Thursday, August 28, 2014

Balsamic Cream Sauce

Strictly speaking the sauce is pictured here.
That said, this is what we are actually cooking today.

So I was on the fence if this would actually be blog worthy. I mean I cook something most everyday. But I am not going to post every time I boil a bit of pasta or get my Shake 'n Bake on. I am sure Shakespeare wrote thank you notes or letters about Hamnet's first word. Does not mean anyone wants to read it.
 
This recipe started as most of my biggest failures start: left over ingredients. I had a large amount of cream left over from the honey butter sauce. I had half a left over red onion from the wifey making guacamole. I had some left over butter noodles from something or another. A few Google searches later, I had this recipe too. But it was just to get rid of left overs, so I had no expectations.
 
Then I made it: cream of cromulent*, reduction of radiance, essence of ecstasy. This was good.
 
Resources:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 red onion, finely minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
 
Method:
Heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat (or low if you have a hot stove like me). Stir in the onion, and cook about 15 minutes until very tender.
 
Stir in the balsamic vinegar, and cook for 1 minute before stirring in the chicken bouillon and cream. Crush the cubes to mix better.
 
Pause** as necessary.
 
Increase heat to medium. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat, and stir in the parmesan cheese a little at a time until melted.

Commentary:
So this is not exactly what I would call a healthy meal. Butter, oil, and cream: three ways to die happy... and early.

I seem to remember my doctor suggesting I eat more fatty foods.
Or was that less... whatever.
 
Well now we have a vegetable, so that makes it healthy right?
I got the impression the original recipe was shooting for yellow or white onions. I went red and will never look back.

I wanted those onions to be very soft hence the finely minced and cook time. I did not want to really be aware of them as I ate them.
 
The recipe originally called for two teaspoons of bouillon granules. I only have cubes.

It might be nice to have something to serve the sauce with. I went with some chicken and egg noodles. That sounded almost healthy, so I made a point to cook the chicken in large amount of butter.

Butter. Round 2. Fight!
  
Balsamic is a big flavor here, but do not let that put you off. This is not vinegary, it actually came out quite sweet and creamy.

One thing I struggle with is using left overs ingredients without buying new stuff. So while I would prefer to use real parmesan instead of the Kraft I had in the fridge, I used the Kraft. This made the sauce a little grainy. If you can I would use the real stuff.

That said, right before cooking I went though my vinegars: white, apple cider, sherry x2, rice, Masala, red wine... no balsamic. Since I was sold at this point, I went to the grocery for one ingredient (because I was not thinking cheese at the moment).

I should probably discuss quantity. For two people, this was ample sauce. I think it would be a stretch for four.

* - I really struggled to find a "C" work that meant great. Then I settled for a Simpsons reference. Please note the obvious answers I missed in the comments.

** - So this was not in the recipe originally. I just got distracted by stuff. So I had a unplanned five minute delay here. I doubt this had any real impact on the recipe other than maybe thickening it a little.

Conclusion:
This is absolutely a keeper. It is an easy, quick "white" sauce. I can imagine putting this on all kinds of pasta and meats.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Spicy Peanut Noodles and Soy Almonds

Who is ready for a quickie? My nuts are worth it trust me!

Seriously though, I am feeling lazy today. You are getting a half hearted post. Deal with it.

The pasta is a go to quick meal. The nuts are just an excuse to get rid of the extra almonds I bought for yesterday's post.


This is one of my favorite.

Mmm. Salty nuts.

Spicy Peanut Noodles
Resources:
1 pound spaghetti or any pasta
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar, DIVIDED
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped (I used 1 tablespoon fresh ginger)
1 large garlic clove
3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
Method:
In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain well.
In a blender, puree the peanut butter with 6 tablespoons of the vinegar, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the soy sauce, water, sesame oil, crushed red pepper, ginger and garlic. Transfer 1/2 cup of the peanut dressing to a bowl and toss with the noodles.
In another bowl, toss the celery with the cilantro and the remaining 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of sugar.
Transfer the noodles to bowls and drizzle with the remaining peanut dressing. Top with the celery.
Make Ahead:
The peanut dressing can be refrigerated for 2 days.
Soy Almonds
Resources:
6 ounce can of unflavored almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons of peanut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce
cayenne pepper
salt
Method:
In a small slow cooker mix all the ingredients except salt.
Cook on high for 15 minutes, remove cover, cook for another 2 1/2 hours on low. Stir occasionally.
Salt the nuts to taste. Spread the nuts out and allow to cool.
Commentary:
Make sure to divide the vinegar. I always forget. As mentioned yesterday, do not be me.

This will make the sauce thin (as shown). I always dump all the vinegar in like an idiot. Hence the bold underlined "divided" above.

If you peanut sauce is a little thin: more peanut butter.
  
Not a power shake.
I usually skip the celery. This is a recipe I make frequently as a quick lunch. It is fairly scalable to a quarter for a single serving. That and I skip the celery / cilantro to cut down on effort
Pictured: effort.
A little diced chicken is a nice addition to the pasta. Also it is against the rules for me to have a completely vegetarian post.
Both recipes are easily adjusted heat wise. Depending on my mood there is more or less (or no) red pepper for the pasta. I have only made the nuts once but I just used the tiniest sprinkle twice and there was no heat to speak of.
As far as the nuts go, the original recipe calls for Tamari soy sauce. Did not have it. Used La Choy reduced sodium.
Also I like my nuts salty, so the reduced sodium soy did not cut it. I added salt to taste. If you are not using reduced sodium or do not like salt, be careful!
Conclusions:
I make the pasta all the time.
Also the wifey love my nuts. Enough said about that.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Spicy Almond-Crusted Chicken with Honey Butter Sauce

Warning: nuts contains nuts.

Beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer, beer. So now that I have that out of my system, I think Stone Brewery is one of the most influential breweries out there. At least they are to me personally. Like most my age, college was cheap yellow fizzy. After a Coors Brewery tour, I drank Blue Moon when I could get my hands on it, but that was about it. The first year after college my buddy Trevor introduced me to Stone's Imperial Russian Stout. The flood gates were opened. My mind was blown. It looked like motor oil. It tasted nothing like Guinness, a beer I never loved and my only point of reference for stouts. Fast forward quite a few years and I am a loyal Stone customer. So when I had a chance to see Greg Koch (CEO & Co-Founder) speak, I was in like Flint. He was selling the book that today's recipe comes from The Craft of Stone Brewing Co. I am a little ashamed to admit even though this was a couple years ago, I have never made anything from it... until now!

Disclaimer: I never drink Stone's Imperial Russian Stout if it is less than six months old. Yes aging beer is a thing and yes it matters. This may sound weird to you non-beer nerds, but trust me. If you are going to drink it, age it first or buy last year's release.

Knowing people is not always a good thing.

Interestingly enough this recipe does use alcohol but not Stone beer. The recipe recommends pairing it with their Cali-Belgique IPA, which I did, but the alcohol used is a dry white wine. I love dry white wine shallot sauces, so I was all about this guy.

Picture is a bit blurry but by the end of the night so was I.

Beer, wine, shallots? Ok I am drooling, let's get to it.

Spicy Almond-Crusted Chicken
Resources:
1 1/4 cups blanched slivered almonds, separated
1 cup panko
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large chicken breasts slice thicknesswise
lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
honey butter sauce (recipe to follow)

Method:
Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Spread 1/4 cup of the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 4 minutes, stir, and turn them over. Continue roasting until golden about 4-5 additional minutes. Reduce the oven to 350°F and set aside the almonds to cool.

Put the remaining 1 cup of almonds in a food processor, along with the panko, Serrano, crushed red pepper, flour, and salt. Pulse until the mixture is finely ground.

Coat the chicken breasts with the mixture and lightly sprinkle with lime juice.

Heat the oil in an ovenproof pan or skillet over high heat. Sear the chicken until browned and crispy: 1-2 minutes per side. Set the pan in the oven and bake until cooked through (15-20 minutes for me, but this is all about the girth of your meat). Serve immediately with honey butter sauce and topped with the roasted almonds.

Honey Butter Sauce - Be sure to read the commentary before attempting
Resources:
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 small bay leaf
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup very cold unsalted butter, cubed

Method:
Combine the wine, vinegar, peppercorns, shallots, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the mixture is simmering, adjust the heat to maintain a brisk simmer and cook until the liquid is mostly evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the cream and honey and continue simmering until the volume is reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. (This portion of the sauce can be made up to 1 hour before serving. Simply return to simmer when you are ready to proceed with the recipe.)

Turn the heat down to low. Remove the pan from the heat and add a few cubes of butter, whisking constantly until the butter has been completely incorporated. Return the pan to the heat, and add several more cubes of butter, again whisking constantly until the butter completely incorporated. Continue to add the butter, a few cubes at a time, alternating with the pan on and off the heat and whisking with each addition, until all of the butter is incorporated (see comments).

Stain the sauce though a fine-mesh and serve hot.

Commentary: 
Growing up in the Midwest, seafood was never my thing. In all fairness, my exposure as a kid was Red Lobster and McDonald's Filet-O-Fish. As an aside, the wifey has no excuse since she grew up kosher in Boston, but oddly she dislikes seafood even more than me. So while as an adult I have come to realize seafood can be quite enjoyable, I never make it at home. I mean literally never. So when I read a recipe that says tilapia, my mind reads it as chicken. Today's recipe is supposed to be tilapia. You make it how you want and I will do the same. :P

This is a pretty involved recipe, so read it through once or twice and leave plenty of time.

This was just the prep work folks. Get ready for a long, sweaty day in this kitchen with this one.

I used a pinot grigio I had lying around for my dry white wine.

As far as the beer pairing: thumbs down. Like a good little beer hipster I love IPAs. No wait, IPAs are so last year! Gawd... Anyway, I just do not think they pair with food well. The bitterness is too much. I like my IPAs as a stand along thing. Cali-Bel is a good one too.

I am an engineer by training. I think of things logically. I want nuts, I got to the nut section. I looked at the wasabi almonds, the caramel almonds, the salt & vinegar almonds, etc and got mad. There were not any blanched almond slivers. So I bought plain almonds thinking I would make due. Two hours later I go back to the store because I remembered they are in the baking section NOT the nut section. Do not be me.

Toasted nuts shown with untoasted for reference.
Also I hate my local grocery store!
I cracked my peppercorns lightly with a spoon. 

With the Pyrex and the spoon I feel like this belongs in a anti-drugs commercial.
Drugs are bad, m'kay? Don't do drugs, m'kay?

The wifey hates spicy. I love spicy. I also love the wifey, so I try to make her happy. Yet I still want spicy food. What is a guy to do? One thing I loved about this recipe was how easy it was to make in spicy and non-spicy batches. I ran the breading through the food processor without the red pepper and Serrano. Before breading the chicken, I split the breading into two batches and ran half though the food processor again, this time with spicy ingredients. I was being overly paranoid thinking this was going to be pretty spicy (spoiler: it is not) so I pan fried and baked separately.

Love is separated chicken.
So I obviously did not put my skillet in the oven. I just transferred the chicken to some Pyrex before baking.

BTW my browser is capitalizing Serrano, not me. I am just too lazy to change it. I am pretty sure it should not be. Also I am too lazy to look that up though.

This sauce has a tendency to separate. So keeping the heat on low and adding the butter slowly is key. The cookbook has a two paragraph disclaimer that basically boils down to: use very cold butter and occasionally remove the pan from the heat as the butter melts.

This is the "This portion of the sauce can be made..." break.

Butter! More butter!
I do not want to be able to see my toes by the time I am done with dinner!

ALL the butter! Muhahaha!

Conclusion:
This is a tough one. I do not think I would make it again. The good: the breading was light and fluffy as panko tends to be. It had a wonderfully mild almond flavor (although the toasted bits were a bit much). The butter sauce had just the right amount of honey flavor and was the highlight of the dish. The bad: all combined it was just ok. It was a lot of effort and little reward. The spice level was very low on the spicy batch as previously noted, which made me a sad panda. Also this obviously lost something on the conversion to chicken. I think it needed more salt because chicken.


tldr version: it was good, but not worth the effort.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Number Three

The wifey insisted I use the picture with tomatoes...

That does not stop me from immediately following with a picture of it SHOULD be eaten.

Today we begin with a story. I try new recipes all the time. More often than not I get the Spock eyebrow lift from the wifey. This roughly translates to "WTF where you thinking".

So back in February I asked her to look for some recipes she wanted to try. Shortly I received an email with five recipes. The recipes lacked names or links to the sources, so hence we have NUMBER THREE.

Number One both of us found terrible (honey and Sriracha do not mix well), Number Two was forgettable (chicken, spices, something, something), Number Four never got tried (ew cranberries & chutney on chicken, you can cook that yourself wifey), and Number Five was ok at best (needs orange juice, something we do not stock typically and therefore not worth the effort). Number Three however was fantastic. On top of that my "I lived on frozen dinners before I met you & eat take out every night you are not home" wife proposed an excellent substitution!

See we both hate mushrooms because eww fungus. She suggested substituting broccoli. I had my doubts, but I went along for the ride. Lo and behold, it works. Also she would never let forget it if I did not include this story here. Anyway enough history onto the meat and potatoes (literally).

Resources:
2 lb chicken breast halves, cut into four pieces thicknesswise (sounding familiar at this point?)
salt and pepper
garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon butter, divided
1/2 head (ish) of broccoli, florets separated and very finely chopped
3 tablespoons Marsala or white wine
8 tomato slices (optional)
2-3 green onions, green stalks thinly sliced
4-8 Mozzarella cheese slices

Method:
Season both sides of the chicken with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add chicken to the heated skillet; cook for about 5 minutes on each side. Remove to a baking dish. Add 1 more tablespoon butter to the skillet along with the wine then sauté the broccoli until tender.
Pour broccoli mixture over chicken in baking dish. Top with tomato slices and sliced green onions. Place Mozzarella slices over all. Bake at 325° for 25 minutes or until cooked through.

Commentary:

The exact amount of broccoli, green onions, and tomatoes is really to taste here. And if you have good taste no tomatoes. Yuck.


Stone quad and wedding ring also optional.

Like sherry before it cooking Marsala may be heavily salted. Remember that when salting that chicken.



If butter is healthy, this recipe is super healthy.


This recipe is all about layers like onions or ogres.

Add the broccoli. Preferably more than shown.


Add those evil red things and some wonderful scallions.


Be generous with the cheese folks because cheese.


Mmm. Number Three and Smashed Taters!




Conclusion:
When I eat this recipe, it strikes me as a little off. It is not quite a flavor combination that is right. That said we love it and will make every other week or so.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Brazilian Beer-Marinated Chicken with "Chipotle" Rice

So this recipe sounds perfect for one's macho man side right? It requires sixteen ounces of beer. Gosh darn it, the beer only comes in twelve ounces bottles. I guess I will have to drink that extra eight ounces. Plus it is on the grill! 


Mmm. Manly dinner.
 
Too bad I hate this beer.

One for the recipe... one for the drain.


Truth is this is the wifey's favorite recipe. And ever since discovering the magic that is spice bags, it is pretty high on my list as well. So crack a beer, light the grill, and get ready to earn bonus points with the wifey (at least with mine if you invite her over).

Unrelated to anything, I find this oddly pretty.

Brazilian Beer-Marinated Chicken
Resources:
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon prepared ginger
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds in a spice bag (see commentary)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 cups Xingu Black Beer (see commentary)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into long strips (2.5 - 3 lbs)
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

Method:
1. In a large shallow dish, mix the garlic, ginger, paprika, salt, black pepper, caraway seeds, mustard, beer and oil. Mix well. Add the chicken, then add the onion & peppers, cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours) turning once or twice.

2. Line the upper rack of the grill with foil. Light the grill.

3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill over high heat. Put the onions & peppers on top of the chicken. Baste occasionally. After about 25 minutes (less for thinner chicken), move the onions & peppers to the grill, flip the chicken. Baste the chicken and onions & peppers occasionally. After about 10 minutes move the onions & peppers to the foil lined upper rack. Grill another 15 minutes or until the chicken is booked through.

4. Remove the onions & peppers to a plate. Put the chicken on top. Microwave the butter until melted. Mix in the cilantro. Pour over the chicken. Cover for 3-5 minutes. Then serve with rice.

"Chipotle" Rice (this is 1/3 of what I usually make)
Resources:
1/2 cup white rice (uncooked)
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon and 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon oil
Water (amount as instructed by the rice being used)

Method:
Mix water, lime juice, salt, and oil. Cook per the rice's instructions, stirring occasionally. When the majority of the water is absorbed by the rice add the cilantro. Cook until no water remains. 

Green team go, go, go! Add that cilantro!

Commentary:
I use a 13"x9" baking dish to marinate the chicken in. That dish is pretty darn full. Make sure you use a large enough dish.
 
Yup. Pretty full.
 
Garlic seems to be a big hang up in the cooking world. Peeling is a pain, so some people use pre-minced garlic and blah, blah, blah. That is fine, but I just do not see the difficulty. I lightly crush with the flat of a blade and trim the ends. I find this makes peeling really easy eighty plus percent of the time. Then I use a garlic press in this particular recipe (or mince or whatever the recipe calls for).

Careful. Someone told me knives are sharp.

Me smash!

Woo! Another one use kitchen tool!
Ginger on the other hand I use the prepared stuff. Ginger does not cycle nearly as fast as garlic in my house.
 
I strongly recommend using spice bags. Hell I will not make it them without anymore. Biting into a caraway seed is awful! They are less than a buck a piece. They are also in theory reusable, but that did not go well the time we tried.

Worth their weight in brownie points with the wifey.


I try to cut the onions & peppers into long strips. You will lose some of them down the grill. The longer they are, the easier they are to keep. Speaking of which, the original recipe only used a half a pepper. More onions & peppers are better if you ask me. Hell, if my onions are small I will use one and half.



Xingu Black Beer is an anise black lager from Brazil. It is pretty common at larger beer shops but I rarely see it at small ones. I used an Imperial Russian Stout as a sub once when I could not find it, but it was not the same. Use Xingu unless you have exhausted all other options.

The lighting the grill AFTER putting the foil on the upper rack is kind of an important order thing. I like my hands with minimal burns.

Touch the metal THEN apply fire. Got it.
 
My grill is old and the grill surface is not great. I heavily oil the grill to prevent sticking. I usually use olive oil, but I have been told peanut is better to reduce flare-ups. Cannot say I have ever tried it though.

Getting the onions & peppers just right is really hard. Keep an eye on them. They go from undercooked to blacked quickly. Plus there is the whole between the grates problem.

That one on the left is making a break for it.
 
You are supposed to slash with a lime before serving, but I do not usually bother.

Leftovers are great. Dice the chicken, mix with some rice, and douse with a bit of the accumulated juices. Refrigerate. Microwave the leftovers, stirring occasionally. Almost as good as the original.

The rice is a Chipotle rice imitation recipe I think goes great with the chicken or by itself. I TRIPLE it typically for Brazilian Beer Chicken because I like lots of rice.

This is a recipe I have made countless times and is somewhat involved. I have tried my best here to cover all the details of how I actually make it. So if it looks like I missed a step, made assumptions, or something just is not clear feel free to comment below and I will do my best to fill you in.

Conclusion:

Yup, that was manly.
 
I will make this again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again. Rather I like it or not (luckily I do).


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cheese Dreams

This post is motivated by two things.


Three if you count I was hungry and it was lunch time.

The first is bacon. I feel like there are two types of food blogs. One type is for vegan, diabetics with lactose & gluten intolerances and a peanut allergy. Seeing as I love meat, Sprite, cheese, bread, and nuts (giggle), I aim to not be that type. The other type loves bacon. I mean seriously LOVES bacon, like bacon needs a restraining order creepy love. So I figure it was about time I post a recipe with it. Plus you know I do like bacon and all that jazz.

"And cheese daddy! Number four should be cheese!"

The second is cookbooks. I love cookbooks. While I have been called a pack rat and a hoarder over the years (thanks wifey), I prefer the term collector. Specifically I collect old cook books. My oldest (I think) is from 1932: Meals Tested, Tasted, and Approved. Today's recipe comes from it.

Seriously how awesome is that: this book has been exchanging hands since before my parents were born. How many kitchens has it sat in? How many owners? This baby has history.


Cooperative photo.

This photo was a nightmare to upload.
Appreciate it. Appreciate!!!
 


Resources:
2 tablespoon butter
1 egg beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
2 cups grated cheese (cheddar)
8 slices of bread
8 slice of bacon, cut in half
1/8 teaspoon paprika
 
Method:
Preheat the oven to broil.

Combine the melted butter, egg, salt, mustard, paprika, and Worcestershire. Then mix in the cheese. Spread on the bread slices. Arrange two half piece of bacon on top.

Bake until the bacon is sufficiently cooked (about four minutes for me).
 
Commentary:
I halved the recipe since it was just lunch for me. Halving a scrambled egg isn't too bad BTW. I just scrambled it, counted tablespoons, and dumped half of them.
 
Mix, mix, mix! I definitely had a couple "chunks" of mustard. Mustard is a secondary / minor flavor so it was a bit jarring to bite into a blob.
 
Do better!

Type of bread is going to make a difference here. I've made it with Italian and generic white bread (Wonder I think). I actually think it turned out better with the white bread. Plus you need to size your bacon appropriately. More on that below.

The cheese mixture will overflow if too close to the edges. That might help avoid charring of the toast though. I encourage you all in internet land to experiment and report back to me.

Notice the time cheese free zone? Do not worry, it will fill in.

It was super-duper greasy. Between the bacon fat and oil from the cheese, some people just should not eat this recipe. Despite the edges of the toast being burnt, the toast was soggy from the greasiness. Next time I think I'll try putting the directly on the oven rack with some foil below to catch the drippings.
 
The bacon was borderline undercooked. To combat that next time I'd precook the bacon a bit (that should help with sogginess as well). Also the other time I this this I cut into even smaller pieces. The half pieces curled. I would do quarter next time. Cut to fix  your bread at least.
 
Cut off those crusts. Why eat char?

Five year old me is pleased.
 
Conclusion:
I love it. I can imagine my grandma making these (I am pretty sure she put a pinch of paprika in everything). That said I would classify this as super unhealthy.