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.

 

 

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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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.

 

 

 

 

Please sir, may I have some more?

 

Christmas is just a mere two days away and I find myself wearing short sleeve shirts, light weight jackets and the threat of shorts is a very real fear.  This crazy bipolar weather we have in St. Louis, MO.  Where’s the snow?  Where’s the chilled pink cheeks and the steamed up glasses?  Where’s the endless bowls of soup?!?

One of my most favorite things to enjoy on a cold day is a bowl of soup.  Chicken noodle, chili, chowder, vegetable, but mostly tomato soup.  There’s just something blissful about sitting down in your favorite chair with a blanket on your lap, wearing your ugliest yet most comfortable pair of yoga pants and a long sleeve shirt as you enjoy a bowl of creamy tomato soup.  The acidic tang of the tomatoes, the slight undertone of celery and onion,  maybe a tiny bit of heat from red pepper flakes just invoke a memory of when you were younger and you would crush up an entire pack of crackers only to end up with this amalgamated glob of tomato goodness.  Combine that with a perfectly toasted grilled cheese sandwich which served as your eating utensil and your day was made!  Nothing could top it sans Saturday morning cartoons or the promise of brinner (breakfast for dinner) later that day.

As a child growing up I was fortunate enough to have parents who placed value in even the most humblest of dishes.  There was nothing fancy about tomato soup and grilled cheese.  It was simplicity at its finest.  Open a can of soup from the cupboard, if we had milk great if we had water, meh we made do.  Grab a block of american cheese and some bread.  Slather it up with butter and if feeling especially wild toss on a slice of onion or maybe a tomato and grill it up to the point where any longer and you run the risk of burning it and that was dinner.  And it was always well received.  And still is to this day.  The only thing that has changed for me and mine is the method in which the soup is made.

Instead of going to the pantry for the old beloved standby I find myself more often then naught, making my childhood favorite from scratch.  Sauteing up onions and celery with garlic, adding a can of crushed tomatoes (if none fresh are available), a bay leaf, a few peppercorns for good measure and a generous grind of sea salt.  There’s just something about that smell that just makes even the toughest of days seem a little bit more tolerable.  Then comes the grilled cheese.  Oh that glorious toasted bread filled with rich gooey goodness.  The tempestuous joy/terror when you bite into it, pulling it away only to leave a long string of molten dairy magma hellbent on either falling off and adhering to your face or dripping into your soup.  It’s a delicate dance of antici……..pation (yeah I went there).  It’s in that moment that I truly feel alive (okay so that might be a slight exaggeration but dammit, its pretty awesome!).

It’s not unusual for food to invoke happy memories in me.  Most of my happy moments involve people who are preparing food.  My father and his grilled cheese and tomato soup.  My mom and her bread.  My grandma and her Polish feasts of amazingness.  Its happiness for me.  And on days like today where its unseasonably warm and wrapped up in torrential storms I want nothing more then to wrap myself up in a bowl of happy memories and let the warm creamy liquid goodness take me away.

 

So.  Now that I’ve somewhat dragged this on, one thing I plan on doing with this blog is sharing recipes of what I write about (if able) to share with you my readers.  So since this entry is all about tomato soup I want to share with you my recipe for homemade tomato bisque which is a favorite in my home for both Kyle and myself.

 

Enjoy!

 

Roasted Tomato Bisque with Rosemary: can substitute if out of season

  • 15-20 heirloom tomatoes (can use a plethora of colors: yellow, orange, red. doesn’t matter)
  • 1 medium yellow onion sliced thin
  • 4 cloves garlic whole
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • olive oil
  • sea salt (my current favorite is pink Himalayan sea salt)
  • 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 stalk celery diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 4 oz can tomato paste (or can even use roasted tomato pesto if you like)
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • salt/pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (204.44 Celsius) and line a cookie sheet with heavy duty aluminium foil.  Wash/core/slice longitude across the tomato’s Prime Meridian (fancy huh? slice from where the stem is).  Line tomatoes slice  side up on baking sheet with onions and garlic scattered throughout.  Sprinkle peppercorns, sea salt, red pepper flakes and sugar over the tomatoes an onions.  Drizzle olive oil to coat tomatoes and place in oven to roast off for 45 minutes to an hour.  Once desired level of carmelization has occurred remove and let cool completely.  Transfer all contents, including roasting liquid to a separate bowl.

If unable to find ripe tomatoes (especially during the winter season) you can easily use canned tomatoes and just omit the roasting stages and pick up from here

In a large stock pot over medium heat, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Saute carrots, celery and onion until translucent (10-15 minutes).  Add herbs and allow them to bloom until fragrant (2 minutes).  At this point you’ll want to take a spatula and form a slight well in the center of your stock pot.  This is where you will add your tomato paste to allow it toast slightly before incorporating it in with your sauteed vegetables.  Allow to heat, stirring frequently to discourage scorching until the you smell the slight acidic tang of concentrated tomato goodness.  It is at this time that you will add your roasted tomatoes (or if out of season as previously mentioned: your cans of tomato: can be diced, whole, petite, your choice:  about up to 32 ounces or so).  Drop in your bay leaf, bring up to a simmer, cover and reduce heat allowing the soup to simmer for about 45 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender.   Carefully remove stock pot from heat, fish out the bay leaf and either transfer in batches to a blender to puree to desired texture or if you’re lucky utilize your immersion blender until desired texture achieved.  After pureeing you can either return it to the same stock pot for continued cooking or you can pass the puree through a fine mesh strainer to ensure that there are no of vegetables left (for those friends that have texture issues like my friend Ruby) and then return to the stock pot.  At this point you can add your heavy cream.  Start with one cup at first and depending on the volume of tomato base you have you can either increase it or leave as is depending on your personal preference.  Once heated through (about another 5-7 minutes) transfer to either individual bowls, or if serving family style a large ceramic dish which will retain heat.  Serve with your choice of crackers or croutons as well as a fantastic grilled cheese sandwich or two.

Viola.  Homemade tomato soup.  Now I know not everyone has 2 hours to devote to making soup so please know that you can do all of this ahead of time and freeze for later consumption.  Just omit the cream prior to freezing.  Take out and thaw at room temperature, bring up to temp and add the cream.  Or if you like it, go grab your favorite can of tomato soup and dig in :).  Who are we to judge the vessels of our culinary happiness.

 

Enjoy!