering there was a lot of gravy and my turkey is still going to be super moist after the brining.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes - Part 3.5 - Brining and Other Nifty Skills

Remember how a few days ago I covered turkey and its own little anatomy? I realized recently that I didn't even tell you guys how to brine things. Well, since I'm not a terrible person, I'm going to tell you how right now, using my own notes from Garde Manger. What's "garde manger", you ask?

Garde Manger is French for "keep to eat." Basically, it's preserving and smoking and making sausages and things like that. It's got little to nothing to do with recipes, but is all about techniques and skills on how to do very useful things. It is basically the cold side of the kitchen that makes terrines, salads, gazpachos, pates, sausages and house-smoked bacon, etc. Actually...


Garde manger
·         Created profession began with the need to preserve food
·         The practice of food preservation is much older than the term garden manger

COLD & SAVORY!!!
1.       The Chef
2.       The Kitchen
3.       The craft of Garde Manger itself
Preserving Things

Fat -> CONFIT!
1.       Cure food
2.       Simmer in fat
3.       Pack the food IN the fat
4.       Allow it to mellow out/rest for at least a week

Cured
1.       Ready to eat cured food
2.       Cooked by the consumer cured food
3.       Dried after cured cured food!
Wet cures vs. Dry cures
Brines vs. Rubs!
·         20% salt…stick to 1 gallon water : 1 cup salt

Pickling
·         Brine w/ acid
·         TCM ->tinted curing mixtre
·         TCM #2 -> sodim nitrate

Pellicle
Just hang it and let it air dry! Wooooooot

Smoking
Flavor & preservation
Smoking gives awesome flavor and preserves…also been found that when we smoke meat it keeps animals away…good to know!
·         Hot Smoking
·         Cooks
§  180 to 250 degrees
·         You’re only going to smoke for about the first 30 mins…and after that you’re just roasting. So keep that in mind!
·         The number one thing you want to taste is the Meat, then the rub/flavor, then the smoke
Stuff you wanna smoke stuff in…(or possibly  not)
·         100% Lump Hardwood
§  *(compressed hard wood)
§  Nitrates + Humidity = Smoke Ring in the meat!
§  Keep your wood dry
·         Woods to use
·         Hickory
·         Medium: Cherry, pecan, maple
·         Light: apple/pear/orange wood
·         Other stuff…
·         Brickettes
§  Chemicals, and they burn hot and fast…stuff that you don’t necessarily want around your food!
·         Cold Smoking
·         Doesn’t cook, but flavors
§  60 to 80 degrees
·         Pan smoking
·         Number one thing is that you can get in BIG trouble by over-smoking stuff

Anyway, that's what Garde Manger is all about. But back to brining. 

 The basic ratio for brining is 1 gallon of water per 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of sugar. So it goes Water:Salt:Sugar in a 16:1:1 ratio. That's a basic, basic ratio. As far as technique goes, you boil the water with the salt and sugar until completely dissolved. After that, you let it cool by either adding a few cups of ice or just letting it hang out on the stove, off the heat, and let it come to room temperature. Don't worry about any bacteria forming in the water, because of the salt content.

After this is cooled sufficiently, immerse your turkey - breast side down, please - and either use a plate to weigh it down or a brick wrapped in plastic wrap. If you can't find space in your hugely-stocked fridge full of Thanksgiving delight, you can pop it all in a cool spot in your garage, or any other cool dark space. If you'd like to make extra efforts on keeping it cool, use those cold packs you can find for keeping box lunches cool in the brine. It won't affect the flavor at all, but you can put them in a plastic bag if you're feeling a touch paranoid.

As far as introducing some more flavors to your brine, here are things that work for your hard boil:

  • Whole peppercorns
  • Bay leaves
  • Thyme sprigs
  • Elder berries
  • Whole cloves
  • Dry rosemary sprigs
  • Whole garlic cloves
 Some things you don't want in a brine are things that won't stand up amazingly to a super-hard boil. Also, these are things that have more delicate flavors that you'll want to save for rubs and infusions.

  • Saffron(which is also STUPID expensive)
  • Rubbed sage/sage sprigs
  • Tarragon
  • Paprika
  • Oregano
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Ground black pepper
  • Garlic salt
With these tips and tricks, you can create a beautiful brine.  The general rule is the longer the better, so a 12-hour brine for big turkeys are best.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ginger Sue's is AMAZING

It's very unassuming on the outside. No, really. If you didn't know what you were looking for you would probably pass it without even knowing what had happened. It's such a little door - probably to hold in all the flavors, just like Wonka's chocolate factory - and it opens to such a possibility.

You're first greeted with a warm palette of colors, warm autumnal reds with yellow, browns and golds. It's not lavish. It's meant to look like a beautiful Southwestern/Creole kitchen. In its simplicity of design, you feel like you've stumbled upon something special. A. and I were seated by a friendly brunette waitress, which seemed to be one of many. (Seriously, there were a lot of pretty little brunettes that were there that day.) The coffee was fresh, which was a good sign, and the staff was very friendly and engaging. None of that glazed-over dead-in-the-eye stuff of so many people I've seen here. It was refreshing.

The menu seemed heavily influenced by Cajun/Creole ingredients. Everything from Cajun crepes to andouille sausage pasta specials, from breakfast to lunch of tenderloin or pancakes. They had french toast and eggs benedict. I personally couldn't resist the call of the hollandaise sauce, I settled for the crab benedict, rather than the salmon benedict(which almost got me,  had I not had so much dang smoked salmon in Garde Manger class lately). Classical French meets Cajun/Creole meets America. That's a wonderful description of their cuisine, I think.

A. got the tenderloin, which was breaded very nicely and served on a rather large plate of veggie accompaniments as well as a tasty apple-peppers slaw. It was moist and thin, and didn't give that normally heavy feeling that many tenderloins sometimes give. You know, the kind where you know you've eaten too much bread and you can do nothing about it?

The crab benedict was great. The eggs were poached perfectly and the hollandaise sauce, although just a touch under-seasoned, balanced out the homefried potatoes that came with it. Good toast on the English muffin, good amount of crab vs. egg...all in all, it was a successful and creative dish. Both A. and I were stuffed when the waitress asked if we'd have pumpkin pie for dessert. I couldn't resist, but I couldn't speak - fortunately, I have the most wonderful boyfriend in the world who suggested that we split it.

Ginger Sue's on UrbanspoonAll of their pies and desserts are made in-House, which is always admirable. The crust was nice and tender, and the custard of the pumpkin pie itself was nice and spicy with that same smoothness that we all desire in a custard pie. The real trick to custard pies is low heat with a long and slow cooking time. You can tell that a lot of love went into this pie, and it showed. Ginger Sue's is easily my new favorite breakfast place in historic downtown Liberty, MO and you'll be sure to see me back there for the rest of the menu sometime soon. If you'd like to check out more of their info, go to UrbanSpoon. 90% of people who have been there love it.  No need to be shocked.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipes - Part 3, Turkey

The turkey.
The big bird.
The big cheese, so to speak.
(Although, ironically, there was little to no cheese at the first Thanksgiving but the star was venison, not turkey.)

There are many, many ways to prepare this superstar player in the Thanksgiving game, and we're going to explore several of them. Here at the Wannabe Gourmande's house, we like options. But first, let's look at a few fun and simple facts about the domesticated turkey:

Domesticated turkeys are too big and fat to fly, whereas wild turkeys can fly for short distances.

Mature turkeys have about 3,500 feathers; the Apache Indians considered them to be a timid bird, so they would never eat them or use their feathers for arrows.

Benjamin Franklin thought that the turkey was so American that it should be the national bird to signify America, instead of the eagle.

Okay, now that that's over, let's look at the anatomy of the domesticated turkey.

The breasts of the turkey are way too big for flight or any practical usage for any animal that would exist in the wild. Fortunately for us, this means big white breast meat that's lean and easy to cut for leftovers. I think that's why people like white meat. Just easy to cut. I personally prefer dark meat(the legs, thighs, etc.). This is great for us, but when roasting for long periods in the oven. It's too high on the bird to stay moist while all the rest of the bird is cooking, so when oven-roasting, the solution is simple: brine that bitch.

A brine is a solution of salt, sugar, and spices that's been boiled and cooled. It's like a marinade only totally better. Alton Brown on the "Romancing the Bird" episode explains it best, but for the purposes of saving you the trouble of hitting ctrl+T and YouTubing it, allow me to explain:

The bird is sitting in a salty solution of flavorings. Salt draws out moisture first, but that's only the first part. The moisture level inside the bird is now even with the water outside, and water is doing osmosis back and forth between the turkey and the water, carrying the salt and flavorings in between. the salt and flavor, however, gets trapped inside the bird along with all this excess moisture. So now after a good long soak(overnight is best), the breast of the turkey(as well as all the other yummy parts) will stay fabulously moist.

Going back to my notes from school, there are actually ten different cooking methods, broken down into three categories: Dry, Moist, and Combination.

Dry
Braised turkey legs are nice
  1. Saute
  2. Deep-fry(there's no water involved, so technically this is a dry method...trust me, I asked myself in class.)
  3. Grill
  4. Roast
Moist
  1. Boil
  2. Parboil
  3. Blanch
  4. Steam
Combination
  1. Braise
  2. Stew
The turkey is a big, massive thing that can be(technically) cooked in all these ways, but for a moist bird you want to carve at the table, you'll probably want to stick with roasting or deep-frying.

I never deep fry turkeys because I'm a big fat pair of testicles when it comes to that and I'm constantly afraid that this will happen, but here's some tips I learned from my friend Don(a guy I know from school):

  • Regulate the temperature and check it often so the oil doesn't boil over and catch fire
  • Thaw the bird completely and thoroughly(otherwise it will probably explode)
  • Pat the outside and inside of the bird dry thoroughly before immersing in the hot oil
Teaching geeks to cook since 1999
So I'm sorry to tell you that low and slow is not the way to go. It's best to start off with a high temperature to brown the skin(around 400) for about an hour and then cover(either with a shield of aluminum foil molded to the turkey breast or the cover for your turkey pan) and cook on a lower temperature(about 350 to 325) until the turkey is done. You're looking for about 170 degrees when stuck into the deepest part of the bird. Alton Brown has some great tips on it, and you can actually watch many of his episodes of Good Eats on YouTube.

But let me say that you should probably leave the stuffing out of the picture. No, seriously. I know I'm probably going to offend some people by saying not to actually STUFF the bird, but not only does it rob the bird of moisture, but it adds mass and cooking time and soaks up juices for Salmonella to develop. So just do dressing and use the cavity to introduce some new flavor.

Traditional aromatics are called mirepoix, which is a 2:1:1 ratio of onion, carrot and celery. You don't have to cut them up nice and pretty, just break them up to be small enough to stuff in the turkey. (I would grill the onion a little bit to bring out some flavor, but whatever.) The turkey's cavity brings out a great deal of possibilities. Some ideas are:
  • Apple halves
  • Orange/citrus peel
  • Celery stalks
  • Grilled peeled carrots
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Sage leaves
  • Rosemary sprigs
  • Thyme sprigs
  • Tarragon sprigs
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Garlic cloves
  • Onion halves
I am totally hot and lightly seasoned for you
Another option of introducing flavors is rubs. Many rubs can be found nowadays for great prices in your local supermarket premixed. You can also be creative and make your own. Just do me a favor and keep the salt content on your rubs LOW. You want to do this because a.) the brine will already season your bird, and b.) salt draws OUT moisture onto the skin and therefore will prevent proper browning for your turkey in the oven.

Also, don't baste. Unless you're the Olympic Gold Medalist in basting speed, the constant opening and closing of the oven doors, changing of pressure and temperature will just ultimately harm your bird and keep it from cooking properly for a very long time. So just save yourself the trouble and leave it alone and let it get all hot and sexy on its own. This guy has the right idea.