Friday, April 30, 2010

Chocolate covered bacon

My brother in law heard about this and was quite intrigued, so I made him some for his birthday. Before we'd left the party, he had finished all of it. My niece, however, tasted it and proclaimed it to be a way to ruin both bacon and chocolate. I wish I could weigh in, but I never got to try it!

That being said, I'll share how I made it. I cut bacon strips into 3 pieces, then baked it until crispy. I let it cool completely (I prefer baking as a method, but I also wanted to get the rendered fat away from the bacon). Then I melted half milk chocolate and half dark chocolate disks, and dipped each piece of bacon in it. Finally, I finished with a light sprinkle of smoked sea salt.

Anyone else make this? I understand it's a tailgate delicacy, and it's so easy to make. Darling Husband's asking for a batch.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Curried carrot soup

I was able to use up some of the fridge's ingredients in this meal:

Curried Carrot Soup and Gnocci with Fresh Pesto.

Ingredients bought: half and half, gnocci, garlic.

Ingredients used from fridge: carrots, half an onion, stock, ginger ale, curry paste, arugula, basil, parmasan.

To make the pesto, I put basil and arugula in a food processor with a clove of garlic and some olive oil. Once the whole thing was nicely green and saucy, I seasoned with salt and pepper and made the gnocchi.

For the soup, I caramelized some onion and then added the carrots (conveniently in match stick form). After allowing them to cook and soften a while, I added in some ginger ale and covered, allowing it to simmer and reduce. A bit of curry paste, a bit of stock, and the newly formed soup bubbled away happily for a while. The final touches were some half and half for creaminess, and a stick blender to smooth out the texture. Personally, I thought it was great. Complex flavor but not too spicy, with a lot of natural sweetness from the carrots to balance it. I might have preferred the texture to be more smooth, but that would've required longer cooking of the carrots and/or straining the soup. Darling Husband only ate a bit of his, but he was also suffering terribly from allergies, so perhaps that was it. Baby Girl had some the next day with oatmeal stirred in.

To finish the gnocchi, I poured the pesto over the cooked gnocchi and tossed them around a bit. I micro planed in a bunch of parmasan, then added a bit of half and half as well, because it looked a bit dry and needed something to help. They were lovely but, in retrospect, the raw garlic was a bit overly assertive. These happy little pillows were emerald and fresh, but the garlic sort of slapped you on the face as you went. Oh well. Live and learn, eh? At least I made a pesto.

Carnita-style Yummies

Last night's dinner was intended to make use of the newly discovered items in our fridge and freezer. Cleaning it out and reorganizing for THE NEW FRIDGE helped us get a better idea of what we really had. I made a list as I went of what we kept, and we're using it to meal plan.

Since we had a bell pepper, taco sauce, queso fresco and a bunch of jalapeno slices, I thought latin cooking was the way to go.

Darling Husband agreed. And, as he was passing by the store, fully realized the plan and bought the few necessary items. My only stipulation was that it be on a tortilla and that he buy enough to make quesadillas for Baby Girl, as she loves them.

Fortunately, Darling Husband sort of forgot that we were making use of what we had. It's possibly I never really made the intention clear to him. Regardless, I say "fortunately" because instead, he made a really fantastic dinner that was way better than what we could've made with the above ingredients. And he even used the queso fresco.

He cubed pork and made a dry run with cumin, cayenne and some seasoning flour. After searing, he braised it in passion fruit nectar and added habanero hot sauce (from the fridge). The pork became moist and soft, but still had enough toothsomeness to it not to be easily pulled. It was a nice texture, actually, but not what he thought it might be. The sauce thickened up wonderfully and clung to the pork like well draped fabric. I loved it. I would also love it on popcorn chicken as a rip-off of Buffalo Wild Wing's Mango Habenero sauce (if we used mango instead of passion fruit).

Onto a tortilla, therefore, went some pork, fresh cilantro, thinly sliced red onion, guacamole and crumbled queso fresco. The flavors were sweet and spicy, with the sharp onion and the freshness of the cilantro blending perfectly with the creamy avocado. I absolutely adored it. There were no leftovers. (Well, except the tortillas for Baby Girl!)

Monday, April 26, 2010

New Fridge!

Tomorrow we will be having a new fridge delivered, and we're tickled pink. It will be a side by side model with water and ice in the door. Compared to our current fridge, it's practically space aged.

Our current, energy inefficient fridge came with the house. It's a fairly basic, freezer on top, white fridge. It has worked tolerably well, and part of me feels guilty for buying a new one. However, it only fulfills its function by the grace of duct tape.

Ah, duct tape. Silvery plastic fabric, easily ripped, often lauded duct tape. People have written poems, raps and yodels about it. Cars are held together with it. Shoes, too. Presents are wrapped with it (trust me on this one, I kept the box for a few years). On Mythbusters, they built a cannon out of it and even a functioning sailboat. In our house, it has been serving kitchen duty.

The shelves in the door are falling off and cracked. Duct tape lashes them together and anchors them to the door. The freezer doesn't seal well. No worries, duct tape holds it shut. We never did fix the veggie drawer, mostly because I don't know how to do it with duct tape (there's a crack somewhere that makes it fall off the rails and stick open).

I'm not feeling nearly so bad about buying a new fridge when I look at it this way. It also gave me the motivation to clean out the current fridge (and find a bottle of marinade that I swear we moved from the old house, as well as two jars of banana peppers I didn't know we had). Also, new fridge we chose was on sale and came with a mail in rebate.

Plus, when I was glancing through Food Network Magazine, I noticed that Ellie Kreiger has our new fridge in her home kitchen.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Amazing soup

Those of you who are regular readers know I'm not a big soup fan. I'm going to have to stop saying that, though, because I think 5 1/2 years of marriage have finally converted me. If it hadn't, this soup would have done the trick.

Darling Husband made a wonderful, yet simple soup out of asparagus, lite coconut milk and green curry paste. Want the rest of the ingredients? There aren't any! Oh, he might've salted and peppered, but that's it. The whole thing was pureed and had the most exquisite, balanced, creamy, comforting, round, delicate flavor imaginable. I had it hot and I had leftovers cold, and I'm not sure which I liked better. He paired it with just a little raw asparagus salad. Using a vegetable peeler, he shaved some raw asparagus and tossed with salt and pepper, grapefruit zest and olive oil. Raw asparagus has a grassy, fresh taste that complimented the down-comforter feeling of the soup nicely. It was a fantastic palate cleaner, not unlike the pickled ginger you get with sushi. When we open our imaginary bistro, this is definitely going on the menu.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Apple pie, cheese sauce, jerk seasoning, egg nog: they all contain nutmeg. The flavor is recognizable but the seed it comes from is quite forgettable. Plus, in large quantities, it's a hallucinogen (although, side effects are pretty bad and too much will kill you). It's best grated fresh with a microplane, but have you ever bothered to do so? We were gifted whole nutmeg, which is why we do. The coolest thing is what it looks like inside.

Roasting a whole snapper

I bought a whole red snapper from Marine Fish Market. It was frozen, so I defrosted it in some running water. I didn't have a ziplock bag big enough, so I put two on and duct taped them together for fridge storage. It looks like a kidnap victim.

Nasty set of teeth on it, huh? And although it should be obvious, it never occurred to me that fish had tongues. This was probably the creepiest thing about it. I was pleased to note that the fishmonger had not only gutted the fish, but removed the gills and scales, too. I was not looking forward to taking those off.

This fish is prepared for battle! I used kitchen shears to remove all the fins (dorsal, pectoral and anal) and the tail. They would only have charred. If this were Japan, though, I'm sure I would've created a delicacy with them. Probably not the spines, though.

To promote even cooking, I cut some deep slits into the flesh. This also let me season inside the fillets. I overall seasoned the fish with salt and pepper. Then, I arranged parsley and thinly sliced lemon, fennel, garlic and onion under it, in it and on top. We drizzled a bit of olive oil over the whole thing and popped it in a 400 degree oven.

Ready to go into the oven. It seems unhappy, somehow. You know, gashed and clipped with lemons in its belly. Personifying this fish didn't help me eat it later, by the way.

Here it is out of the oven. The parsley burned, which is fine because it actually lent an interesting flavor. It took much longer in the oven than we thought it would.

Butchering the fish (carving the fish? I think that's probably more the term) was an adventure. In all of our pieces, we only found 2 bones on our plate. I was a little impressed with myself. The best part was being able to carve away the tenderloin in one piece. You can see it in the middle of the plate, there. We served with hominy cooked in coconut milk. It was a little bland, but a very interesting texture. Would've been better if we'd remembered the ginger.
I looked up the proper etiquette for serving whole fish. One is to transfer to a platter, and carve at the table. Otherwise, you don't get credit for making a whole fish for your guests/family. First, you carve the upper fillet into portions and serve. Then you lift the spine and head up and off of the platter. Finally, you serve the lower fillet. That's all well and good, but I wouldn't have been able to do this. My fish looks much worse for the ware after hacking into it. Just as well we didn't have guests. :o)

Grilled salad

Well, spring sprang and then sprang back again. In the past month, it's been 80 degrees and it has frozen. Today there were white, wet, yucky blobs falling on us as we tried to shop for a new refrigerator, prompting Darling Husband and I to decide that "sleet" should be a swear word.

On a side note, those of you who don't know me probably would be shocked to hear I have a terribly unladylike habit of swearing like a sailor. I take full ownership of it, and credit it to having a sister who is 9 years older, friends who similarly swear, a boss who swears, parents (well, parent) who swear, and a love of British comedians who pepper their language liberally with the F-word. It's cathartic and about as second nature to me as breathing. It's also a terrible burden for my poor mother, who thinks women swearing is particularly crude and tasteless. Sorry, Mom.

But it is for Baby Girl's sake (and not my mother's) that my language has taken a turn away from the purple. We now use the same swear words as Sponge Bob; mostly, that's "barnacles." Barnacles, fish paste, tartar sauce... it makes for some interesting phrases. I added my own, "mother of pearl," to the list. Unfortunately, I still say "bugger" which is quite a naughty word but doesn't flash the same color in my head and so I don't edit it out the same way. Ever hear a 21 month old in pigtails and butterfly festooned bib overalls say "bugger?"

Now that spring is trying to raise her head, our cooking is venturing away from hearty winter fare and towards brighter dishes. A new one we made was grilled salad. We didn't invent it; this technique is all over food network. Still, it's an interesting departure.

I split a heart of romaine in two, preserving as much of the core as I could without being gross so as to hold the thing together. Then I smeared about a teaspoon of olive oil on the cut edges (using my hand. I couldn't think of a better way) and pressed the oiled lettuce into freshly shredded parmasan to coat it. This immediately went on a very hot grill pan, cheese down. I don't know how long it took, but it certainly wasn't more than a couple of minutes. In that time, the cheese browned and toasted and the lettuce wilted somewhat. We served immediately, dressing the salad by splashing the whole with olive oil and white balsamic, then microplaning lemon zest and sprinkling with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. It was a wonderful mix of crunchy and soft, brittle and flexible, bright and bitter. I think it would make a great ceasar salad or a nicoise, as a fancy lunch item. I particularly enjoyed the greens that wilted, as they tasted wholly unlike lettuce and more like, well, "greens" that you use to cook. What is lettuce, but a green of course. But a wilted salad doesn't sound nearly as appetizing as it really is.

The drawback to making this salad is it leaves you with quite a bit of hearts of romaine left over, since the smallest package we could find was a 4 pack, and we used one out of it. I chopped up the rest and made stir fried salad, with pork. Darling Husband wasn't nearly as sold on this one. He said it was a little strange. Personally, I think it was just the fact that he knew it was romaine that was the problem. Escarole is a salad, too, and he wouldn't have blinked if I had used it. When stir fried, the romaine ribs keep their crunch much in the way bok choy does. In fact, it's quite a bit like bok choy. I do encourage you to think outside the box with romaine. You just might like it better than raw. I found that I do.