Hello! We're happy to have you!

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:


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:


Coffee Buttercream:


For Finishing:

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


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.


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.