Category: meals

Some stout pie shenanigans.

The Irish (and English, for that matter) love their pies. And I don’t mean fruit pies, I mean meat pies. Hot, cold, warm or room temperature, they love them some meat pies. It’s a famous pub dish; a flaky pie crust or puff pastry topping over a beef-stew like filling. You can make them in individual pie plates or as one big pie. Similar concept to Shepherd’s pie, except this pie actually has a crust on top, whereas the former has mashed potatoes.

meat pie is a pie with a filling of meat and/or other savoury ingredients. Principally popular in EuropeAustraliaNew ZealandCanada, and South Africa, meat pies differ from a pasty in the sense that a pasty is typically a more portable, on-the-go item, as opposed to a more conventional pie.

-Wikipedia

A few weeks ago, I went to a pub that Jay’s friend opened in Brooklyn, and somewhere around the third or fourth Guinness we decided to have a beef & stout pie. It was just a simple little pub with no kitchen, so the pie was an instant microwaveable one. But it gave me an idea: make your own, Marilla!  And at some point, in between then and now, I picked up this book, which conveniently had a recipe listed on the cover for beef & stout pies. SCORE.


How perfect is that?

Anyway, I decided I’d give ‘em a try this week, and they turned out pretty amazing.

And quite easy, actually. In the opinion of the Irish (according to the book), the only stout suitable for cooking with beef is Guinness. If you have another stout you want to use, then so be it. I stick with Guinness for this kinda stuff though- it’s sweet, but not too sweet. Perfect for a stew.

IRISH BEEF & STOUT PIES

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. boneless chuck steak or eye of round steak, cut into 1″-inch pieces
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups meat stock
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 or 5 large carrots, peeled & sliced into “coins”
  • 4 or 5 medium/large potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 1 pound store-bought puff pastry or store-bought pie crust
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • vegetable oil, for frying

Directions:

  1. Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, then toss the (patted dry) beef in the mix until evenly coated.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the beef, in batches, and transfer to a flameproof casserole dish or dutch oven. Deglaze the skillet with 1/4 cup of the stock, and add the liquid to the casserole dish.
  3. Heat another 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet and cook the onion and carrots for 6-7 minutes or until onions are soft.  Add to the casserole dish with the tomato paste, thyme, stout, potatoes and remaining stock. Heat the casserole dish or oven over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then simmer gently with the lid slightly askew for around 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Check the seasoning, and add salt or pepper as needed. Drain the meat mixture in a strainer set over a large bowl. Reserve the liquid, letting rest until cool. Preheat the oven to 425° F and put a baking sheet in the oven to preheat.
  5. Divide the meat mixture among four individual pie plates or 5 -5 1/2″ ramekins. Pour in enough liquid to not quite cover the filling. Dampen the rims of the plates or ramekins with water.
  6. Cut your pastry into four pieces, each one large enough to cover the tops of the pies including a 1″ hangover.  Make holes in it or two or three slashes to allow air our and place them on top of the filling, pressing the edges down. I used a fork to push the dough onto the rim. Brush with egg yolk.
  7. Places the pies on a the preheated baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 400° F and bake for 5 more minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving so no one burns a tongue!

It isn’t the most attractive looking meal, but trust me. It’s way better than it looks! Potatoes, beer, beef, carrots… how can that be bad!?

If you wish, you can lessen the amount of carrots & potatoes, but add in some cremini mushrooms (just the caps, quartered- no stems). I’m not a big mushroom lover. I left them out. If you do choose to add mushrooms, add them with the onions and carrots in step 3. Also, I used frozen pie crust for the tops. Puff pastry will be puffier, obviously. You can also use homemade, if you’ve got a great recipe you like. For the sake of time I went with frozen. Sue me. 

I also made four ramekins, each one measures about 5″ across and 3 1/2″ high. I actually bought them at Pier 1 Imports, so here they are, the larger size. Vintage embroidered Irish linen napkins not included.

And that, my friends, is that. Serve with a hearty bread, or a bit of Irish soda bread, and a pint of Guinness! Or Harp. Or whatever. It doesn’t really matter what you pair it with, just so long as you enjoy yourself.

I hope you all have a happy & delicious St. Patrick’s Day!

Summertime… and the livin’s easy.

“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”
-Sylvia Plath

 

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Summer has pretty much all but flown by, hasn’t it? Seems like yesterday I posted a little group of pictures of the start of summer… & now all the Back-to-School stuff has infiltrated the stores & it seems as though summer is breathing its last breaths. Not only that, but we’ve been really getting pounded with rain, and when it’s a cool day combined with rain it seems far more like fall than summer. As far as I’m concerned, there’s plenty of summer left. But I don’t think many other people agree with me. Which sucks, actually, because I feel like I’m being forced to buy sweaters and trench coats and rain boots and I AM NOT READY FOR THAT. I’m still playing in the garden, enjoying the sunshine, wearing tank tops, cutoffs & flip flops. I won’t automatically shift into “fall mode” in late August and you can’t make me. It’s been raining a lot here lately, actually, and quite heavily. But despite the rain, it’s still warm, and I’m getting a little tired of emptying the water out of my fire pit and trying to keep my plants alive and standing. Oh, August rain. You can tell, though, that there’s a change in the air. The breeze is different, the sun patterns are different. Fall is coming.

However… those days when it’s still over 85° degrees with insane humidity and the sun is beating down on me brutally, I’m reminded that yes, it is indeed still summer. So I’m relishing it. Still having picnics & cook-outs on my insect plates!

;

But at this time of year I feel like a kid- you know how it is when you’re young, and when it’s still summer, and you’re inhaling the scent of chlorine off your skin, catching bugs in jars, staying up late & peeling the sunburned skin off your back… but everyone else (read: adults) seems to be talking about what textbooks you need, who ended up in Mrs. So-and-So’s class, why you need five 3-subject notebooks for Science and whether or not you read your summer reading books (I always did). There’s something to be said for the excitement of shopping for school supplies. The way you feel when you open that notebook and the first page is clean, unruffled and stark white, and it’s similar to the school year itself; right now, it’s a clean slate, anything can happen. It’s filled with promise and the first few weeks (and pages) are nice and smooth. Then it all goes to shit. By the end of the year, the notebook is dog-eared, frayed and probably has no cover left on it, not to mention is stained with almost every lunch you’ve eaten since at least November. Wait, I’m getting off track here. Anyway while there is something to be said for all that newness & excitement… let’s not forget though that the end of summer is officially September 21st, which means fall is technically a little less than one full month away.

There’s still a ton of summer left, true. Lots of beach days (although with no lifeguards), barbecues, warm nights sitting outside until it’s way late, enjoying the nice weather. But the date on the calendar means school starts very soon if it hasn’t already, & those last minute vacations are coming to an end. And most people mark the end of summer as Labor Day, so as summer itself “winds to a close,” it’s time to squeeze in all those summery recipes I didn’t make yet. I said this summer would be the summer of me making stuff I never made before… and that really didn’t go as planned. The summer switched rapidly between being swelteringly hot and torrentially rainy; like some kind of bizarre New York rainforest. So most of the time it was just too hot to cook, even when it rained. I wanted to make Miemo’s mama’s egg rolls, but it was too hot to fry anything! But this is definitely something I never made before that it wasn’t too hot to make: pickled shrimp.

Briny, faintly spicy pickled shrimp are a staple of Southern cuisine. In this Georgia-inspired version from from Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South (Clarkson Potter, 2011), frozen raw shrimp are a fine substitute for fresh. As Hugh notes in his comment below, if the shrimp remain covered with oil, they’ll last for “a good week in the fridge. The longer they sit in their pickle liquid, the picklier they get.”

This recipe first appeared in our October 2011 issue along with Wendell Brock’s book review “Sweet and Tart: A Southerly Course and A New Turn in the South.”

-Saveur

Old Bay Seasoning is something every household should have, at all times. It’s excellent on seafood, yes, but it’s also great for tons of other things: popcorn, french fries, hard-boiled eggs, corn-on-the-cob, etc. If you’ve never had it- get it. I guarantee you you’ll love it. It’s just a simple mix: paprika, mustard, celery seed, ground bay leaf, both black and red pepper, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, salt, mace and ginger. But it’s so good. And the little can is so vintage looking!

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PICKLED SHRIMP (directly from Saveur/Hugh Acheson, with my notes in Italics)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 lb. (26–30 count) medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I left the tails on)
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds (I didn’t crush them)
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice berries (I omitted them)
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped (I used a lot less, but mine was dried parsley)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 12 dried bay leaves
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise (I used a white onion)

Directions:

  1. Bring Old Bay and 8 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan; add shrimp, reduce heat to low, and cook until shrimp are pink, about 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to bowl of ice water to chill; drain again.
  2. Finely grind celery seeds and allspice in a spice grinder (I didn’t do this!); transfer to a bowl and stir in oil, juice, parsley, salt, chile flakes, garlic, and bay leaves. In a 1-qt. glass jar, layer shrimp and onions; pour over oil mixture. Cover with lid; chill overnight before serving.

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I hope that you don’t get turned off or stick your nose up at the idea of these. If you like shrimp, and you like a mildy tangy, briny flavor that pickled foods have, then you’ll love these. Plus… anything in olive oil is awesome, am I right? It’s actually the same principle as Ceviche de Camarones, the popular Latin version of a shrimp cocktail. They’re excellent as a side dish to grilled steak, grilled chicken, or even grilled fish. A perfect addition to your Labor Day festivities this weekend. And the oil can be used as a vinaigrette, not to mention if you let the jar come to room temperature & put some of the shrimp & oil over hot pasta, it’s kinda like a cheater’s version of shrimp scampi. You could use them in a kind of Southern taco, too. Roll up some flour tortillas and put some of these bad boys in there with some of the onions and a little lettuce. They’re relatively easy to make, and… they last for a week in the fridge! Just make sure they’re totally submerged & covered with oil at all times. And as with everything, when in doubt- throw it out! If it smells funkadelic or looks weird, toss it. But mine was in the fridge for about 9 days, and on the ninth day it was finally finished and nobody died. Yet. (I kid, I kid)

And yes, like it says above, you can use frozen shrimp. I did! I also left the tails on, obviously. Interactive food, guys, interactive food. Make people work for it. Side note: the oil might coagulate in the refrigerator. Mine actually didn’t fully coagulate for a couple of days, I suspect because of the addition of the lemon juice. But anyway, if you manage to keep them for longer than an evening and they coagulate, all you do is take the jar out a little ahead of time. This way it’ll come to room temperature, liquify & be fine to eat within 15-20 minutes.

“Flautas? You don’t even KNOW us!”

Haha. CORNY. At least I know when I’m being corny, and I admit it.

I love all things Mexican; Dia de los Muertos, sugar skulls, calaveras, catrinas, Frida Kahlo, pinatas, etc, etc. But I  am a Mexican food fanatic. I make a lot of it at home, but just basic Tex-Mex or Americanized-Mexican stuff: quesadillas, burritos, tacos, tortilla soup, tres leches cake, etc. So this post is about my adventures in making flautas. Flautas are basically the same as taquitos, except apparently taquitos are longer, and flautas are typically made with flour tortillas and taquitos are made with corn tortillas. Or something.

Taquito (from the Spanish diminutive of taco[1]), is a Mexican dish consisting of a small rolled-up tortilla and some type of filling, usually beef or chicken. The filled tortilla is crisp-fried. Corn (maize) tortillas are generally used to make taquitos. Flautas are similar to taquitos but generally made with flour tortillas.

There are many varieties of taquitos in different regions. Taquitos most often contain beef, chicken, and sometimes include cheese, pork, potato, or vegetables. They are generally thin and tend to be about 6 inches (15 cm) long. Potatoes are usually involved in the breakfast form of taquitos, which are thick and come with eggs. Taquitos are usually served with a type of salsa and/or guacamole.

In the United States, taquitos are very popular as a frozen food.[2][3] They are also sold by 7-Eleven[4] and QuikTrip[5] convenience stores in a variety of flavors, as well as established restaurants such as Chico’s Tacos.[6] Taco Bell began to sell steak and chicken taquitos in 2006. Taco Bell’s versions are wrapped in a flour tortilla and grilled, rather than fried.[7]

Crispy fried taquitos sold in Mexico are often called tacos dorados (“golden tacos”) or flautas (“flutes“). Typical toppings and sides include cabbage, crema (Mexican sour cream), guacamole, green chili or red chili salsa and crumbled Mexican cheese such as queso fresco.[8]

I got the recipe from the newest Food Network magazine, which just came in the mail last week. It sounded simple and delicious and what with the chicken, avocado, sour cream, cilantro and salsa (not to mention the frying!) I was a goner. Best part of it is you can use up leftover chicken, or just make some. You can add things to it (cheese, black beans, rice, jalapenos, etc) or take things away (I know not everyone loves avocado- you crazy people!). Or, you can make different sides for it like yellow rice or refried beans and rice.

I kept it simple: just chicken & salsa inside, with the avocado-lime-sour cream and salsa on the side, with some slices of avocado. I used corn tortillas, but the smaller ones, so instead of folding & rolling them up like mini-burritos, I just rolled ‘em up like cigars. They look like the crispy taquitos at The Cheesecake Factory, actually, now that I think about it. They would be fantastic over a bed of rice with black beans on the side, and they’d also be awesome for a summertime meal with just this avocado-cream (or even fresh guacamole), salsa, & fresh cilantro. Mmm. Fuhgeddaboudit.

The avocado-sour cream was AMAZING. Just make sure you buy avocados that are already ripe (needless to say). The flautas were really easy, but just a few tips: make sure your corn tortillas are really, really soft. Otherwise they’ll crack and break and you won’t be able to roll them. Follow the instructions on the package for heating them in the microwave, and let them go a few seconds longer. They should be pretty floppy and malleable. Also, angle the toothpicks. Don’t just stick ‘em in… they won’t sit evenly in the pan and they’ll fry unevenly. And wait for them to cool before attempting to remove the toothpicks. Sounds like common sense, but sometimes hunger overrides that! Making sure the tortillas are soft enough is very important. But if you mess up and few of them tear, don’t worry. Save them on the side and fry the torn up pieces later to make homemade tortilla chips.

I had a hard time getting the first few to stay rolled up, my tortillas weren’t soft enough and I just kinda stick the toothpicks in haphazardly. I learned after that though. Make sure your oil is hot enough too!  Otherwise they won’t brown & get crispy, they’ll just be soggy.

CHICKEN FLAUTAS

Ingredients:

  • 1 Hass avocado
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 limes (1 halved, 1 cut into wedges)
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 1 ½ cups fresh salsa
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:

  1. Scoop the avocado into a blender. Add the sour cream and the juice of ½ a lime, pulse until smooth. Season with salt.
  2. Squeeze the remaining ½ lime over the radishes in a small bowl and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt. Toss the chicken with ¾ cup salsa in a medium bowl.
  3. Wrap the tortillas in damp paper towels and microwave until soft, about 45 seconds (or a little longer, as needed). Spoon the chicken mixture down the middle of the tortillas. Fold in the ends and roll up like a burrito, secure with toothpicks.
  4. Heat ¾ inch vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until a deep fry thermometer registers 375° F. Fry the flautas, turning as needed, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with tongs; drain on paper towels and remove the toothpicks. Serve with the avocado cream, radishes, cilantro, lime wedges and remaining salsa.

I’ve been getting tons of inspiration from food magazines lately. No idea why. I’ve gone so long, or well, since October, without making much that I saw in any of my magazines. Now it seems every page is drawing me in. Maybe it’s the spring? Spring recipe fever? This is a great spring & summer meal. Use all those fresh herbs & veggies!

Needless to say I didn’t do the radishes thing, I’m not a big radish fan. However, I did put fresh cilantro in the flautas themselves as opposed to on top. If you’re going for a prettier presentation, lay them next to one another on a plate, spoon the salsa and avocado-cream on top, then the radishes and then top with the fresh cilantro. I basically just wanted to shove them in my mouth like a fatty, so presentation wasn’t a priority. Besides, like I said, food stylist I am not. My salsa was just jar salsa, which is lame I admit, but next time I’ll use fresh salsa or pico de gallo. Actually, I was really disappointed because I used Pace Thick & Chunky salsa… and it wasn’t so thick & chunky! BOO PACE! I had a Stop & Shop brand Southwestern salsa with corn & black beans in it that was bangin’… should’ve used that one. Pfft.

Side note, how much do you love that vintage poster!? I’m kinda obsessed with vintage travel posters & postcards, I’d love to have that full size!

Mmm. Bacon.

Last week, I spent an entire day doing gardening. I planted some of my herbs, dug out my flower beds, and did all some of the maintenance needed after a really harsh winter. Anyway, I was really tired when it came to dinner time. I had a hankering for macaroni & cheese, but I wanted something different. I had some hickory smoked bacon so I decided to make a bacon macaroni & cheese. Bacon gets a bad rap; people bitch because it’s fatty, salty, etc. But really there is nothing like a good crisp slice of real bacon. Plus, bacon may save your life. No shit, click that link.

Pig butcher diagram courtesy of osovo.com

Bacon is a cured meat prepared from a pig. It is first cured using large quantities of salt, either in a brine or in a dry packing; the result is fresh bacon (also known as green bacon). Fresh bacon may then be further dried for weeks or months in cold air, boiled, or smoked. Fresh and dried bacon must be cooked before eating. Boiled bacon is ready to eat, as is some smoked bacon, but may be cooked further before eating.

Bacon is prepared from several different cuts of meat. It is usually made from side and back cuts of pork, except in the United States, where it is almost always prepared from pork belly (typically referred to as “streaky”, “fatty”, or “American style” outside of the US and Canada). The side cut has more meat and less fat than the belly. Bacon may be prepared from either of two distinct back cuts: fatback, which is almost pure fat, and pork loin, which is very lean. Bacon-cured pork loin is known as back bacon.

Bacon may be eaten smoked, boiled, fried, baked, or grilled, or used as a minor ingredient to flavor dishes. Bacon is also used for barding and larding roasts, especially game birds. The word is derived from the Old High German bacho, meaning “buttock”, “ham” or “side of bacon”, and cognate with the Old French bacon.[1]

In continental Europe, this part of the pig is usually not smoked like bacon is in the United States; it is used primarily in cubes (lardons) as a cooking ingredient, valued both as a source of fat and for its flavor. In Italy, this is called pancetta and is usually cooked in small cubes or served uncooked and thinly sliced as part of an antipasto.

That diagram get you hungry? Haha. For those of you who do not like bacon, or prefer turkey bacon, or are vegetarian, I don’t know what to tell you. Sure, I guess you can substitute turkey bacon or fake bacon in this if it makes you happy/feel better. But I myself don’t abide by that, so I can’t help you.

Basically, as far as this recipe goes, I threw it together in no time and I thought I’d share my “recipe” with you. One of you might be looking for something new & different yet filling to make after a long day of hard work, too. That’s the awesome thing about macaroni & cheese; you don’t need a recipe! Once you get the hang of making a roux & a basic cheese sauce, you can totally wing it; make one without a recipe at all or personalize an already great macaroni & cheese recipe.

Well, I posted it for those reasons but also because I think Brianne would’ve killed me if I didn’t. And you do not want to mess with a pregnant woman. Ever.

ONION-Y BACON MACARONI & CHEESE

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. pasta of your choice (I used mini-rigatoni, but elbows, pipette, gemelli, cavatappi or ziti work too… whatever you like!)
  • 1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus an extra ½ cup set aside
  • 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ lb. hickory smoked bacon, cooked until crisp and then crumbled when cool (either by frying or baking in the oven)
  • 1 cup Italian flavored panko breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to a small saucepan and melt. Add the breadcrumbs and cook until just toasted. Set aside.
  2. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly puffy and bubbly on the edges. Add the cayenne, the garlic powder, the onion powder and salt/pepper and whisk. Add milk, and cook, again whisking constantly until slightly thickened. Turn off heat, and remove pan from hot burner.
  3. Add the cheese to the milk mixture slowly, by the ½ cup, stirring constantly to make sure it’s evenly distributed and melts evenly. When melted (or mostly melted), add the crumbled bacon and stir until evenly mixed.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions for al dente in a large pot of salted, boiling water with a drizzle of vegetable oil. Drain, but do not rinse. Return the pasta to the large pot and mix the cheese/bacon sauce in with it, making sure to cover all the pasta.
  5. Add the pasta & sauce to a casserole dish that has been sprayed with PAM. Sprinkle the ½ cup of reserved cheddar on top, and then the breadcrumbs on top of that and bake until bubbly, about 30-35 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Serve & enjoy!

I wanted the onion & garlic taste to be really subtle. For a bigger onion flavor, caramelize some finely chopped onions in the bacon fat after you remove the bacon, then add that to the cheese sauce with the bacon. If you like a lot of garlic too, then add some minced garlic to the bacon fat as well. Once they’re cooked, remember to drain them and not add all that fat to the dish! Oh, also… I didn’t pre-toast my panko, which I suggest you do (I wrote it in the recipe) because it would make the topping crunchier & darker. Eh. Coulda, shoulda , woulda! Live & learn. I didn’t complain, neither did anyone else- there wasn’t even enough left in the pan to save for leftovers.

And I leave you with this.

Yes.


Jive turkey.

I have a confession to make, and it will probably seem weird. This is the first time I ever ate turkey in any other capacity than the sliced off pieces coming from the breast of a whole bird that was cooked on Christmas or Thanksgiving. *insert gasping sound here*

I have never eaten turkey bacon (it amounts to BLASPHEMY in my eyes), never eaten turkey sausage (I don’t like sausage anyway), never had a turkey burger (gross) and never had ground turkey. For serious. Yes, it’s better for you than ground beef. Yes, ground beef is the devil, red meat gives you high cholesterol and slowly kills you by hardening your once supple veins and filling them with a substance that looks like insulation foam. I get it. But really, I don’t like “substitutions.” As Rose Levy-Berenbaum says in her books- (I’m paraphrasing), use real ingredients, real good quality butter, just eat less of the finished product. Sure, her references are to baking, but the same can be applied to food. No one needs to eat an entire cake every day, just as no one needs to eat 2 hamburgers a day, or a steak every day, etc. Everything in moderation is key, and that’s what I live by. If I want a hamburger it’s not going to be a turkey burger or veggie burger. It’s going to be made of cow. Same thing with bacon; bacon is made from pigs, and that’s what makes it taste like bacon. I’ve said this before, but I hate substitutions and fake food. Yes, I drink Coke Zero & I won’t act as if that’s the best thing I could imbibe, however when it comes to my food I want the real thing. I don’t pretend cauliflower is potatoes nor would I use it in macaroni & cheese as a “thickener”, I don’t use margarine instead of sweet cream butter and I sure as hell don’t substitute poultry for meat. When I make chicken, it’s actually chicken and when I make beef it’s actual beef. I rarely eat meat myself, it’s practically a once every other month event, so I don’t see this as a problem.

However… Sometimes I see recipes and they intrigue me. Like this one. I saw it in the January/February issue of the Food Network magazine. It happened to be the cover recipe; spaghetti & turkey meatballs. It looked really good, and I dog-eared the page so I remembered to try it. Then in true form, forgot all about it. But I was recently rifling through my huge collection of old Gourmet‘s, Bon Appétits and Food Network magazines and I saw the cover of that issue and BAM- it dawned on me I never made it! I tore it out and decided I’d make a trip to the supermarket, get the turkey and make it that night.

Yeah, I’m not a food stylist, dude. It tasted good. I’m better with cupcakes.

This…

They weren’t bad at all. Okay, fine, they were delicious. I will say this: it’s much lighter tasting than regular meatballs. It’s good for this time of year when it’s warming up and you want to start eating lighter yet still substantial food. It was hearty, but not overwhelming, nor did it induce that “I’m so full I’m going to throw up” feeling. I thought they were very good, but again, if you’re looking for the taste of red meat use red meat. And if that is what you want, then lucky for you I have a recipe for that too. I’d make them again, yeah, but I prefer the red meat kind. And even then, I ain’t much of a meatball girl. I’m a chicken cutlet chick.

I like chunks of tomato and I don’t mind a thin sauce, so I didn’t crush ‘em that much. If you like a smoother, thicker sauce by all means, do you. You could also use canned sauce if you’re lazy. That picture kind of looks like the cover of a death metal CD, which is appropriate considering Jay just recently became the newest member & bassist of Internal Bleeding. Yes. My Jay. That Jay. He’ll be famous like I am *wink* Hey! Maybe they can use my turkey meatballs for an album cover, or a song, or something. Haha. Brutal Death Metal Turkeyballs, maybe that’s what they should be called.

Eh, might not be exactly what they’re looking for. Oh well. But that picture right there is proof positive that you can take a photo of almost any kind of meat & tomatoes and adjust the contrast, and when you put a font like that over it, you’ve got a DM album.

SPAGHETTI WITH TURKEY MEATBALLS

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic (4 smashed, 1 minced)
  • 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 small piece parmesan rind, optional
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • ¾ pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 slice stale whole-wheat bread, crust trimmed, bread chopped
  • ¼ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juice, 2 cups water, ¼ cup basil, the parmesan rind (if using) and salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 8 minutes. Discard the parmesan rind, if used.
  2. Chop the remaining ¼ cup basil, then mix with the turkey, parsley, bread, ricotta, parmesan, egg white, minced garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl using your hands. Form into 4 large or 12 small meatballs; add to the sauce and simmer, turning, until cooked through, 6 minutes for small meatballs and 12 minutes for large.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Toss with some of the sauce, then divide among bowls. Top the spaghetti with the meatballs, remaining sauce and more parsley and parmesan.

Basically I used a pound of whole-wheat pasta and a little over a pound of turkey, then altered the ingredients to make the meatballs the consistency I needed. I didn’t see the need to reduce the meat and pasta by a few ounces, especially for big eaters like us. I also used regular bread crumbs for the meatballs, about a little over a cup. I used a mix of Italian flavored panko and regular bread crumbs. I used whole milk ricotta because that’s what I have in my house; I refuse to use fat free or low fat cheese. It doesn’t melt as well nor hold up as well to me as the regular kind. But again, do as you will.

It tasted a lot better than the above picture looks! This one is a better representation, for sure. Maybe it’s the parmesan?

It was such a beautiful day when I was making this, I had the window open and the sun was shining. Perfect early spring day, and I was so excited for planting my garden (getting some fresh tomatoes!) & seeing some flowers. The next day it promptly turned gray, cloudy, & poured rain. Gotta love spring in NY! However the good thing about rainy days is looking through all those old magazines. And soon I’ll have yet another- I recently subscribed to Everyday Food.

Anyone have any ideas for storing magazines?

Cheesy, kinda Irish & loaded with alcohol.

No, not me. This recipe.

This is the perfect St. Patrick’s Day recipe, and I’ve been dying to try it for so long. I like making macaroni & cheese in the fall & winter, and I’ve been putting off making this because I wanted to make it for this holiday. So it’s been waiting for this moment for 3 years. Literally. Since I saw it on the Food Network‘s Ultimate Recipe Showdown, I’ve had it printed out and waiting (that and the French Onion Soup Mac & Cheese I’ve been promising to make for Jay). The problem with me is that when I have beer in the house, I drink it, so it rarely ends up in the food. I love beer, especially stouts & lagers. What can I say, I’m mostly Irish, part German, & part Polish (among other things) – all of which are known for having hollow legs.

Speaking of ‘Black & Tans’, they aren’t an Irish concept. As a matter of fact, like most watered-down so-called “Irish” traditions, they’re rarely consumed in Ireland.

Black and Tan is a drink made from a blend of pale ale, usually Bass Pale Ale, and a dark beer such as a stout or porter, most often Guinness. Sometimes a pale lager is used instead of ale; this is usually called a half and half. Contrary to popular belief, however, Black and Tan as a mixture of two beers is not a drink commonly consumed in Ireland. Indeed, the drink has image problems in parts of Ireland and elsewhere due to the association with the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force which was sent into Ireland in the early 1920s and nicknamed the Black and Tans.[1][2]

Far be it from me to insult anyone (like Ben & Jerry’s apparently did) by making a dish with such a name. But I didn’t invent it, or create it. I just made the recipe. Don’t shoot the messenger.

This recipe is easy, despite having lots of ingredients & steps. It doesn’t even bake in the oven, so it takes less time than most mac-n-cheese recipes. For someone like me who hates corned beef & cabbage, the traditional St. Pat’s dinner, it would be the perfect meal to make on the 17th.

BLACK & TAN IRISH MAC-N-CHEDDAR

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 24 ounces lager beer
  • 16 ounces rustic shaped pasta (I used decidedly un-Irish mini-rigatoni)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 5 tablespoons lightly salted quality Irish butter
  • 2 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup stout beer
  • 3 ounces shredded smoked Gruyere
  • 8 ounces shredded Irish Cheddar
  • ½ cup bread crumbs, Japanese panko, or fresh country white
  • ½ cup crisp cooked apple wood or maple bacon crumbles
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves or several sage leaves for garnish (OPTIONAL)

Directions:

  1. Place water and lager beer into a 4 ½ quart or larger saucepan over high heat and bring to boil, add pasta and cook until just al dente. Drain and keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile in 3 quart saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the milk, half-and-half, and evaporated milk just to a boil, keep hot. In a 4 quart saucepan, over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and stir in flour until it begins to color slightly, whisk in hot milk, mustard, salt, cayenne, and stout, and bring to a strong simmer. Reduce heat to low and stir in cheeses until melted. Place pasta into serving dish and pour the cheese sauce over the pasta.
  3. Place remaining butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and stir in bread crumbs, stir until golden brown, stir in bacon crumbles. Spread mixture over top of macaroni. Garnish with cilantro or sage leaves.

Okay so I used Harp lager and Guinness stout for this recipe, but any stout and any lager will do, as long as they aren’t flavored with anything fancy. No chocolate stouts. Just plain old Guinness and Harp are excellent; good, hearty, Irish alcohols. I recommend good quality beer for this- don’t use PBR or Natural Ice or something, please. I’d also recommend buying or making some black & tans to drink with it. Although you can definitely taste the beer in the recipe itself, it’s more fun that way.

I have to say this recipe was amazing. The bacon was a great addition to macaroni & cheese that I’d never done before, despite being the macaroni & cheese queen. And you don’t taste the cayenne- it is not overwhelming. So don’t be afraid to use it. If you can’t find Irish butter or Irish cheddar, you can use regular salted butter and regular sharp cheddar cheese. I made my panko crumbs extra crispy along with the bacon, ’cause that’s how I like it. The bacon, of course, isn’t 100% necessary. But I’d use it if I were you.

Arwyn, my little black Irish imp, wanted to say hi. Hi!

Delicious, even if you aren’t a shepherd.

Back when I was a kid, certain foods terrified me. Pot pies, shepherd’s pies, chicken stuffed with anything; those are just a few of the food items I ran from screaming. My parents loved shepherd’s pie. Everytime they’d order it, I’d cringe & order my requisite burger, fries and mozzarella sticks. Since I’ve grown up, I have a different take on them. Especially since now I can make them myself, and customize what goes into them. I’d say things have changed.

I love potatoes and onions and veggies, and of course, I’ve always loved cheese. I’m not a huge red meat fan nowadays, but when combined with the aforementioned things, I can dig it. And shepherd’s pie is exactly the kind of thing that combines all of those lovely foods and also sticks to your ribs on a night when there’s still a foot of snow on the ground. It’s the perfect time to get fat and eat warm, hearty food. Shepherd’s pie is a traditional meat & potato casserole that is technically shepherd’s pie only when made with lamb, otherwise it’s cottage pie, although nowadays they seem to be synonymous.

The English tradition of meat pies dates back to the Middle ages. Game pie, pot pie and mutton pie were popular and served in pastry “coffyns.” These pies were cooked for hours in a slow oven, and topped with rich aspic jelly and other sweet spices. The eating of “hote [meat] pies” is mentioned in Piers Plowman, and English poem written in the 14th Century. (Cooking of the British Isles, Adrian Bailey, pages 156-7) The Elizabethans favored minced pies. “A typical Elizabethan recipe ran: Shred your meat (mutton or beef) and suet together fine. Season it with cloves, mace, pepper and some saffron, great raisins and prunes…”

The key to dating Shepherd’s pie is the introduction (and acceptance) of potatoes in England. Potatoes are a new world food. They were first introduced to Europe in 1520 by the Spanish. Potatoes did not appeal to the British palate until the 18th Century. (Foods America Gave the World, A. Hyatt Verrill, page 28). Shepherd’s Pie, a dish of minced meat (usually lamb, when made with beef it is called “Cottage Pie”) topped with mashed potatoes was probably invented sometime in the 18th Century by frugal peasant housewives looking for creative ways to serve leftover meat to their families. It is generally agreed that it originated in the north of England and Scotland where there are large numbers of sheep–hence the name. The actual phrase “Shepherd’s Pie” dates back to the 1870s, when mincing machines made the shredding of meat easy and popular.”

– Courtesy foodtimeline.org

This isn’t the first shepherd’s pie I’ve made, I made one last year with Guinness that was so delicious I couldn’t imagine anything topping it. However I was stuck indoors with no desire to leave to buy stout or gravy mix, so I opted to make a simpler and quicker version. I omitted the Guinness, the tomato paste and the gravy mix; however I kept the cheese idea. This time I use sharp cheddar and I mixed the cheese in with the mashed potatoes before topping the beef. Also, I didn’t peel the potatoes. I like the rustic look of the skin mixed in, besides the fact potato skins are good for you!

Potato skins store many nutrients and also contain a lot of fiber, which is essential for a healthy diet. Leaving the potato skins on also helps preserve the nutrients in the flesh of the potato, which have a tendency to escape during cooking. Based on a 2000 calorie diet, a large baked potato, including the skin, has 278 calories. Only 3 of these calories are from fat. A baked potato contains only 1% of the fat allowance considered as part of a healthy diet, with 0% of this being saturated fat.

The potato, as well as the skin, is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. Potatoes and potato skins contain 18% of the recommended daily allowance of iron and 7.5 grams of protein, which is rarely found in vegetables in such high concentrations. Potato skins also contain a variety of phytonutrients, which are a natural source of antioxidants that help to prevent cellular deterioration of the body. The phytonutrients found in potatoes include carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid.

Potatoes are classified as a tuber, meaning bulb or root, and contain a protein called patatin specific to these types of vegetables. Patatin also works as an effective antioxidant and helps to lower blood pressure. Potato skins may even help to provide protection against heart disease and cancer.

The result? An excellent dish. You would think mashing the potatoes is difficult, but it’s not. Nor is it time consuming. It comes together very easily and quickly. Even if you think you don’t have time, you should try it. You’d be surprised at how easy it is. Like instant pudding, instant mashed potatoes are one of those things that make me scratch my head. Is it really that bad to boil & mash a few potatoes? No. Not at all.

SUPER EASY SHEPHERD’S PIE

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ lbs ground round beef
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1-2 cups vegetables – chopped carrots, corn, peas, green beans (I used a half bag of frozen mixed veggies plus some extra sliced carrots)
  • 1 ½ – 2 lbs potatoes (3 big ones)
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1 stick)
  • 1-3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (depending on taste, I like more)
  • Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Wash and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes).
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, melt 4 tablespoons butter (½ a stick) in large frying pan.
  3. Sauté onions in butter until tender over medium heat (10 mins). If you are adding vegetables, add them according to cooking time. Put any carrots in with the onions. Add corn or peas either at the end of the cooking of the onions, or after the meat has initially cooked.
  4. Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add salt and pepper. Add worcestershire sauce. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes.
  5. Take out potatoes and mash them in bowl with remainder of butter, plus ¼ cup heavy cream. Add cheddar and combine thoroughly. Season to taste.
  6. Place beef, veggies and onions in greased baking dish. Distribute mashed potatoes on top. Rough up with a fork so that there are peaks that will brown nicely. You can use the fork to make some designs in the potatoes as well.
  7. Cook in 400 degree oven until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minutes if necessary to brown.

So while it won’t replace the Guinness shepherd’s pie, it’s an excellent alternative for the nights when there’s no Guinness to be had. A mouth-watering alternative. One that I had three helpings of.

You can use any kind of potatoes you like; Yukon gold, Jersey Royal, Rooster, Red Pontiac, etc. I used Russet. And if you’re really philosophically opposed to mashing your own, use Ore-Ida’s Steam n’ Mash. They’re the closest thing to real mashed potatoes you can get. And yes, you can use ground turkey. I’m not a fan of it, so I stick to good quality organic ground beef. But to each his own! I don’t ever eat red meat, so when I do it’s not a big deal to me. If you eat it often or have high cholesterol, etc, use fat free cheese and ground turkey, and sauté the onions in olive oil instead of butter. Although I wouldn’t skimp on using real butter for the mashed potatoes. Smart Balance or margarine just doesn’t work as well, although maybe a butter substitute made with olive oil would work better. If you like your shepherd’s pie more liquid-y, you can add ½ cup beef broth (or chicken broth) to the cooking meat to add more “sauce.” I like mine moist, but dry enough that it holds its shape somewhat well, so I didn’t use it, and I found it was plenty moist.

The best thing to happen to me so far “this year” is seeing American Idiot on Broadway with Jay back on January 1st. It was fucking awesome, Billie Joe Armstrong is in it for a limited engagement playing St. Jimmy. I also saw Tom Hulce (a producer of the show & the actor who played Mozart in Amadeus) at the performance, although I didn’t know it was him (I was behind him) & basically told him to get out of the aisle & sit down. Haha. Oops. My big mouth hasn’t gotten any better in the new year. Add that to a delicious dinner at Robert Emmett’s (who, by the way, serve what looks like a dynamite shepherd’s pie)… perfect. So I know it’s only a been a week, but how is everyone doing so far with their resolutions for 2011? I didn’t make any, I never do. But I have changed a lot since 2010. See? (Not really.)

The worst part? The stomach virus I’ve been battling since 2010 (okay, only since December 30, 2010… but still). It finally seems to have gone away, leaving me weighing less. Which might be good for some, but not for me. Looks like I’ll be eating double to get back up to my normal weight so my favorite jeans fit right again. More shepherd’s pie, anyone?

She’s a lady… whoa, whoa, whoa.

Before I start rhapsodizing about cheese-covered macaroni, I want to give you all a heads up. Yoyo gave me a widget specially for all you Cupcake Rehab readers (it’s over there to the right, below the ads). Using the code ‘CUPCAKEREHAB’ is good for 20% off all her merchandise! I know, right? And ’tis the season for buying presents; especially handmade presents, because I think giving someone you love something that is made with love is always more special than a gift card. Although I do love me some gift cards. Anyway get your butts over there and buy some stuff, get 20% off, and be jolly. Ho, ho, ho.

Oh, macaroni & cheese. How I love thee. I have made so many variations of macaroni & cheese, it’s kind of crazy. Well no, not kind of, it really is. I’ve made buffalo chicken macaroni & cheese, garlic & herb macaroni & cheese, macaroni & cheese with cayenne, three cheese mac-n-cheese, mac-n-cheese with broccoli, plus a version of Ina Garten’s macaroni & cheese. But it’s one of my favorite foods, so I can’t really help it. And of course, it’s perfect comfort food for chilly weather- or downright cold weather. And despite making so many different kinds and variations, I have never made a Paula Deen recipe. INSANITY! So in my search for another recipe I happened upon this. If you didn’t know, Paula’s restaurant is called Lady & Sons, so of course her macaroni & cheese is called “The Lady’s Mac-n-Cheese.” The Lady does some things differently than I, so I tweaked it a bit. The original recipe can be found here.

Om nom nom nom…

Before I get to that, though, I want to talk about a new product I tried recently. You may have seen the commercials for it on television: Kraft Homestyle Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese. The premise of this is that it’s oven-baked, or rather, it can be… and it’s topped with bread crumbs. I was intrigued, and being a mac-n-cheese addict decided to try it. I bought the “Four-Cheese” variety; made with “Parmesan, Colby, Asagio and Cheddar.” I paid about $3.29 for one 12.6 ounce package. I planned on feeding three people with it, and it said it held 4 servings, so I went with it. Well… no. It doesn’t quite feed three adults, so forget about it if you have kids. Maybe two people could eat one package and be satisfied. The taste? Not bad. I’ve had way worse (namely, the original Kraft macaroni & cheese in the rectangular box with the orange powder) but really, I’ve also had way better. As a matter of fact, I’d rather eat straight up Velveeta shells & cheese instead of this; at least that way I know what I’m getting and don’t expect anything crazy. They went with a cream sauce plus powder seasoning mixture for this new “homestyle” venture, I guess that’s better than all powdered, although I must say Target has an Archer Farms macaroni & cheese that’s really way more delicious than this, and its made with just a powder. It’s a five-cheese kind and it too has a breadcrumb topping, only it’s seasoned. I’d much rather make that. I didn’t get a “four-cheese” taste from the Kraft, whereas with the Archer Farms one you could really taste all the different cheeses (I used to mix a pound of cavatappi with the pasta that comes with it to make more, and add some white cheddar to the sauce mix, way before I started to make homemade). They do have it in a lunch-bowl size as well.

My suggestion? Make homemade. It’s always better for you, even just based on the lack of preservatives, etc. Plus, you can personalize it from start to finish and make the right amount that you need. The Kraft wasn’t terrible, but I probably wouldn’t buy it again- I much prefer homemade. But if you’re really short on time, it’s okay in a pinch, or good to have in the house as a “just in case” option for dinner. Just buy two if you’ve got a family bigger than 2 (or teenagers in the house) and make sure you doctor it up by adding your own cheese. And if you really want a tasty powdered-in-a-box macaroni & cheese dinner, buy this one. Add a lb. of cavatappi to the pasta they give you, add a little white cheddar to the sauce mix, and you’ll make plenty, plus leftovers. But I really think homemade is the best way to go.

And on that note… here’s some really delicious macaroni & cheese for you… homemade, no powder.

THE LADY’S MAC-N-CHEESE (modified slightly by yours truly)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb cooked pasta, cooked al dente and drained (I used pipette, but elbows are okay, so is pretty much any kind you like)
  • 3 cups grated Cheddar, plus 1 cup for topping
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Once you have the macaroni cooked and drained, place in a large bowl and while still hot and add the cheddar.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and add to the macaroni mixture. Mix thoroughly until all pasta is covered. Pour macaroni mixture into a casserole dish, top with 1 cup cheddar and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

I prefer to use sharp cheddar, but a mix of mild and sharp would work too. So this version was a bit unorthodox (for me); I’ve never made a macaroni & cheese with eggs before, but it really just melted in your mouth. It reminded me of the homemade macaroni & cheese my mom used to make when I was a kid, with the cheese bubbly & browned on top. A lot of people have had problems with the egg, they say it scrambles and that the mixture isn’t creamy. I had no problems, and I added the egg mixture directly to hot pasta right out of the pot, but I also added heavy cream to mine, so maybe that made it a bit creamier? I didn’t find it to be overly “eggy” but again, I tweaked the recipe. The recipe isn’t the creamiest, really, but it’s different. I like different. Although, even though it’s different… it is just straight up mac-n-cheese. There aren’t any other flavors going on, nothing fancy. But god, is it good.

What I did was I mixed the beaten eggs with the sour cream, milk and heavy cream. I cut the butter into very small pieces, then mixed that in as well. I let it sit while the pasta cooked (8 minutes according to my pasta box/brand), and then as soon as I drained the pasta I mixed it together with the cheese. Then I mixed in the egg mixture and made sure it was thoroughly combined, so all the pasta was covered. I don’t know if how I did it made a difference, or if it was just my tweaking, but I found it to be delicious, and so did anyone else who ate it.

And the best thing about it is not only is it amazing the first time around.. but even better fried. Mainly because it’s a great idea for using up the leftover macaroni & cheese, but also because fried mac-n-cheese is one of the best things on earth. In September I went to Chip Shop in Brooklyn with Jay & some friends of ours. You may know them from the Food Network & Travel Channel specials they’ve been featured on. Anyway we went there and we indulged in some lovely fish & chips, but more importantly some fried Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, fried Twix bars, fried pizza and fried cheesecake. We didn’t get to try the fried macaroni & cheese (or fried Twinkies) but really, it was an amazing experience. Believe it or not, we didn’t even feel gross after eating that much fried food… the batter isn’t disgustingly heavy or greasy. So if anyone out there is near Brooklyn, I highly suggest Chip Shop. They’re gods.  But if you can’t get there… try some of this…

THE LADY’S FRIED MAC-N-CHEESE

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe “The Lady’s Mac-n-Cheese” prepared, chilled in the refrigerator overnight, and cut into 15 squares, recipe follows
  • 1 pound bacon (optional)
  • All-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Plain bread crumbs
  • Peanut oil, for frying

Directions:

  1. Heat peanut oil to 350 degrees F.
  2. Wrap each square of cheesy mac with 1 strip of bacon, and fasten with toothpick. Dredge each square in flour then egg and then bread crumbs to coat. Fry for about 3 minutes until golden brown.

Yeah. Holy shit. That’s all I can say.

There are TONS of macaroni & cheese recipes out there. So don’t be surprised if this isn’t the last one you see here. I want to try them all! This is an excellent Thanksgiving mac-n-cheese recipe- I’m definitely making it again on Thursday myself. It comes together easy, no roux, no flour, and yet it’s so delicious. Real stick-to-your-ribs food.

And if you’ve got a problem with the calorie count of this… I’ll quote my girl Paula: “I’m your cook, not your doctor.”

All gone *sad face*


The second round: chive risotto cakes.

Yeah so I made these quite a while ago, over a year, and it was kind of a disaster. Not that they weren’t tasty; they were. But they fell apart, weren’t crispy enough and were basically flat, sad little soft disks of cheese, rice & panko. They’re an Ina Garten recipe and I’ve never, ever, EVER had any issues with her recipes. However this one was my fault. I fucked it up. Embarrassingly so. And that, my friends, is why I’m doing a second round. I must conquer the chive risotto cake.

the first time, I used the wrong yogurt, which definitely contributed to the mess. Greek yogurt in these is a MUST- it’s so thick it really keeps everything together. DO NOT USE YOGURT THAT ISN’T GREEK BUT CLAIMS TO BE ” EXTRA THICK.” It’s not. Use Greek. Not Icelandic, not American, not French, not Mexican, not Yoplait… GREEK. Also, I did not leave them to chill in the fridge long enough. On top of the “wrong-yogurt” debacle, I also couldn’t control my impatient self and of course, didn’t wait “at least two hours.” I know, I’m groaning too. I’m a fool. But I’m going to redeem myself with this post today. Because these came out so perfect, Ina herself would gasp in delight.

See? Gasp-worthy.

CHIVE RISOTTO CAKES

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • 1 ½ cups grated Italian fontina cheese (5 ounces)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
  • Good olive oil

Directions:

  1. Bring a large (4-quart) pot of water to a boil over medium-low heat and add ½ tablespoon salt and the Arborio rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The grains of rice will be quite soft. Drain the rice in a sieve and run under cold water until cool. Drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, chives, fontina, 1 ¼ teaspoons of salt, and the pepper in a medium bowl. Add the cooled rice and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, until firm.
  3. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  4. Spread the panko in a shallow dish. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Form balls of the rice mixture using a standard (2 ¼-inch) ice-cream scoop or a large spoon. Pat the balls into patties 3 inches in diameter and ¾-inch thick. Place 4 to 6 patties in the panko, turning once to coat. Place the patties in the hot oil and cook, turning once, for about 3 minutes on each side until the risotto cakes are crisp and nicely browned.
  5. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Continue cooking in batches, adding oil as necessary, until all the cakes are fried. Arrange on a serving platter and serve hot.

As far as the fontina, you can use any pale-colored cheese you like. I used white cheddar both times because I love it. But if you love fontina, then use it. I used chives from my own garden this time, and I can’t tell you that made much of a difference in flavor, although I added more because last time I skimped, so it did have a better chive flavor. And it was certainly convenient to just run outside my back door with a pair of scissors and snip off a bunch, unlike last time when I had to go to the store to buy some. I won’t tell you that the olive oil isn’t important, it is, if you use a shitty one the flavor isn’t going to be as nice. Sometimes cheap olive oil has a weird flavor to it. Stick with a good brand name for frying these. Also, I like to use the Italian flavored panko, but that’s up to you.

Mine stayed in the fridge for about 5 ½ hours this time before I fried them. The difference was amazing. They molded perfectly, stuck together, didn’t fall apart even in the frying pan. They came out exactly right; crispy, crunchy outside and a creamy inside. Yum. That parsley garnish is also from my garden. My parsley is crazy-go-nuts, seriously. It’s like a shrub.

So let’s go over the “DON’TS” of this recipe one more time:

  1. DON’T use any yogurt other than plain Greek yogurt.
  2. DON’T be impatient: let it sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  3. DON’T use breadcrumbs other than panko.
  4. DON’T use regular rice!!!!! THIS IS A BIG NO-NO. Arborio only!

Like I said last time, these are a great light dinner item and an even better lunch item. Served with a fresh salad? Perfect. Despite the cheese and the yogurt and the eggs, they’re very light tasting. Not overly greasy or heavy, but full of flavor.

The grilled pizza experience.

Everyone loves grilling in the summer. And even though it’s the end of August, as far as I’m concerned there’s a lot of life left in summer & the grill. Along with the love of grilling, I have a love for pizza. It’s obvious to anyone who reads this blog even fairly regularly that I like to make (and eat) pizza. I have a gazillion different pizza dough recipes on here, all of them delicious in their own right. And here’s another!

This recipe isn’t mine, but it happens to be Joe & Jill Bidens’. Yes. The Vice President, Joe Biden. That guy. You know him? Yeah, apparently he’s got a mean grilled pizza recipe. It was in the September issue of the Food Network magazine, and I had been wanting to try grilling up some pizza, so really it was perfect timing. And the day I chose to make it was a beautiful day, sun was shining and no humidity. Lovely day for eating outside.

This dough requires not only a stand mixer, but an overnight resting period. If you don’t have a stand mixer/dough hook, you’re not into that or want to make this on the fly, check out this recipe for dough. It doesn’t require anything more than your hands and 10 minutes of resting and you can be on your way to grilled pizza paradise. This recipe also doesn’t have to make 6 pizzas, just make yours a bit thicker. Or you can refrigerate the dough for another day, or use it to make rosemary focaccia on the grill another time. I definitely plan on doing that. You’ll also probably have sauce left over, but it would be delicious on pasta too.

THE BIDENS’ GRILLED PIZZAS

Ingredients:

For the dough:
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼-ounce packet active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil,  plus more for the bowl
For the toppings:
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced and drained
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Make the dough: Put 1 ½ cups warm water (110° to 115°) in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Whisk the flour, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a separate bowl, then add to the yeast mixture along with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together and look smooth, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium low and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, 4 to 6 more minutes (it should stretch 3 inches without breaking). Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Let rise in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Lightly press down on the dough, then divide into 6 balls. Put on baking sheet, cover and refrigerate until ready to grill.
  3. Meanwhile make the toppings: Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook about 3-5 minutes. Crush the tomatoes with your hands; add the juices. Rinse the can with 1 cup water and add to the pot. Add a handful of basil and season with salt & pepper. Increase the heat to medium and simmer until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly.
  4. Preheat one side of the grill to high, the other to medium. Brush 2 baking sheets with olive oil; stretch the dough balls into thin ovals (about 8 x11″) on the sheets. Brush the tops of the dough with more oil.
  5. Working batches, grill the dough over high heat until bubbly on top and marked on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the dough onto the cooler side of the grill. Quickly top with sauce & cheese. Cover until cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Transfer pizza to a cutting board, sprinkle with parmesan and remaining basil leaves. Serve!

Okay this was easily one of the best pizzas I ever had. Hands down. It’s a must-try for all of you. And yes, it can be done on a charcoal grill too, just keep an eye on it, it might very well cook faster because it’s unregulated heat. And the sauce? The sauce is fantastic.

As childish as it may sound, I’d be lying if I said a part of me wasn’t secretly filled with glee that I voted for his ticket in the 2008 election, and now I find out his pizza rocks. It was like a replay of my Clinton’s Chips all over again. I wonder if I could make those on the grill…