The Society for the Prevention of an Unwholesome Diet (S.P.U.D.) aka my potato is magical and was taught at Hogwarts

Remember in the first Harry Potter book when the rat’s nest now delicious sex pot Hermione Granger corrected Ron on his pronunciation of the levitation spell?  I sort of roll my eyes and sigh exacerbated at the snobbish attitude of the little Miss Knowitall as she swished and flicks her wand but I found myself doing the same exact thing in the kitchen this past weekend as I was doing meal prep for a Meal Train I participated in.  What is a meal train?  It’s kind of like GoFundMe but with food and my amazing neighborhood of Tower Grove South set one up for a family who had been suffered a great loss the previous week.  On the menu was chicken confit (I’ll do the recipe post at a later time), asparagus seared in duck fat with salt and pepper and potatoes.  But I didn’t want to do just any potato.  Mashed potatoes while delicious and comforting didn’t quite seem right due to the other dishes I was making and I didn’t want to do plain Jane roasted potatoes because again, it just would have seemed boring next to a piece of chicken which was slow cooked in its own fat for 8 hours.  I am sure that whatever I would have sent would have been graciously accepted because it was a heartfelt gift I am a sucker for making sure everything for me goes well and you have different cooking techniques.  Then I remembered an episode of Food Wishes where Chef John made fondant potatoes.  If you don’t know who Chef John is go check out his blog at Food Wishes.  He’s amazing and hilarious and I love his blog and use his recipes a lot.

So back to why I impersonated Hermione Granger.  When I was thinking of a title for this blog a friend of mine Patrick said S.P.U.D: Special Potato Underwater Division and it got me thinking as to where did the slang “spud” come from and of course using my superhero abilities of Google I sought out the answer.  It led me of course to Wikipedia and my journey began.

The name spud for a small potato comes from the digging of soil (or a hole) prior to the planting of potatoes. The word has an unknown origin and was originally (c. 1440) used as a term for a short knife or dagger, probably related to Dutch spyd or the Latin “spad-” a word root meaning “sword”; cf. Spanish “espada”, English “spade” and “spadroon”. The word spud traces back to the 16th century. It subsequently transferred over to a variety of digging tools. Around 1845, the name transferred to the tuber itself.[16] The origin of the word “spud” has erroneously been attributed to a 19th-century activist group dedicated to keeping the potato out of Britain, calling itself The Society for the Prevention of an Unwholesome Diet (S.P.U.D.).It was Mario Pei‘s 1949 The Story of Language that can be blamed for the word’s false origin. Pei writes, “the potato, for its part, was in disrepute some centuries ago. Some Englishmen who did not fancy potatoes formed a Society for the Prevention of Unwholesome Diet. The initials of the main words in this title gave rise to spud.” Like most other pre-20th century acronymic origins, this is false.  Wikipedia

I couldn’t help but kind of laugh to myself at the idea that Hermionne Granger might have been a secret member of this secret society much like her participation in Dumbledore’s Army.  Her hatred for the starchy tuber shown in her contempt for words where the emphasis on the wrong syllable was present.  That and the scientific name for potato is Solanum tuberosum.  hermione-granger-its-leviosa-not-leviosar

So what exactly is a fondant potato.  My only knowledge of the word fondant prior to this recipe was associated with the chalky horrible tasting crap they put on pretentious cakes to make them all fancy and shit.  Horrid chalky crap and if you add too much food coloring it tastes even worse.  Never use the stuff never will, though I do make an awesome version of fondant using marshmallows..Again another post for a later time.  A fondant potato is for all intents and purposes a roasted potato which is cooked in a stock.  It’s a rather old school old world cooking technique and for the more than likely would never have graced the plates of the monthly meetings of S.P.U.D due to the high carbohydrate count (hoity toity bastards).  Also did you know that to differentiate between the “white” and “sweet” potatoes that the white or Irish potatoes were called “bastard potatoes”?  I think now when I need potatoes from the store I’m gonna ask for a bag of bastards .  GIMMIE A 10# of bastards please!

Like most potato dishes it is actually somewhat important to choose a potato that is best appropriate for the job.  There are three classifications of potatoes.  Starchy, Waxy Skin and All purpose.  Your starchy potatoes are going to be your russets and your sweet potatoes which are best for baking and frying because they are super absorbent.  Your waxy skin potatoes are your red skinned and fingerling potatoes and those are best for soups and salads (potato salad..blech) because they hold their shape well when cooking and then you have your AP potatoes.  These are your Yukon golds, blue and purple potatoes and they are great for all sorts of things (mashing, baked, roasted).  They are the quintessential carbohydrate superstar.  But according to Chef John who is pretty much my only resource for this recipe the best potato would be the russet and the reason why is

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Good Job Gold Star

because of its ability to absorb liquids.  Remember these potatoes are roasted in a stock.  which means?  C’mon put 2 and 2 together…Let me give you a minute to figure it out.   YES!!! we want that liquid to become absorbed into the potato and flavor it from the inside!  Good job GOLD STAR.

For the recipe you just need russet potatoes of roughly the same shape and size, neutral oil (canola, grape seed, even vegetable oil), your choice of fresh herbs, butter, salt & pepper and stock.  Pretty much everything someone should already have in their pantry and fridge.  All in all the recipe will take about eeeeh 45 minutes or so and for 3 large potatoes you can get 6 fondant potatoes which is a good serving for 2-3 people.  I would recommend for each person you want to cook for allocate 1 potato to that person because this is a side dish and you will hopefully have other things to go along with it.

Start by washing off your potatoes, why? I have no clue but I personally hate the way potatoes feel in my hands and washing them just makes it less annoying.  You can skip this step if you really want to because it’s an optional step and as we know, Americans are

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Naked taters

lazy bastards and don’t like to have things be too complicated.  You can either choose to use a potato peeler or a knife.  Using the potato peeler has a tendency to give the potato a more uniform spherical shape while the knife allows you to create edges, again your choice I chose the potato peeler.  After your potatoes are peeled you’re going to want to cut off the edges so that it looks again more uniform in shape.  This is help ensure that they all cook at the same rate so you don’t have an Ebenezer Scrooge moment where you start hallucinating about your dead partner due to an undigested fragment of an underdone potato. I’m pretty sure good ole Ebenezer was suffering from mass organ failure due to the fact that potatoes are a member of the nightshade family and he was suffering from a rare and extreme case of toxicity poisoning.  Good riddance, the buggery bastard potatoes did us well……what?!?! good lord, okay fine.

Once you’ve evenly shaped up your potatoes you will want to cut them as close to in half as possible and then place in a bowl of cold water to soak for 5 minutes. This allows the starch that clung to the raw potato during peeling/cutting to get washed away.  Also potatoes release a natural chemical called Acrylamide when cooked at high temperatures with growing concerns that the formation of this chemical could cause health problems.  Simply soaking your potatoes for 30 minutes can help reduce the formation by around img_20170223_18233323%.  While your potatoes are soaking you are going to want to preheat your oven to 425 degrees as well as start to heat your cast-iron skillet over high heat.  Drain your potatoes and completely dry the outside with a paper towel and set to the side.  When your cast iron pan is hot add around 2 tablespoons of your neutral oil and allow the oil a few minutes to heat up.  This is an important step because we don’t want the russet which we’ve already acknowledged is good absorbing liquid sitting in cold oil and soaking that in while it heats up.  We want it to absorb the stock and the butter but not necessarily the oil as well so be patient and wait till the oil starts to shimmer and smoke slightly.     Choose the best side of your spud and place that in the oil to cook first and season liberally with salt and pepper   Why the best side down?   These ultimately will be the side that is presented when dinner is served so why not show the best side.  If using a large 10 inch cast iron skillet you can fit around 12 potatoes without it being too crowded, but you want to make sure that you don’t over crowd the pan if at all possible.  Break it up into two pans that are safe to go into the oven for long periods of time.  Now the time in which to cook the 1 side of potatoes will change depending on how well your cast iron distributes the heat and of course well time.  You want to be able to develop a nice crust of a nice medium brown before flipping over.

After you’ve browned one side of all your potatoes you will want to take a paper towel and with a set of tongs soak up any of the remaining oil.  It only was needed to serve its job as maillard reaction maker (we’ve discussed the maillard reaction before so I’m not repeating

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Oh maillard!  See what I did there?  No? *sighs*

myself.  GOOGLE IT!) and we are going to replace it with butter and whatever fresh herb you chose, salt and pepper.  For this application I only had fresh sage which hey that’s awesome and some garlic.  Take your butter (around 2 tablespoons) and your herb and allow it to melt in with the potatoes.  Go on..It’s okay.  we don’t care what that silly S.P.U.D organizations says.  DO EEEEEET!.  We want the butter to go from foamy white to just the tinge of brown before we add our stock.  Browning the butter adds another layer of flavor and imparts a sort of nutty toasted flavor to whatever it touches.  It’s great for steaks, vegetables, and oddly enough icing in cupcakes.  Yes..That too will be another blog post. C’mon I’ve only got so many free hours and money on the weekend to this people!  When you notice the color of the butter start to take on a light brown color add your stock.  Now we can keep this vegetarian by adding oddly enough vegetable stock or you can use chicken stock.  It’s up to you.  I’m pretty sure you can also make this vegan by using vegan butter as well.  I’ve not cooked with it so I don’t.  If you are a vegan and you do cook with vegan butter please let me know how well it works :).  You will want to add around 1/2 cup of stock before placing the cast iron into img_20170223_193829the oven for 30-45 minutes.  If you notice that your potatoes aren’t finished and are looking a little dry just add a little more stock.  The end result should be a perfectly cooked potato with a crusty crispy exterior but a rich and creamy inside.  Now you understand why we use the russet potato..because it absorbed all that goodness from the pan and took it into itself so we can then take it into us.  The circle of Life!

Kyle absolutely loves these potatoes and is always asking if I am making them when we decide to have potatoes as our starch/carbohydrate for the evening.  Since I enjoy making them so much they’ve become a rather fixed part of our dinner rotation if not having rice (which is rare) or a pasta dish (which is also rare).    Now don’t this ish twisted.  There is nothing wrong with mashed potatoes, baked potatoes and fried potatoes but um..this is the best way 🙂

Enjoy!  And like always please feel free to leave a comment, suggestion, tips.  I’m not a professional and I’m always learning so I do enjoy the feedbacks.img_20170223_193713.jpg

 

Fondant Potatoes

Time: 45-60 minutes: Serves 2-3 people

  • 3 large russets of similar shape and size
  • 2 tablespoons butter ( or vegan butter)
  • 3-4 springs of fresh herbs (your choice)
  • salt/pepper
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, grape seed, vegetable)
  • 1/2-3/4 c. stock (vegetable, chicken, etc)
  • Optional addins: Crushed garlic cloves

Preheat oven to 425 and preheat cast-iron skilled on high.  Cut ends off of potatoes and either use a potato peeler to peel away skin or cut off with a knife.  Cut in half and soak in cold water to remove starch build up for 5 minutes.  When pan is hot add 2 tablespoons of oil and heat till shimmering and lightly smoking.  Dry potatoes thoroughly and add to the oil with presentation side down, season liberally with salt and pepper and cook undisturbed for 5-6 minutes or until sides are golden brown.  Once browned, take a paper towel and remove access oil, replacing it with butter and herbs.  Allow butter to melt, spooning it over the potatoes and adding salt and pepper again.  Pour in 1/2 cup of stock of your choice and transfer to hot oven to cook undisturbed for 30-45 minutes.  At the 30 minute mark check for doneness,  if potatoes are still firm and the stock has evaporated add another 1/4 cup and return to cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool for five minutes until serving.

 

 

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I’ve made your favorite. Spaghetti. With lots of oregano….VERONICA DINNER!!!!!

One of the movies that seemed to be a staple of my angsty adolescent years was the cult classic “Heathers”.  Veronica Sawyer played by the somewhat neurotic Winona Rider was desperately trying to escape her fate of becoming a plastic Heather by succumbing to her bad boy lust and dating a rather ummm misguided youth named J.D. played by the always luscious Christian Slater *sighs*.  In this movie a love struck Veronica goes on a tumultuous world wind love affair which results in mayhem, bombs, a murder or two and a mantra that still holds true to today.  Teenage suicide. Don’t do it.  It’s fucking brilliant and apparently a new musical hitting the stage in 2017.  There is a rather amazing dream sequence that happens in the first hour of the movie where the heroine of the movie is faced with the harsh reality of innocence lost due to suicide..or in this instance a cup full of Draino where she is faced with the Heather she unknowingly killed7-heathers-quotes. The deceased debutante pulls back the cover of the holy water to reveal a bowl full of spaghetti, extra oregano and says “I’ve made your favorite.  Spaghetti.  With lots of oregano.  VERONICA DINNER!!!” and slams Winona’s face into the bowl of complex carbohydrates covered with the simmered saucy goodness.   This phrase had become a permanent part of my culinary lexicon and every time I make spaghetti now I can’t help but reminisce back to the good old days of 1992 when I first saw the movie and how I truly related to J.D and his angsty desire to blow up the school during a pep assembly by strapping a bomb to the boiler room….>.>…..<.<….um..anyways….

I’ve recently become the proud owner of the Kitchenaid pasta attachment set.20170216_181413_11  It’s been one I’ve been holding on out getting until it either went on sale or went on sale and I had a surplus of Kohl’s cash and gift cards to warrant me spending absolutely nothing on it.  It finally happened.  Last week I busted out the remnants of the wedding gift cards with expressed consent from my loving husband *who lets face it, he would pretty much let me buy anything kitchen wise as long as it didn’t cost me a grand* and set forth to purchase my long-awaited Kitchenaid accessory.  It’s pretty much the only one I wanted with the exception of maybe a second Kitchenaid which I will some day own.  I want two..for multitasking.  STOP JUDGING ME!!!! So I decided today would be the day I would crack open that box and bust a pasta cherry.  I’ve made homemade pasta before.  My mom has a hand cranked pasta maker which I enjoy using but sometimes you just want something that isn’t going to require you vicegripping something to your countertop that you can use with one hand while you drink a glass of wine with the other.  Don’t think that you need to drop a few hundred $$ to make pasta.  People have been making it for centuries without the aid of an electronic gadget and when I’m in the mood and need to vent some frustrations because my job is driving me absolutely bonkers I relish the idea of knowing that I am going to beat the ever-loving shit out of some dough and roll away the tension.  But I normally end up pretty bruised on my forearms from pressing hard on my rolling-pin aka wizard staff and I’d rather not be bombarded with questions about whether or not I feel safe in my own home…It’s happened…I bruise like a Georgia peach.

I’ve tried many different recipes for pasta dough.  Some which use only AP flour some which use a mixture of AP and semolina.  Some which call for eggs and others which call for vegetable oil.  While I’m sure they are okay I found them somewhat lacking, so I found this awesome recipe that has since become my standard go to pasta recipe. It calls for no egg which means its vegan and also means that you don’t run the risk of salmonella setting in from letting it dry for later use.  It also only has 4 ingredients to it and most of them everyone already has in their house.  AP flour (all img_20170218_132111purpose), semolina flour, water & olive oil.  That’s it.  Plus  I have a quick go to pasta sauce that I’m going to share that helps out in a pinch when you don’t have access to nice vine ripened tomatoes because it’s still technically winter and you live in the midwest.

First off, this pasta dries up amazingly and will keep in a ziplock bag for a few months.  I normally don’t keep dried pasta for longer than a month because I normally only make enough for a meal. Unless I’m making ravioli then I make tons and freeze them for quick meals during the week for myself or Kyle.  So don’t feel like you MUST use this the day you make it.  You’ll want to get your materials together so you aren’t running all over creation and back. Taking equal weights of AP flour and semolina you will want to pour them into a large mound on your countertop. I recommend doing this by hand instead of by using a machine because you can get some pretty gnarly pasta if you over mix it.  Plus it’s always more fun to be interactive with your food.  Taking the bottom of a bowl you will want to make a deep well in the center of your flour.  I’ve made some pretty shallow ones only to have water and oil spill over and go everywhere.  Take your warm water and your olive oil and using a fork you want to slowly start to mix in the flour into the water.  Go slow,  you don’t want to build up a lot of gluten in your pasta dough because that can make for tough chewy pasta which aint good eats.  Once you’ve got the inside of your flour volcano pretty much mixed in you’ll want to exchange your fork for img_20170218_132326a dough scraper to start folding in the outside walls of Mt Semolina in on itself.  If you don’t have a dough scraper simply collapse the mound in with your fingers and continue folding and kneading until it forms a rough ball of dough which kinda looks like the moon.  Okay it doesn’t but it’s not smooth.  Transfer the ball of dough to a ziplock bag and walk away.  Yes that’s right.  Walk away from it for about an hour.  Go take a shower, run to the store, have a quick make out session with your significant other or perfect stranger.  We want to give the dough time to relax due to the fact that during the kneading process, gluten was created and we need for it to take a break and relax to create a soft supple dough that will be easy to either roll out for hand cutting or be fed through a machine without causing too much strain on the machine, your nerves and the dough itself.  Plus the additional time allows the flour to thoroughly hydrate.

When you’re ready to start rolling out pasta make sure your sauce or whatever you are dressing it with is almost finished.  Fresh pasta only takes about 5 minutes or so to roll out and only needs 2 minutes to cook so you don’t want your pasta sitting in water getting soggy while you toss in a jar of Prego to warm up.  I’ll share my quick and easy pasta sauceimg_20170218_140923 at the end.  Taking your dough you are going to want to cut it in half and place the unused portion back in the bag to keep it from drying out.  Knead a few times back into a ball and taking your rolling-pin you’re going to want to gently roll it out so that it can feed through the pasta attachment easier.  For the Kitchenaid the largest setting is 1.  Turn your mixer to speed 2 and slowly start to feed your dough in.  It will struggle at first but after the second or third time you’ve passed it through it won’t sound like it’s a 1982 bright orange Volvo going up a steep hill and about to die.  This is just my own personal preference but after I feed the dough through for the first few times I fold it in half and give it a second pass.  I crank the dial up to 2 and give it two-three passes. Set it to 3 and then 4.  You may need to cut your dough into sheets if it gets to long to manage on your own.  I ended up doing that for mine and did it in two sheets before swapping out to the spaghetti attachment.  I wish I had gotten pics of what it looked like coming out but I had originally meant for this post to be about sweet potato ravioli with brown butter sauce but decided to forgo that idea for now and save it for later. I.e I ate the raviolis before I got pictures of them..DAMN MY TUMMY!!!!  Anyways you only really get one shot once you put it through the spaghetti attachment.  After that it’s decision time.  Do you use it now or save it for later?  If saving for later you can lie it flat on a flour dusted cookie sheet or if you’re creative and kookie like me you can drape it over a new coat hanger you bought specifically for this and put it in your pantry to dry out

 

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Ancient Italian drying technique

 

Now I’m pretty sure all of you have made some sort of pasta before so it should go without saying that you need to have a large pot of water that it salted like the sea at a boil before you toss it in.  If not um, fill a large pot up with water, add salt and bring to a boil.  It’s not rocket science people,  its complex carbohydrates.  Once at a boil add your pasta and put on a timer for 2 minutes.  Fresh pasta cooks insanely quick and you don’t want it to become soggy and mushy because well then you’ve wasted time and energy and you might as well have used store-bought and I will shame you endlessly.  ENDLESSLY.  Once cooked strain and toss with your pasta sauce.  If using a thick ragu type sauce don’t mix because I’m pretty sure that’s a cardinal rule and will result in you getting capped by an angry Sicilian woman.  You never mix your pasta and sauce because you want to be able to add meatballs..I personally don’t like mine mixed all together because it makes reheating difficult and I sometimes like to only eat the pasta sauce and not the actual pasta.  Bariatric patient..It happens.  Serve up with some fresh herbs and a little grated parmesan cheese and you’ve got a nice bowl of love ready for devouring.  Now don’t limit yourself to just spaghetti with this pasta dough recipe.  Make lasagna, tortellini, ravioli, parpadelli pasta.  It’s just a pretty basic pasta dough which you can modify and tweak to your liking.  Not a fan of sauce but just a little olive oil with some minced garlic and grated egg yolk? Knock yourself out.  You do with this what you want and share with me what worked for you and what didn’t.  I like feedback 🙂 So go out, find Heathers on Netflix or Hulu, Kodi or where it’s hiding these days.  Make up a huge bowl of spaghetti and embrace your inner angry teen.  You won’t regret it.  I promise 🙂

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Pasta Dough Recipe

  • 500 g AP flour (all-purpose)
  • 500 g Semolina Flour
  • 75 g olive oil
  • 450 g warm water

Pour both flours onto a clean countertop into a large mound.  Take a bowl and create a deep well.  Add water and oil and slowly start to incorporate the flour into the liquid using a fork, slowly adding the sides of the well until no runny liquid is left.  Scrap dough together and gently knead for up to 8 minutes until a rough ball forms.  Wrap in plastic and let rest for a minimum of 30 minutes but up to an hour to allow the gluten to relax and the dough to fully hydrate.  Either roll out and cut by hand or feed through your pasta attachment until you get to your desired thickness.  Cut using either a knife or spaghetti attachment and add to salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain and dress in sauce preference.  If eating later, lay in single layer on a floured baking sheet and allow to dry fully for up to 12 hours.  Store in a zip lock bag until ready to eat.  Bring water to boil and cook till al dente and dress in sauce preference.

Quick and easy 15 minute Tomato Sauce

  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning or 2 pounds fresh tomatoes diced
  • salt/pepper to taste (omit if using canned tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons crushed oregano

Heat a saute pan on medium heat and add olive oil.  Sweat out onions and garlic for 3 minutes and then add tomatoes with juices to pan along with the oregano.  Salt/pepper to taste and let cook for 10 minutes, breaking up large pieces of tomato with your wooden spoon.  Toss to cooked spaghetti and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

You know it’s a slow weekend. When the kinkiest thing you did was whip butter.

About a week and a half ago I had the lovely honor of taking this extremely adorable girl out on a date.  Now I know what you’re thinking “Didn’t she say in a post or 2 ago that she just got married to a guy name Kyle?”….Yes, yes I am; however I am of the mindset that you are capable of loving a large number of people and you can essentially go out on dates with individuals you aren’t in a committed relationship with in order to develop something separate and unique. img_20170128_132301 Or ya know you can ask a friend out for a girl’s afternoon out and ham it up a bit.  Though there is nothing wrong with being polyamorous..  A large majority of my friends are polyamorous.  The girl I went on a date is polyamorous and I love her to utter bits. I am not anti poly.  I am pro poly…ALL THE POLY!

I have been taking the necessary actions to be able to spend more quality time with my friends away from group settings to help strengthen my own relationships with them.  This is just because life has a habit of screwing up stuff and making time pass before you realize that you’ve not hung out or seen someone for months.  I’ve asked each of the lovely ladies in my house out on dates and so far I’ve been able to successfully schedule two.  The first being with Krystal who made the suggestion we go get an afternoon tea.  The only place I was familiar with and was within relatively close proximity to where we both lived is The London Tea Room which is nestled in the lovely Morganford business area in South City, St Louis.  I had been wanting to go for a while now but due to life and the little roadblocks she tosses at you, I had not been able to get my foot in the door to enjoy a cuppa so I was eager to say yes and make plans to ensconce myself within the canisters of earl grey and darjeeling.

img_20170128_132354I was immediately in love as I was wrapped up in the aroma of tea, soup, scones, pasties (not nipple covers folks..not those pasties).  The atmosphere was warm and inviting and while rather small for space (at least in the front room) you didn’t feel cramped or crowded.  We mulled over our decisions and I aptly ordered an earl grey with milk and a few tasty treats.  Krystal ordered some sort of sweet matcha latte which I found pleasant and refreshing.  We hid ourselves in the back room, the front of the tea house was crowded which given the fact it was a Friday afternoon at around noon made me wonder how many of the patrons had played hookie that day or were in fact trying to hide their licentious activities behind a blueberry scone with Devon double cream.  What was only to have been an hour tea turned into a two-hour talk with us exchanging war stories about the trials and tribulations of matrimony.  It was a lovely time and will be a reoccurring date place for the two of us in the near future.

As the grey and dreary Friday melted away in the cold I found myself bored and wanting to be creative on Saturday.  Kyle works till 3 in the afternoon so I find myself with a lot of down time if I don’t go to my day job for overtime.  I had spent six hours of my day already stuck behind a desk and was in desperate need of some decompression time.  The thought of the previous afternoon’s date still fresh in my memory and the taste of scones with clotted cream very vivid and alive in my old noodle.  I crossed my fingers on my ride home to hope that I had the necessary ingredients to make scone and even possibly try my hand at making homemade clotted cream.  I quickly scrapped the clotted cream idea due to the fact that when it comes to food I am very much driven by my culinary IDimg_20170128_133534 and I didn’t have 12 hours to wait before I sunk my teeth into a warm scone (not a biscuit dammit!).  So I opted instead to pair it with some butter and jam.  Only problem was I only had enough butter for the recipe.  How in the hell can that happen when you’re as avid of a chef as I am? And then I remembered the popcorn binge from earlier in the week.  Double damn!   But luckily, redemption was hidden behind the milk and the kimchi in the form of a quart of heavy cream (insert hallelujah angelic chords of happiness here!). I shall have my afternoon tea after all and to quote the Mad Hatter “It’s always tea time!”.

I quickly gathered my ingredients to make my scones.  I opted for lemon rosemary given the fact that I had been able to salvage a few twigs from the rosemary plant outside before the frost set it and I had a lemon that was needing to be used for something other than the garbage disposal.  I had everything else I could possibly need.  It’s not an incredibly difficult recipe and if you’ve had any experience with making biscuits than making scones will be a snap.  The only thing different is you are going to be adding an egg.  The addition of the egg is what makes it a scone.  Other then that the technique is going to be the same.  You’re still going to be sifting your dry ingredients and then gently cut the fat into the mixture to form a fine crumb and will mix in enough liquid to bring the dough together.  You can even cut them out like you would biscuits.  For all intensive purposes, scones are just egg biscuits..No they really aren’t but it’s nice to live in that sort of world where it’s easy to just make something into something else isn’t it.

img_20170128_134303Prior to starting you will want to ensure that your butter is very cold. I will cut it into small pieces and then place it in the freezer while I’m gathering the rest of my supplies. I also have a tendency to keep a stick of butter already cut into tablespoon pieces in a ziplock bag in the freezer as a just in case.  Having well chilled butter will ensure that when its cut into the flour that you wont end up with a gloopy mess.  Cutting the butter simply means taking knife, fork, pastry blender, food processor and incorporating the butter into your flour  to make a fine crumb which will help for a flakier, tender end product.  If you have to big of pieces of fat, as they heat and melt they will leave large gaping holes in your pastry.  The only holes I like are in my cheese and um….well other places but that’s another blog and we don’t discuss such lascivious activities here.

Once you’ve gathered the necessary items you will want to start by sifting your flour and then add your leavening agent and sugar.  If using a food processor which let’s face it that is probably the cleanest and easiest way to do this, pour the dry ingredients in and then add the butter, breaking up any pieces that might be stuck together when it was resting in the cold dark freezer of despair.  Give it a few pulses until it takes on the consistency of sand.  Transfer the contents back to your sifting bowl and make a well in the center so that we can pour the milk in to start the mixing of the wet ingredients. If you are going to mix in add in’s now would be your chance (lemon zest and rosemary, chocolate chunks, raisins,  nothing that bleeds too much).   In your milk you’ll want to mix in one beaten egg until thoroughly combined (i.e no globs of albumin *that’s the egg white* left) because you don’t want little globs of clear goo floating around in your milk like so much chicken jism flotsam cast adrift in a bovine secretion ocean *gags*.  Pour the milk into the well and taking a fork start to mix the flour in.  Once it’s roughly combined and if adding things that will bleed (berries) add them here and finish mixing with your fingers until it comes together.  Lightly dust your work surface and quickly but gently bring the dough together.  You need to work quickly because you don’t want the butter to melt. img_20170128_134337 Taking a rolling-pin which has also been dusted, gently roll the dough out till it is roughly 3 cm in height.  Because of the baking powder added they will rise so don’t fret if you think they are too small.  Dip your biscuit cutter into your flour and slowly press into your dough to cut into your scone shape.  If you don’t have a biscuit cutter a glass with a thin edge will work perfectly well.  If for some reason you don’t have a glass and prefer to drink out of an old rusty can that once housed lima beans and you can’t bring to throw it away because you have too much sentimental attachment that um yeah I guess you can use that,  and get a few rounds of “mild” ECT therapy.  Or ya know, um yeah.  You need help.

Cut out your rounds of dough and placed on a baking sheet that has either been lined with parchment paper or has a silicone mat so they don’t stick or burn.  You will more than likely get around 15 scones if using a 2 inch (5 cm) biscuit cutter.  You can gently bring the dough back together to cut more, just keep this floating around in the back of your ECT addled brain that the more you mix and roll out the dough the tougher the scones will be.  I’d recommend only doing this roughly twice and be satisfied with around 20 scones.  You can always make a second batch should it not be enough.   Brush the tops with the second beaten egg and place in a preheated oven at 375 for roughly for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are a lovely golden brown.

Now if you’re an avid tea fan like I am and you love scones like I do than you’re probably a purist and prefer to enjoy your tasty baked goodness with some clotted cream and jam.  The question that is lingering on my lips is how do you eat it?  Are you a Devon or Cornwall scone eater?  Are you a clotted cream then jam or a jam then clotted cream type scone eater?  My opinion about you won’t really change.  I won’t suddenly decide to unfriend you from life and ignore your existence if you prefer to eat it the way those savages in Devon do and that is the spreading of the cream and then the jam.  Bloody uneducated, unrefined savages.  Cornwall does it best because the cream tastes better on top.  TOP IS THE BEST PLACE TO BE!!.    It’s how I eat my toast it’s how I eat my scones and I’ll never change…^.^  Really there isn’t any right or wrong way ( Cornwall is right, Devon is wrong) to eat your scone.  The only wrong thing is calling it a biscuit or not eating them at all.

Sadly I didn’t have any Devon double cream at home on this scone day but I did have an extra quart of heavy whipping cream lying about so instead of using butter which I didn’t have and only enjoying the scone with jam, I pulled out my handy-dandy Kitchenaid mixer and cranked that puppy on high and walked away for about 10 minutes or so.  Probably not the brightest idea I had that day considering when I came back I noticed the fat in the cream had separated from the liquids (which is what makes butter) but at 10 it caused the whey to ejaculate out of the bowl and all over my countertops.  Yeah not a pleasant sight I tell you what.  Damn bovine secretions being all sexual and orgasming EVERYWHERE…. It did however change me emotionally to the point that I will probably not buy butter at the store unless I absolutely have to because the end product was so delicious and such a lovely pale yellow that I am forever changed and altered.

So if any of you get a chance visit St. Louis I strongly recommend you hit up The London Tea Room for either a proper afternoon tea (they require at minimum 24 hour notice) or a quick-lunch with a friend.  It is totally worth it.  The atmosphere is lovely, the staff is lovely, it’s just lovely.  If you can’t make it here then please take an afternoon and have a few of your friends over and have an afternoon tea of your own.  I am having one in April for a group of friends and am excited because it means I get to make scones and butter and little sandwiches and pastry ^.^

English Scones

  • 500g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 2 rounded tsp baking powder
  • 2 heaped tbsp of caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 110g chopped cold unsalted butter
  • 300ml whole milk
  • 2 eggs (beaten in separate bowls)

Preheat oven to 375 and line baking sheet with parchment paper or line with a silicone mat.  In a bowl sift flour, baking powder, sugar & salt and add to a food processor (you can use your hands for this if you don’t have a food process0r).  Add cold butter and mix until it resembles fine pastry flour. Transfer back to a bowl, making a well and  add milk & egg mixture and dry add ins *zest, dry herbs* and mix with fork until combined.  Place on a floured surface, rolling out gently to 3 cm in height and cut out scones, bringing the dough back together if you absolutely have to for more scones.  Brush with beaten egg and bake until golden brown 15-20 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack.

Homemade Butter

  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream

Place into a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment and mix on high for 10 minutes.  Once finished place in a sieve to drain out any whey and transfer contents needed to small serving dishes.  If storing for later, wrap in plastic and then freezer paper and freeze for up to 3 months.

 

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I like my fish like I like my soul. Blackened, fried in oil, and eaten in a corn tortilla

In other words I have a very tasty soul :).  It is my goal in 2017 to do a great many things.  Concentrate on working out more diligently, starting school in the fall,  getting pregnant so I can send my ill-begotten spawn out into an unsuspecting world to cause chaos and carnage wherever they go, aaaaaaand to also be more pro-active in maintaining and updating my blog. Much like New Years resolutions, I’m pretty sure that I will fail at some point.  BUT, I will do my best.

I recently made a blog post about how to go about creating your own corn tortillas to impress and dazzle your family and guests at dinner on Taco Tuesday but I didn’t provide you with a tasty filler. Primarily because I ran out of space on my cell phone….I mean my photographer was not present to capture the wonderful spontaneous footage that comes from me cooking.  Yeah totally not planned..at all.  But I was craving tacos a lot last week so it provided me with ample opportunity to recreate Monday’s dinner of blackened tilapia tacos.  If you aren’t in the mood for tacos you can of course use this with any number of things.  Wild rice with a veggie side,  potatoes with a salad, the body of your slain enemies with a lovely frisee salad.  Mmmmm slain enemies and salad.  You’re only pretty limited to either what you have in your pantry, or if you’re willing to commit a felony of cannibalism, which according to Google (yes I actually googled it) it is not.  Like seriously, it’s not

“Cannibalism is the nonconsensual consumption of another human’s body matter. In the United States, there are no laws against cannibalism per se, but the act of cannibalism would probably violate laws against murder and against desecration of corpses” Cornell University of Law

Yeah that’s not a slightly grey area now is it *blinks*

So since we’ve established that it’s okay to eat your enemies you just might not want to we will get into the meat of this recipe which is the fish.  You aren’t limited to what type of fish to use.  Tilapia, salmon, trout, catfish it will more than likely all work.  I say “more then likely” only because I’ve not cooked with every fish known to man so be adventurous!  The ingredients for the rub are more then likely already in your pantry as well so the only real expense will be the fish, or pork, or chicken, or beef (you can use this on anything..seriously..even the body of your slain enemies..its DELICIOUS!).

If you don’t know what “blackened” is I’ll give you a brief history of the cooking technique.  The name “blackening” is actually a misnomer (look at me with my fancy big city words!), you aren’t actually burning your food.  Blackening is a cooking technique made famous by New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme by which meat or fish is cooked in a cast-iron skillet that’s been heated until almost red-hot.img_20170127_174828-copy Prudhomme’s original specialty was blackened redfish. The food is customarily rubbed with a Cajun spice mixture before being cooked. The extra-hot skillet combined with the seasoning rub gives food an extra-crispy crust. It now can be applied to a myriad (ooooooh fancy again!) of different proteins.

All you will need are the following ingredients and you can make as much or as little as you want.  I do a triple batch because I like to have a lot on hand due to me using it in a lot of different applications

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar (can be either light or dark)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt variety)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)

In a mortar bowl (or magic bullet, food processor, grinder) combine all your ingredients and mix for about a minute until the oregano has been broken down and blended.  Taste and adjust to your own liking.  This is not written in gospel but just a guideline so please modify if you want and tweak it. Swap out the salt and used smoke salt or a flavored sea salt if you have it.  Change it up.  BE A UNIQUE SNOWFLAKE!!!.

img_20170127_175323-copyNow depending on whatever protein you use will determine if you need to add an oil to the surface.  Since we are doing fish in this post you wont need any additional oil.  Just gently blot off any moisture off of both sides and sprinkle evenly on both sides covering completely.  If using this from a bulk batch, pour some rub into a separate bowl to avoid any potential cross contamination.  To many times have I not paid attention and put hands that have touched raw food back into a big batch of rub only to instantly go “GOD DAMMIT!!!” and grumble that I have to throw it all away or figure out how to use it on every single piece of raw meat in my house and cook it in that instance.  When it doubt, pour some out..

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Sprinkle Sprinkle little fish. You will be a taco dish.

In a skillet/frying pan/grill heat up on medium heat until hot, if using a cast iron skillet which I prefer, heat that baby up on high until it is dick blistering hot before adding your oil (2 tablespoons).  When you start to see little wisps of smoke add your fish laying it down away from to avoid splattering and let it cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes depending on thickness of size. Try to only place at max 3 pieces of fish as to not overcrowd the pan and cause splotchy blackening.  Carefully flip over with a wide-set img_20170127_180020-copyspatula and cook until firm to touch and flaky (this seems like such an oxymoron. Firm to touch but you can flake it off easily..Firm but fragile..Fuck it just say cooked dammit..Why you gotta be so pretentious cooking instructions?!).  Transfer your fish to a plate while you finish cooking the remaining portions and then enjoy the fish of your labor.

It’s a relatively quick process with fish and would of course take longer for chicken, pork & beef but the results are amazing and before long you’ll be sprinkling the rub on everything and I mean everything.  I enjoy it sprinkled on my popcorn!  And as we’ve  already identified it’s great on the mangled limbs of your slain enemies but that could zombiesprobably be because you’re a zombie.

Hope you enjoy and leave a comment or feedback.  Let a kid know that someone is actually reading this and it’s not just me being quirky to myself!

 

 

 

Our tacos are handmade by 20 year old Mayan virgins…

Or Phil, depending on who’s scheduled…It’s probably Phil.  I’m sorry I lied.

S0….2017…We’ve seen some changes recently.  The George R.R. Martin 2016 Game of Thrones Celebrity deathcapades has come to an end finally after claiming our Princess Leia and her loving mother (Damn you George R.R. Martin!!!!!). My wedding is finally over with and I can now settle into the rolls of domestic servitu……yeah I can’t even finish writing that.  The wedding is over and married life pretty much reflects the same as engaged life and living in sin life.  I got a well deserved promotion at my day job which helps finance my passion of cooking and well yeah, other things but we won’t delve into such trivial non sequential things.

About a month ago my husband and I decided to have a spontaneous date night and go grab tacos.  Now we don’t really need a date night to go enjoy tacos.   Sometimes we don’t even need pants but it helps as we get unusual stares at Taco Bell when we show up in our pajamas. In St. Louis there is no shortage of awesome places to get tacos be it traditional Mexican street style or crazy Korean fusion tacos.  Some of our best tacos are found in little parking lot kiosk buildings.  I’ll plug some of my favorite taco joints in St. Louis for you to visit if you’re here as a huge mistake or voluntarily.  But back to date night.  One of the areas in St. Louis which has experienced its own little renaissance of its own, the Historical Cherokee-Lemp District. cherokee-street-old  Twenty years ago you would not catch me in broad daylight wandering that neighborhood due to the heavy drug activity as well as it being a rather popular hangout for those who practice the backseat mambo, which is sad because it is probably one of the only neighborhoods in the city where you could go to find the largest population of Latin grocery stores and restaurants.  But due to it being one of many disinvested inner-city neighborhoods it developed its own little reputation of being “one of those unsafe areas” despite of its centralized location to many inner-city bus lines as well as it being a historical neighborhood chalked full of beautiful buildings.

Now, since its 2011 rebirth, many new and amazing restaurants have moved in and have secured their footing in this area, but one thing that has remained the same and sustained the tests of time is the Latin influence.  On any given block one can visit and patron a wide variety of Hispanic merchants.cherokee-street  Grocery stores attached to taquerias, clothing stores litter the 7 block span of the Cherokee-Lemp district west of Jefferson Avenue.  It is quite honestly our version of Little Mexico City.  During one brief excursion to a grocery store I stumbled across a row of tortilla presses.  The inner Rick Bayless in me squealed in delight at the idea and notion of making my own corn tacos from scratch.  Needless to say $15.00 later I happily was on my way home with my new purchase, where it promptly found its way into my pantry to be forgotten until this week when out of the blue I had the overwhelming urge to eat tacos.  I blame Deadpool and my unnatural obsession with him *I love you Ryan Reynolds! ^.^*

For those who know me, as in they’ve seen me dancing in my kitchen at 2 am wearing pajamas and a slippers, know that my kitchen normally is always at the ready for whatever whimsy that I feel like doing.  I am that shopper who will go aisle by aisle and pick up random items if there was potential that “I might make it in the next month”.  Not produce or fresh meat of course but things like canned jackfruit, ponzu sauce, dashi flakes, you’re not quite so regular items on a weekly grocery list items, so I wasn’t really surprised when I found 2 bags of masa harina in my pantry.  All it told me was that it was indeed…..taco making time.

 

Ideally I’d have picked up some fresh ground masa but given that this spontaneous urge to taco was last-minute I had to go with what was readily available which was my handy-dandy bag of masa harina flour.  WTF is masa harina flour?  It’s essentially instant corn masa flour.  Think of it as AP flour (all-purpose) but corn.  It’s what we can use if we don’t readily have access to the fresh stuff.  Works in a pinch but requires a little extra flavor to make it taste right.  At least to me personally it tastes a little bland so like all recipes you need to make it your own and tweak it.

tort-mats.jpg.jpgThe packaging recipe states to mix 2 cups masa harina flour with 1 1/2 cups of water.  I find that it is also helpful to add a little sea salt (about 1/2 teaspoon to start) as well as 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, shortening or butter.  I’ve tried without the introduction of fat and they just come out a little meh.  I’ve tried with cold water, warm water, hot water and find that hot water works best as it helps to melt the butter making it easier to incorporate it into the masa flour.  Then we can get down to the fun part.  Getting our hands dirty.  I personally dislike the feel of masa flour on my hands because it feels like I’ve got dried dirt on them and I’m like NOPE NEGATIVE NO WAY! so i put on latex free gloves.  You’re going to want to mix in the water in a slow stream and kneed for about 2-3 minute to ensure it is well mixed and then cover it in plastic and allow it to rest and hydrate for anywhere from 30 minutes up to a few hours.  I.e this is something you can walk away from and like go take a nap or run to the store and get something to drink like tequila!  I find this rest process is essential because it makes the dough more soft and pliable which yields a softer tortilla.  I’ve not gone over 30 minutes but hey I’m open for experimentation.  I mean isn’t that why we cook in the first place?

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After at least 30 minutes if you find that you can’t stand not having delicious tacos in your face hole go ahead and start to heat up your griddle.  Now considering on who’s technique you use you will find that some people say use a single heat zone, some say heat on high, medium high.  Some say use two heat zones.  I’ve been more successful with 2 heat zones ala the Rick Bayless technique.  You will want to set your griddle (I have 2 which cover two burners) to be a medium heat in the front and a medium high in the back..Or if you’re me a medium in the back, medium high in the front (the front burner is my biggest one).  If you don’t have a griddle that big just simply use two skillets set to different temperatures.  I recommend cast iron as they retain and distribute heat better.

Once your griddle(s) is up to appropriate temperature you’re ready to crack out some corn tortilla goodness.  Taking your tortilla press (if you own one) you’ll want to roll out 1 oz balls (roughly the size of a walnut).  Take 2 pieces of plastic (a large ziplock bag cut to size works great) and place one piece on the first plate, setting your masa ball in the center.  Flatten slightly with your fingers and cover.  When pressing out your tortilla it’s recommended that you want to slowly press out the dough.  Why you can’t go fast I have no clue but everything I’ve read (because I am far from an expert on the art of tortilla) recommends a slow press to obtain the size of 5-6 inches. For all I know pressing the tortilla to hard and fast might cause a bomb to detonate somewhere.   I will honestly tell you that over the course of the last few weeks of me making corn tortillas I still get excited when I lift the top plate and see a perfectly centered, circled tortilla.  I don’t know what it is about it but it feels like success at that point…or it could be that it reminds me of pressing out play dough.  The latter sounds more plausible.

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Pre smoosh

The most difficult part of this process I feel is the transferring of the corn tortilla to the actual cooking surface.  So much can go wrong when you peel of the top piece of plastic.  It could stick and tear apart.  I have found that the method that works the best for me is to slowly peel off the top sheet of plastic, lift it slightly off the plate and line the top of the tortilla with your index finger and slowly peel off the back piece of plastic, lifting it up slightly to completely remove.  Or you can click this link —-> Rick Bayless Corn Tortilla and watch the master do it.  He’s kind of my go to guy for gringos who cook Latin food.  That and I really enjoy watching him on PBS.

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Post smoosh

Gently lay your tortilla down on the griddle (medium temped side) and allow to cook for 30 seconds or so on one side.  You’ll know its ready to flip when you notice the outer edges start to dry out. The edges will also have started to possibly curl up a little showing you that its ready to flip.  After about 30 seconds you will want to either use a metal spatula or if you have callused fingers like me you can gently pick up the tortilla and transfer it to the medium high section of your griddle to cook for another minute or so or until you notice that its lightly browned.  After a minute you’ll want to flip it a final time back to the original side and I don’t know how Rick Bayless does this but he said if you do it correctly you’ll see it start to puff up like a pita bread.  I have a success rate of like 50% with the puffing and while the unpuffed ones taste good, the puffed up tortilla shells taste the best.  Once I figure out what I’m doing wrong I’ll update you guys.  Until then, fingers crossed and best of luck for the puff.

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PUFF UP DAMMIT!!! >.<

Transfer your finished tortillas to a towel lined bowl, container.  I have a styrofoam tortilla warmer but I’ve used a plate.  Maybe a plastic bag works also.  But this allows the tortilla to finish cooking by steaming itself.  After that its pretty much self-explanatory.  You fill them up with whatever you want to fill them up with and eat them. If you didn’t want to make all the masa dough you can store it in a plastic bag for up to 3 days and the cooked corn tortillas for up to a week in a plastic bag.

You can reheat these but the best time to eat them is the day you make them.  But if you must reheat them then you will need to use the towel to line a microwave-safe casserole dish (8 or 9 inches in diameter is best). Lay in a dozen tortillas, cover with the towel and the lid, then microwave at 50 percent power for 4 minutes. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes. The tortillas will stay warm for 20 minutes.

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Homemade Corn Tortillas

  • 2 cups Masa Harina Instant Corn Masa Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, lard, butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Mix flour, salt, butter in bowl.  Slowly incorporate water and mix to form a soft pliable dough, kneading for 2 minutes.  Cover with plastic and allow to sit at room temperature for a minimum of 30 minutes up to a few hours to allow the dough to fully hydrate.  Heat your griddle(s): 1 to medium, 1 to medium high.  Take a 1 oz ball of dough (walnut size) and press between two pieces of plastic to form a 5-6 inch circle.  Gently transfer to your griddle heated to medium and allow to cook undisturbed for 30 seconds or until the edges start to dry out.  Gently transfer to the medium high griddle and continue cooking for up to 1 minute or until lightly brown.  Flip back to the original side and if done correctly it will puff up like a pita.  If now allow to cook for another 30 seconds and transfer to a towel lined container to allow tortilla to finish cooking via steam.   Fill with noms and enjoy!

That girl is on fire..fire..fiiiiire

No i swear I’m not channeling Alicia Keys or Katniss Everdeen, though given today is Election day I really did feel like it was going to be a Hunger Games kind of day but that’s politico talk and this is a place of happiness and joy and kittens from time to time.  My kitchen however; well on Sunday that place was probably as close to Hell as I have gotten in a while cooking wise.  Why?  Harissa..

What is harissa?  Besides the living embodiment of Satan?  It’s a spicy and rather aromatic chili paste which has roots in North African and Middle Eastern cooking and can be found on many a menu along side lovely dishes as babaganoush, hummus, chutneys, lamb kofta, beef kofta, shwarma, etc.  It’s a versatile paste which can be used to any chili or stew as a flavor enhancer or even as a dipping sauce for chicken and bread.  But man can it ever be spicy.

This weekend I got to try my hands and making it to pair it along side a Moroccan themed dinner I was having for some friends.  Roasted lamb with glass herbs that had been sous vide for 30+ hours, babaganoush, hummus, morrocan stew, couscous, naan & lavish bread.  It was quite a spread but I wanted to try something that could both compliment the lamb as well as possibly enhance it and of course me being me, the veritable unique snowflake that I am, I wanted to stay away from the normal traditional sauces that included mint, rosemary or yogurt.  So I ventured forth into Hell.  And like every good explorer I made sure to come well armed and prepared.  I wore goggles…And my Deadpool hat because well..Deadpool.

image000007 The ingredients for this harissa weren’t to difficult to obtain.  In fact you can pretty much find all of them in your ethnic aisle at your local grocery store.  And if not I’m sure that any international grocery store will carry them.    One suggestion would be to make sure you have gloves.  I didn’t wear any and got a rather wicked capsaicin burn on my left hand from playing with the rehydrated peppers.  And for the love of all that is Effie in the Hunger Game DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE OR YOUR BITS..YOU WILL HATE LIFE AND ALL THAT ARE AROUND YOU.  If you do happen to touch your bits um, well…..Yeah I’m sorry.

 

So the ingredients are simple and as follows.  Dried chili arbol peppers, cumin (ground or whole your choice), caraway seeds (ground or whole), sea salt, lemon, garlic, honey & olive oil.  See?  Nothing to fancy or expensive. It is however time consuming.  You don’t think ti would be but it probably took me roughly an hour plus dealing with the peppers themselves.  Sadistic bastards I hate you so so so so much >.<  t(o.to).  I’ll list all the ingredients and measurements at the bottom of the post.  image000005

The first thing you will want to do is make sure you really do have appropriate safety equipment because working with these peppers can cause potential breathing issues.  Weather permitting keep a window open and a fan going to help draw out the fumes once you start working hands on with the peppers.  Also make sure you have tissue nearby in case you start sneezing a lot.  I do and my nose runs so I enlist in the assistance of my husband to act as my scrub nurse and help me out so I don’t run the risk of touching my face and doing my re-enactment of Elphaba from The Wizard of Oz and scream that my face was melting. In a large sauce pan you will want to take two cups of dried chili arbol peppers.   No I’m not kidding, two cups of these little red seemingly innocuous peppers.  Cover with tap water and bring to a boil on your stove and allow to boil for 10 minutes to help soften the peppers and re-hydrate.  While this is happening you can prepare the rest of your ingredients which is to measure out your honey, olive oil, chop your garlic and get your lemon ready to go.  Also get a colander and a blender handy.  image000006

Once your peppers have softened you will want to dump them in colander and start running water over them.  This is where you will want to put on your disposable gloves because for the next hour or so you’ll be slicing these bad boys up and washing the seeds out of them as well as the ribs and pith.  This will help eliminate some of the intensity that inherently lives in peppers.  The burning sensation you get from peppers is caused by capsaicin which is a colorless, odorless, oily chemical found in peppers.  This chemical binds itself to certain sensory neurons and transmits the feeling of being burned even though there is no actual physical burning going on.  The majority of this chemical resides in the pith/ribs (white interior part of the pepper) so simply removing the seeds will not eliminate the devil in your mouth.  You have to take care of the insides as well.

Once you’ve sneezed, coughed, had to blow your nose about a good 5-6 times and then successfully de-seeded/veined your peppers you can now start building your Hellmouth sauce.  As you can see in the picture below, I was not happy at this point.  NOT AT ALL >.< but I am a determined committed chef and I wanted to see this through because I actually do enjoy spicy food.  image000001

So its really simple after this part.  You simply toss your ingredients into the food processor and mix till its a consistency you like.  I roughly chopped my peppers first and then slowly incorporated the rest and came out with a lovely smooth paste which to me is more appealing to my taste buds.  This can be paired with probably pretty much any protein or if you are adventurous, add this to your chip and salsa rotation at your next get-together.  Just don’t invite me.   Wait..no invite me because I wanna see if anyone cries ^.^

 

 

 

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Poor Dan.  He said he liked spicy!

Enjoy!

Harissa Dipping Sauce

  • Makes roughly 1 cup
  • 2 cups dried chili arbol (try subbing out for different peppers depending on your mood or if you truly do hate your dinner guests!
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 tsp caraway, ground
  • 2 tsp cumin, ground
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • sea salt to taste
  1. boil the peppers for 10 minutes or until soft, drain into colander
  2. slice each pepper (or skip a few if you want to make it spicer) and remove all seeds under running water
  3. grind the chilis in a food processor mince by hand if you truly are that much of a culinary masochist until it resembles a thick paste.
  4. Mix remaining ingredients, adding more oil, water or honey to get the consistency you prefer (i added more honey to assist in muting the heat….it didnt work)

 

 

Braise the Lord Hallelujah!

Now that my wedding is done and over with I can hopefully find more time to keep my blog up to date.  It’s hard out to try and juggle work, wedding and passion but I will try to be a little more due diligent in the future.  A month or so ago my now amazing husband gifted me with a meat grinder after I won a bet of not cutting or coloring my hair for a year. Anyone who even slightly has an inkling of who I am knows that in and of itself is a challenge considering I change my hair color pretty much twice a month so going au natural for 12 months was a sort of sick and morbid type of torture.  You add not cutting or shaving it and I’m pretty sure that violates UN torture laws.  But I did it and I relished the diabolic joy of fastidiously going through different options for my spoils (insert diabolical laugh).  Now this post has nothing to do with actually using said meat grinder but hey spoilers for future posts maybe?

In the meantime while I waited for my package to arrive I set my eyes on a pack of meaty beef short ribs I had purchased on a whim at one of our chain grocery stores.  I hadn’t really worked much with beef short ribs but a burger recipe I had been oogling used ground beef short ribs and I didn’t want it to go to waste so I went through my pantry to find out exactly what did I have that could possibly go with beef short ribs.  And viola.  Found beef broth, garlic, tomato paste as well as a bottle of Cabernet on my wine rack and a little fresh thyme still on my plant outside.  Might as well do a little braising.  Hallelujah!!!!image000004

One thing I love the most about this recipe is that it literally only uses 1 pan.  There isn’t any need to dirty multiple pans and spoons and bowls.  I love recipes like that, Kyle loves recipes like that and my dishwasher definitely loves recipes like that.  Another is that it’s not an expensive dish.  You can easily find beef short ribs on the bone for around $5.00 a pack and even cheaper if you go to a butcher shop.  You don’t need expensive wine and can easily grab a $10 bottle off the shelf and most everyone has beef stock, tomato paste and garlic in their house already so this is an easy meal to make for under $20.00

So braising.  What exactly is braising?  Braising is a two part cooking method in which you first brown the meat and or vegetables (yes you can braise vegetables) in a fat (searing and creating the Maillard reaction before cooking them low and slow for a long period of time in a minimal amount of liquid.  It is meant to help break down tough pieces of meat or fibrous vegetables to make them more tender and succulent.  It differs from stewing in the fact that you don’t completely submerge your item in liquid and it can be done with quite large pieces of meat as opposed to small pieces like stew meat.  And it can be done either on the stove or in the oven.  I prefer the oven in the off chance I have other things that need to occupy my stove top space.

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by the power of Maillard!!!!

The first step always is to make sure you have a clean work space.  We are going to be temporarily working with raw meat and you want to reduce the risk of any possible cross contamination because lets face it, food poisoning is a horrid horrid thing and I really don’t like the idea of anyone getting sick off of my cooking.  You will want to place a roasting pan on your stove and heat over a medium high heat.  This allows us to be able to brown our meat prior to transferring it to a hot oven for the braising portion of the recipe. While your pan is heating up take this opportunity to premix your salt & pepper that will be added to the beef short ribs prior to going into the pan.  This again helps reduce the chance of cross contamination as you can simply throw the rest away after using it.  Add a fair amount of olive oil to the roasting pan and heat until it starts to smoke.  We aren’t talking roaring clouds of Chernobyl, but just little whisps of smoke.  Generously season all sides of your beef spare ribs and place meaty side down in the pan (there is a bone in these hence the meaty side down comment).  You will want to essentially fry these until well browned on all sides for around 10-15 minutes.  This gives you plenty of time to wipe down your work station and prep the rest of your ingredients.  Take your bulbs of garlic (yes whole bulbs) and slice across the equator.  If you have a large elephant bulb of garlic 1 should do ya but if you’re like me I only had the little ones so I ended up using about 4, plus I am a huge fan of garlic so I always use a little extra. More isn’t always a bad thing.

image000006Once you’ve browned all sides of your short ribs, place the garlic cut side down pressing it into the pan.  Take 2 oz of tomato paste and also place into the pan,  be mindful that it may splatter and you want to just cook it out for a minute or two to start the caramelization process, pressing the paste into the bottom of the pan.  I always love the smell of tomato paste as it starts to cook out.  It goes from being this tart acidic smell to a rich roasty smell.  I know so scientific right?  It just smells good dammit!

You will want to de-glaze the pan and scrape up all the little bits of fond that got stuck to the bottom.  That is the flavor right there and you want to incorporate it into your braising liquid.  What? We aren’t even braising yet? Nope still in the prep stage but its worth it. Put your trust in me I shan’t steer you in the wrong direction. And what shall we de-glaze the pan with? Why an entire bottle of dry red wine. image000008 No…I’m not joking, a whole bottle.  All 750 ml into the pan.  We gonna do this we gonna do this right..Make sure you get a wine that you’ll enjoy drinking because those make the best to cook with. Pour the whole bottle in (don’t cry you should have another to drink while you wait) and scrape up the bits on the bottom.  Return to a boil and reduce liquid by half which can take about 10-20 minutes depending on how big your pan is.  Once reduced, add your beef stock and fill till it almost covers the short ribs, bring back to a boil and gently baste your ribs before transferring to the stove.  Congrats ya’ll.  You’ve successfully created your braising liquid.  Now it’s time to braise.  BRAISE THE LORD!!!!!

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drunk off the fumes but thats okay!

Carefully take aluminum foil and wrap your roasting pan prior to transferring to the oven.  Carefully place inside the oven, get a buddy to help you if the pan is hot and heavy and let it cook for 3-4 hours, basting every 30 minutes until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.  That’s it.  That’s the braising process. Complicated huh?  During the cook time you can do some laundry, watch a few episodes of Shameless, torture your cats by putting them in Halloween costumes….What?  I’d never do…..oh..okay so like once…..or um okay twice..Okay three times..I swear they love it though!

When the ribs are done and you’ve applied Bactine to all your cat scratches remove carefully from the oven and transfer the ribs to a separate place.  All that beautiful meaty rich liquid does not go to waste.  If you throw it away and I find out I’ll hunt you down and slap you silly.  That is a gorgeous demi-glace and should be enjoyed. image000002 Remove the garlic and place in a fine mesh sieve and press out all the braised roasted garlic pulp, and then in the same sieve strain the braising liquid.  You can at this point reduce it down if it is a little thin after incorporating the garlic paste or if its the right consistency place in a separate bowl for your guests.  I personally saute up some mushrooms and shallot and more garlic and add the demi-glace to the pan prior to plating and then drizzle over my short ribs.  You can pair this with anything.  A lovely polenta with the rib nestled on top would be lovely.  Some egg noodles and go a little more rustic always a winner or even eating it by itself with a lovely vibrant salad.  Its all up to you.  I hope you enjoy!

Mangia! 

Recipe:

Oven temp 340 F / 170 C

Total cooking time 5 hours

Ingredients

6 large beef bone in short ribs

750 ml dry red wine

3 cloves garlic split horizontal

2 oz tomato paste

salt/pepper to season

4-6 cups Beef Stock (depending on size of pan)

 

Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Fire

Some of the best things in life started out as a pipe dream for a kid who was told “No”.  No you can’t do this.  No you can’t be that. But what about those kids who heard that “no” and decided to make it their own personal “Yes”.  I’ve always been inspired by those individuals who decide one day that they don’t want to be a shill to corporate america and take that leap into the great unknown to follow their dream and their passion.  One of those individuals is Chef Chris Oh of Seoul Sausage Co. based out of Koreatown in Los Angeles, California.

I first learned about Seoul Sausage ala Netflix when I wandered across a show called The Great Food Race, hosted by Tyler Florence.  Now anyone who knows me knows that me + food show = entertained for hours, not to mention that my husband was interested in watching it.  We started with season 3 and the premise of the show was to compete in a cross country cooking challenge in the hopes of winning their own food truck plus a cash prize of $50,000.00.  I had my contenders and people I wanted to be voted off.  Two trucks which got me excited were Pop-A-Waffle and Seoul Sausage.  Their exuberance and excitement made them clearly the #1 contenders in my book and I could not help but binge watch the entire season and become more enthralled with their team, their food, and their passion to change their stars.  Ultimately Pop-A-Waffle was eliminated after making it to 3rd place; however Seoul Sausage took home the truck and the cash prize.  Not to shabby for three guys that took a chance on their dream.

 

One of the items that earned them the victory was their firey kimchi fried cheesy balls.  An homage to the Italian classic Arancini they put their own Korean twist on it and no joke I’ve been obsessed with them ever since.  I’ve just never made them.  Until now..And well….If I wasn’t a fan before?  I’m a true fan now and it’s only spurned my love of cooking Korean style food and has made me want to learn more recipes or make up my own.  The recipe is rather simple; however it’s not gospel to what Seoul Sausage has because I’ve not yet found a printed version of theirs so this is my interpretation of what is their OG classic.  While the ingredients are modest the flavor it packs is utterly amazing and you will be amazed at how fast this recipe comes together.

 ****recipe adaptation of Seoul Sausage Co****

Ingredients: makes 16-20 contingent on size

Rice

  • 1 ½ cup uncooked sticky rice
  • 2 cups water

Addins

  • ½ cup chopped kimchi (your option of spice level..i went with spicy!)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (their recipe calls for cheddar..use whatever you like!)
  • 1 container of SPAM (yes..SPAM…no I’m not lying..seriously legit..SPAM) sliced into ½ inch slices and then quartered and chopped again
  • 4 tablespoons browned butter
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced jalapeno (they use habanero but I didn’t have any)
  • 1 heaping tablespoons gochujang**
  • 3 scallions finely chopped**
  • 4 cloves garlic finely minced**
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes**
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Breading

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 2 eggs well beaten
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Wasabi Cream:

  • 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons wasabi paste

Sriracha Aioli:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • pinch salt

**Optionals:  Keep in mind I don’t have their recipe so I wanted to have a little more flavor to mine and make them ultimate firey flaming balls**

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In a medium sauce pan you’re going to add your 1 ½ sticky rice with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, place a lid on and reduce the heat to low and let simmer for around 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed.  Turn off the heat and let sit covered for an additional 10 minutes and then fluff with a fork to separate the grains of rice before transferring to a large nonreactive bowl to cool to room temp (I use glass)

Once cooled mix together the rest of your ingredients for the add-ins until combined.  You can if you choose to keep this vegetarian omit the SPAM and if you choose to, you can even eat as is since all the components to this point are cooked…Not gonna lie..It is fucking tasty as hell in this form..I may have eaten a few prior to breading ^.^…WHAT? Its my kitchen don’t fucking judge me :P…

 

MIXINGSOnce mixed you are then going to essentially form your rice balls ala meatball style,  you can use a scoop if you have one or if you’re like me you can just use your hands because they are the best utensils we’ve got!. Scoop about 4 ounces or so out and form into a ball, placing them onto a cookie sheet until all balls are formed.  I stopped at 12 but this batch probably would have been able to make around 16-20.

Prior to breading you need to make the ever vital decision on To fry or not to fry.  It’s the eternal question that has plagued mankind for eons. Regardless of whatever cooking method you choose the end results are just as tasty.  If choosing to deep fry you will need either a fryer with vegetable oil or in my case since I don’t own a deep fryer a heavy bottom sauce pan and heat your oil up to 350 degrees.  If opting for the healthier option and you decide to bake your balls you will need to heat your oven up to 350 degrees; however you will need to chill our rice balls prior to frying to ensure they don’t dry out in the oven.  Frying takes about eeeh 3-5 minutes whilst baking takes about 20 with a rotation middle of the cook cycle. Totally up to your preference,  I won’t judge…a lot.image000004

While your method of cooking heats up you’ll want to set up a three part breading station of flour, beaten eggs, panko bread crumbs.  Why a three part?  Simple, the flour acts as a barrier between the wet surface of your frying item and the liquid (egg)  Without it, the liquid mixture (in this instance egg) has trouble adhering to the rice ball.  If the egg can’t stick then the breading falls off when frying and you’re left with well not good eats.  Keeping one hand clean for transferring the final product roll your rice ball around in the flour and pat off any extra.  Transfer your floured rice ball to the egg wash and roll it around.  The egg wash will cause the crumbs or meal to completely coat the ball and form a tight seal when it is cooked.  Then roll around in your breading of choice shaking off any extra.  You can either choose to cook these off later or allow them to sit in the fridge for around 30 minutes to ensure the breading sticks.  Last thing we want is lovely rice balls getting all blech (cooking term legit yo) and not crunchy/crispy.  If choosing to cook them off at a later date (ie the next date feel free to wrap them in cling film and leave in the fridge.

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fried balls…fried balls..FRIED BALLS!!!

 

When frying make sure to not drop the balls into the oil.  I find the best method is to use a pair of tongs because once these have set up in the fridge they are rather firm and can be handled a little roughly.  Place around 3-4 in your pan until the oil covers the tops and allow to fry until golden brown.  Remove from the oil and place on a cooling rack while you let your oil come back up to temperature.  You want to allow this to happen to help avoid getting a soggy crust.  We didn’t have much down time between frying and transferring to wait for the oil to come back up to 350.   Once complete serve with your favorite dipping sauce.  We opted for a sriracha aioli and a wasabi cream and as a finishing sprinkled a little of my Death Dust (dried powdered Carolina reapers)

I do have to say that these are an amazing little appetizer and surprisingly filling. I recommend if you are reheating them you avoid putting them in the microwave to avoid them getting soggy and smooshy (another cooking term..legit yo).  You can place them in a 400 degree oven on a lightly oiled baking sheet for 20-25 minutes (40-45 if frozen)

 

Enjoy!!!

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The kind of rolls you wanna see in the summer

Well, I personally want to thank everyone out there who this winter wished for summer weather.  God has answered your prayers and parked Satan’s backside right here over the Gateway city.  It has been insanely hot.  So hot in fact that the idea of eating anything remotely warm is enough to make me toss down my towel, walk away from the kitchen and refuse to cook.  I loathe being in the kitchen during the summer.  It’s just not right to stand over a pot of boiling water when it’s almost hot enough to fry an egg on the asphalt.  So how I battle the heat is I eat things that require minimum cooking time or if at all possible no cooking time.  I fear for Kyle’s meat eating ways as he is in for a sore surprise when he realizes that any possibility of a roast chicken or lasagna dish will not happen until fall in my house.

With that being said there are plenty of quick dishes that you can prepare and prepare ahead of time that will allow you to enjoy your dark cool living room or if you are truly one of those summer masochists that feel the urge to go outside these are a light yet filling snack or meal that will satisfy you on your journeys into hell and back.  Fresh spring/summer rolls.

Wait.  Isn’t a spring roll fried?  Yes it is but these are the non fried variety commonly called fresh spring rolls or fresh summer rolls.  What’s the difference?  It’s not fried….oh wait you meant between the spring and summer.  A spring roll can be either fresh or fried and can be found in many different varieties in many different countries (egg rolls, lumpia).  A summer roll is a specific Vietnamese wrapped in fresh rice paper.  Spring rolls also often contain meat where as the summer roll is primarily vegetarian but can be served with shrimp and even sometimes pork.  Spring rolls are also made with a wheat flour skin made with egg in the base and summer rolls made with a translucent rice flour skin.  Either way both are good eats and I enjoy them frequently either by themselves or as an accompany to another dish.

You are only going to be limited with this recipe if you don’t care for fresh vegetables.  That isn’t an issue in my home so the fillings are only limited by what we might have in the crisper drawers.  But for the sake of this entry I’ll just post the standard typical fillings as well as a fun dipping sauce made out with peanut butter.  The majority of all the ingredients if not all of them in fact can be found at your local international grocery store.

Ingredients: Rolls

  • Rice Paper Skins (Circle/Square)-1 per roll
  • Rice Vermicelli Noodles (2 oz)-Can be omitted ****
  • 1/2 cup julienne carrots
  •  1/2 cup julienne cucumbers (seedless variety)
  • mixed greens or romaine lettuce leaves torn in half
  • cilantro
  • basil (i prefer Thai basil but regular basil will work in a pinch)
  • 6 poached shrimp cut in half (3 halves per roll depending on size) (leave the shell on but de-vein prior to poaching)

Ingredients: Peanut Sauce

  • 1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon lemon/lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water

 

 

In a medium sized stock pot heat water to boiling and drop in your shrimp, shell on.  You can choose to season the water with some salt, peppercorns and bay leaf if you feel like it. Turn off the heat and place a lid on and let poach for 5 minute or until they turn pink.  Remove from the water and let chill in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and set to the side.  Refill the same stock pot and bring your water to a boil for your noodles.  Once at a boil, submerge your noodles, turn off the heat and lid the pot and let it sit for 3-7 minutes (vague i know but hey i don’t make the noodles).  We are just wanting the noodles to become soft.  Remove from the hot water and since in cold water for 30 seconds and let sit to the side to drain.  I normally will separate out my noodles into little bundles and let them sit on a paper towel while I finish my prep.

On a clean cutting board place down a piece of parchment paper or if you have it a silicone pad.  This will help the rice paper skin to not adhere to your work surface, potentially causing it to rip when filling.  In a large saute pan fill with warm water, not hot.  The reason we dont want hot water is we dont want to cause the sheet of rice paper to buckle and curl.  Just warm.  Submerge your rice paper and move around for 20 seconds until soft and pliable,  once the rice paper starts to soften time is against you as it will keep on absorbing any moisture left on the skin.  Gently dab with a paper towel and start filling with your choice stuffings. Be careful not to over stuff as it can potentially cause it to break and you will have to start all over.

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So sadly with these photos I overstuffed my summer roll because I was being impatient but it’s just for a point of reference.  You don’t have to follow this method for putting your items on in any sense of the word.  In fact they recommend you stack it side to side instead of on top of each other but meh to each his/her/their own.

So lay a small bundle of rice noodles down spreading out evenly (love how mine is even?!).  Next you’ll place next, on it your other vegetables (lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, peppers.  I recommend if doing avocado put your avocado slices UNDER your noodles.  Lay your shrimp or protein of choice at the top.  If using shrimp make sure the pink side is face down on the rice paper so it can show through for the finished product .   I prefer having a green background against the pink of the shrimp as its more visually appealing and as everyone knows, we eat visually before we actually eat.

image000001 When you’ve got you’re desired fillings on the skin you have a few different methods of folding this bad boy shut.  You can either choose to fold in the side’s first and then roll it up ala burrito style.  You can start to roll from the bottom and then fold in the sides.  It’s whatever is easy for you and best suits you.  You do however want to make sure you roll it tight enough to keep the contents together. I do a three roll roll image000003.  Once over the noodles, once over the veggies and the last one to seal it up and show off the protein (again if using one.  It’s totally optional).  If making more then one be sure to cover with a damp towel to avoid the skin from drying out and breaking.

 

 

These are commonly considered appetizers but with the hot weather hellbent on destroying my desire to cook a warm dish these have been a fantastic meal replacement.  Give me two with some peanut sauce on the side and I am a happy camper!.  By all means swap out and put zucchini in, some jicama.  Not feeling veggies make this with fruit!  Just nothing to liquidy or you’re gonna get a soggy mess.  Don’t want noodles?  Keep em out.  Nothing is set in stone with this recipe which makes it a versatile meal.  Slice in half, plate it up and enjoy with a nice glass of iced tea or a cold iced Vietnamese coffee 🙂

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***if not wanting to use rice vermicelli noodles you can always substitute them for cellophane noodles instead.  Or even omit them entirely.

 

 

 

 

I’m gonna gnocchi you out

I seem to be on a veritable roll this week with keeping this blog updated.  Go me for being either productive or not productive enough.  Das macht nichts (go on..you know you wanna look it up.  It means neither this/that doesn’t matter..My papa says it TONS!!!).  Whilst registering for the upcoming wedding I had made a mental reminder to ask for a gnocchi board because its insanely tedious to roll those little buggers out and then get the ridges with the back of a fork. And it reminded me that crap it’s Wednesday.  My normal dining partner had other plans and I had nothing to make for dinner.  Thank the Gods that the little corner store by my house has probably the most random things for sale.  Gustine’s Market.  If you’re a St. Louis resident that lives in South City I recommend you stop in and get a sample of wine and a Serendipity drumstick from the freezer section.  It’s amazing.  Plus the people are rather friendly so that’s a perk.

I never normally know ahead of time what I want for dinner when it’s just me cooking for myself. I’m perfectly content with cutting open an avocado and eating that for dinner; however my husband Kyle gets rather miffed if he realizes that I didn’t eat something that had some form of protein.  So when I got home I made a quick detour to Gustine’s Market and wandered the small tiny store and stumbled across the frozen gnocchi.  Now normally I make my own but with it being already 6 pm and me having not really the motivation to make homemade pasta I opted to go with one at least made locally.  Maria & Son’s.  I’m not ashamed.  Hey I’m pretty sure Gordan Ramsey at one point in his career has opted for something made by someone else in the name of saving time.  Don’t you shame me!

So off I go home with my tiny bag of perfectly rolled, frozen potato dumplings when I catch a whiff of what the neighbors were cooking.  I love my neighborhood.  It’s so…aromatic.  Coconut, cumin, curry powder.  Mmmmm Thai food and as we all know I am a sucker for a good Thai dish. And if you didn’t know, you know now.  Curry, gnocchi, I knew damn well I had sugar snap peas in my garden as well as some mushrooms and a ton of fresh basil.  The only question was, did I have all the ingredients to make my own curry slurry.  More then likely yes but did I want to take the time to make one from scratch?  Eeeeeeh Wednesday night, worked 12 hours at my primary job the answer to that was a no so this was a quick no fuss no muss idea.  And the results were awesome.

image000001Now I’ll never be one of this individuals that just use a pre made mix as is.  I always feel that it can be more of a “homemade” dish if you doctor it up some and while I was going to use a pre made curry paste the aromatics would be all me.  Now when a recipe calls for say 2 cloves of garlic minced I take that as a “suggestion” and always double it.  Never be stingy on the garlic as it is your friend.  So to my pre made paste I added my own aromatics.  Sweated the paste off with some onion till fragrant and then added the curry paste (red) and toasting it off.  I find toasting the paste adds an additional depth of flavor.  Kind of like when you toast tomato paste.  It helps deepen and concentrate the flavors, plus as I’ve gotten older I find I need bolder flavors in order to really appreciate my food.  More spice to counter balance the fact my taste buds over the course of the years have committed ritual seppuku to the God of Time.  Toss in some coconut milk and whatever vegetables you want and let them bubble away on low till your pasta/rice/chicken/whatever else you’re pairing it is with is cooked.  If you are going to use root vegetables I recommend parboiling them first or you will be waiting for a while for them to get soft and nothing says “this is….tasty o.0” like biting into a hard chunk of potato..Mmmmmm starchy..yeah no.  Sadly though albeit normal for me, by the time dinner was done cooking I wasn’t hungry but hey at least I have lunch for tomorrow (now today cause I’m a Time Lord and I can bend space

david-tennant-tardis

 

Now for the meat…or rather meatless portion of the post.  The actual recipe.  I kind of made it up as I went along but here’s the gist of it.  You will need the following for a serving for two individuals.

  • 5 cloves garlic crushed and rough chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried lemon grass
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thai chili powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed coriender
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 white/yellow onion sliced thin and diced\
  • 2 tablespoons pre made curry paste (I use Mai Ploy-Massaman Curry Paste)
  • 12 oz coconut milk (milk not cream..dont make the same mistake I’ve made…before)
  • vegetable add ins:  I used baby bellas and peas 
  • pasta/gnocchi/whatever you are doing this with
  • chopped fresh basil

Take all ingredients and place into a mortar and pestle and pound away whilst thinking about that person who spurned you back when you were younger.  Or the fact that you’re favorite sportsball team isn’t doing well this season.  Goooo Sportsball!.  If you do not have a mortar and pestle whirl it away in a food processor/magic bullet/ninja/etc. Place in a small dish and put it to the side to allow it to rest.

In a medium sauce pan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and saute onions.  We want to achieve a little bit of the Maillard reaction (browning) to allow the inherent sweetness of the vegetable to show up.  This also allows the enzymes and amino acids found in the onion to change at the molecular level as to help stave off any potential threat of turning the garlic in the aromatics a blue green.  This occurs because of a chemical reaction between the enzymes/amino acids and the acidity in the garlic when the two items meet and mingle.  FOR SCIENCE!!!!.  Once you’ve achieved the desired level of browning add your aromatics and let them mingle until they become fragrant.  This should take only about 1 minute.  Any longer and you run the risk of burning your garlic and that can provide a rather acrid note to the dish.

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This is listed as a spicy curry paste so if your tastes are more mellow and calm you can by all means use the green curry paste or yellow.  This is all based off your personal preference.  I like spicy food but I am not biased in any sense of the word.  Add in your curry paste and allow it to toast.  How do you know if it’s toasting?  It will take on a deeper darker hue of red.  This only takes about a minute and a half max and you want to watch it to ensure it doesn’t burn.  Switch your spatula for a whisk and incorporate your coconut milk into your paste.  Add your mushrooms and let simmer on a medium low while you prepare your pasta/rice.  If it becomes to thin by all means thin with a little vegetable stock or even some white wine, water, a little more coconut milk or some half and half.  Add your peas at the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Nothing worse then mushy peas.  Top with fresh chopped basil and serve in warmed bowls

There ya go.  Total time depending on what you’re having with it no more then an hour if doing chicken or less then 25 if doing pasta with shrimp.  I opted to keep this a vegetarian dish but did have poached shrimp on the side for my protein.  Not to shabby for a Wednesday and goes to show that premade doesn’t always have to be boring as long as you add your own little twist to it.

 

Enjoy!