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 time has come the walrus said to talk of many things……

Call me odd.  No seriously, call me Odd 🙂 HI!.  Whenever i see clams or mussels I immediately start saying to myself the words from the narrative poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” written by Lewis Carroll which is more popularly known from Alice In Wonderland Through the Looking Glass.  Now I know that the walrus ate all the oysters but hey they are both bivalve mollusks so there is a sort of wonky little connection there.  At least to me.

I’ve made mussels a lot for Kyle and myself.  Sometimes I simply keep it traditional with a bottle of white wine, garlic, lemon and shallots and other times I mix it into a red sauce to have with pasta but I always have enjoyed the process of cooking mussels.  Going to the fish monger or store to pick out ones that are alive, tapping the shells to make sure they close,  even the whole process of soaking them to get any sand out and debearding them is fun for me. image000005
Shoot I even enjoy shucking an oyster or two if I can manage to not stab myself in the palm and bleed everywhere.  There’s just something about eating them that just feels down right “living by the sea” to me.  You don’t really need much in the way of utensils because they come with built in spoons (the shells).  You can do it family style with just an empty bowl in the middle of the table to toss in your empty shells..And if you’re odd and peculiar like me you can re-enact famous Civil War battles with your food.  Or maybe a scene or two from Game of Thrones.  Yes.  I play with my food.  I don’t care.

We have a lot of places here in St. Louis to get seafood.  There is Bob’s Seafood Market which is like the mecca of seafood and the place to go if you want sashimi grade salmon from the waters of Scotland and beautiful fat lobsters.  There’s the Seafood Supermarket just down the street which is nestled in the heart of probably an area best called the China District and it has all sorts of oddities that would make any culinary fan geek out.  And then of course the majority of our chain grocery stores have a rather limited selection of clams, mussels and scallops. image000002
If I’m feeling froggy I’ll make the drive to the county *shivers-i die inside when i cross the city limits and have to go to the county* to check out what Bob’s has in stock or what’s possibly still flopping on ice at the Seafood supermarket, but nine times out of ten depending on how fat my checking account is I “settle” for whats on sale at the neighborhood store. This weekend it was mussels and littleneck clams.  I’ve never had littleneck clams ever that I can recall so I decided to pick some up, not knowing what I was going to make and went on my way.  It wasn’t until the following day that I found myself in the Latin area of St. Louis picking up some chorizo that I pondered mixing the two.  So….Off to Google I go with the fervor of an anti-Trump protester and searched for something that might peak my interest.  I finally found a recipe in the archives of Food Network and decided to take a go at it.  I did make some modifications to the recipe as I didn’t have harissa on hand and I used two different types of mullusks.  I mean I’m sure the original recipe is good but why not modify to suit what you have on stock and in hand.  I’ll post the link to the original recipe below if you really want to do it the way the Food Network stars do it.

It’s all pretty simple and only really took about 25 minutes or so to put it all together.  And it was a one pot dish which always works for me considering whenever I cook it somehow always ends up with it being a 2-3 dishwasher load..How? I have no idea…but I’m pretty sure there are greater mysteries out there to solve, like how NO ONE EVER knew that Clark Kent was Superman.  Man who knew that glasses could be the ultimate disguise.  Aaaaaanyways sorry I side track a lot ^.^

In a dutch oven or heavy duty stock pot you are going to want to take 3 tablespoons of butter sweat out 1 medium onion chopped over medium heat.  I act omitted the butter because I totally didn’t even read the entire recipe before starting so I used olive oil instead.image000009  Once your onions are translucent you’re going to adjust the heat to medium high and add  your chorizo (either bulk ground or in casings *removed of course*) and minced garlic and add to the onions and cook just until the chorizo doesn’t look raw.  This might be a little confusing considering that chorizo when cooked gives off a rather substantial amount of grease and because of the seasons which include things like paprika, cayenne pepper and in some instances even chili powder its hard to tell when it goes from being raw to not as raw.  The recipe said it takes about 5 minutes or so and considering you do additional cook time after this stage I put my faith and any potential future gastrointestinal trauma in the hands of the Food Network Gods.  You’ll want to stir every so often to break up till it resembles a sloppy joe texture.  Again I know I’m so descriptive but that’s what it looked like.  It looked like spicy sloppy joe mix!  image000007

After you’ve reached sloppy joe consistency reduce the heat back down to medium and add  your red pepper flakes and if you choose to use it harissa or in my instance sambal sauce.  Cook until fragrant and then add your dry white wine.  The addition of the alcohol will help deglaze the bottom of the pan which incorporates all those little baked on brown bits.  Those brown bits are flavor and flavor per Alton Brown is essential in acquiring..Good Eats (don’t sue me!).  Allow the wine to bubble for a minute or two to cook out the alcohol and while you wait, pour yourself a glass and enjoy! I don’t cook with expensive wine but I do cook with wine I enjoy drinking.  Add your chicken or vegetable stock (your choice) and bring back up to a simmer.  While this is happening we want to focus on our little bivalve lovelies.

What exactly is a bivalve mollusk?  Bivalve mollusks such as clams, oysters, mussels etc are soft bodied invertebrates that make their home in a two part hinged shell which is tightly held closed by a pair of insanely strong adductor muscles. Heh, mussels have muscles….LOL!  image000008These little body builders primarily live a sedentary lifestyle like so many corporate office desk jockies and obtain their nutrition by filtering water and sediment through their gills to strain out all the tasty noms that might wander by.  If you’ve never eaten a bivalve you more then likely have worn them, especially if you are in to wearing your Great Great Aunt Mildred’s wedding dress while playing Call of Duty.  What?  Huh?  Why the buttons you daft boy/girl.  Until the plastic industry hit in the 1940’s & 1950’s they were the primary material used in button manufactoring *the more you know!  again please dont sue me!).  Because of how they feed there is the potential that there is sand or some sort of grit inside the shell so prior to cooking its always best to clean the outside of the shells as well as let them sit in fresh water for about 20 minutes or so prior to cooking to allow them to push out any salt er and sand that might be hanging out inside like a squatter or nagging in-law. Also this will allow you to check to make sure none of your little sea critters kicked the bucket between time of purchase and moment of consumption. image000004 If you notice the front door open give it a little tap.  If the mollusk is alive it will slowly close the door like so many John Hughes slow clap Pretty In Pink moments.  If they dont “clam up” then toss them, they have more then likely gone to the great ocean in the sky.  I wouldn’t risk eating a potentially dead clam or mussel due to the fact that um..eww gross!

After you’ve checked all your mussels/clams and have drained them in a collander and shaken out any excess water and grit gently dump them into the dutch oven and place a lid on them and put on the timer for 3-4 minutes.  Clams will only open once they are fully cooked,  mussels can be finicky and stay closed even if cooked.  Rule of thumb used to be to toss these out prior to eating but you can remove them and gently pry them open and if no offense odor assaults your sensitive olfactory receptors have at it.  Any unopen clams though dispose of instead of risking it.  Serve it up with ample amounts of bread to sop up the beautiful spicy broth and enjoy.  Leave the utensils in the drawer and use the shells to shovel the chorizo and onions and meaty morsels into your mouth.  Don’t stand on formality and at the end of the meal if you are positive that your dining guest wont stab you with a shell just drink down the broth as you stare back at the onslaught of carnage you made to those tiny little denizens of the sea.  Its amazing as leftovers with a gentle reheat in the microwave for about 2 minutes…Sooooooo good omg!

So enjoy something new.  Get out there and experiment with flavors you aren’t sure will go together.  What’s the worse that can happen?  You end up going to White Castles for a Crave case….*shrugs*.

 

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MANGIA

Spicy Mussels (Or clams!) with Chorizo

1 medium onion chopped

3 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)

4 cloves garlic minced

10 oz chorizo

1 tblsp harissa (or garlic chili sambal)

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3/4 c dry white wine

1 1/2 c chicken/vegetable stock

2-3 lbs cleaned and debearded clam or mussels

lots of french bread for soaking up the goodness

Recipe Credit given to: Food Network Spicy Mussels with Chorizo

 

 

 

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)

 

I never cared for Stroganoff. She said that like a Romanov

 

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while.  Work and life have both been insanely crazy and busy with wedding planning and all that other fun stuff that goes with the new four letter word “Adulting” *twitches*.  But I have been cooking and I’ve been deciding on what to blog about.

It’s no hidden secret that I find great comfort in the kitchen.  It’s my sanctuary.  My “man cave”.  It’s where I can go and vent frustrations of the day by pounding out some dough or violently whipping of egg whites.  It’s therapy for me.  I’ve always had this dream of opening up a bakery that has an afternoon program geared towards teens who have a difficult home life where they can come and vent their frustrations through the creation of food.  I hope some day to make that dream a reality.

Why is cooking so therapeutic for me?  I wish I had the answer.  Maybe it’s because I have so many positive memories associated with cooking.  Standing in the kitchen on the holidays with a glass of wine watching my aunts and uncles shoot the shit while trimming green beans, filling pie crusts.  I associate the kitchen with a moment of happiness.  Huh…guess I did have the answer after all ;)…One of my most favorite people to be in the kitchen with is probably a tie between my father and my grandmother.  Probably only natural considering they are mother and son.  My father has taught me so many fine things such as how to make potato soup, foccacia, how to grill, how to tie my shoes (not really cooking related but important nonetheless).  My grandmother however taught me that the preparation of a meal is meant to be done with love for those eating it.  They will be able to taste your feelings in your food and your food reflects you at your core.  And that is very true.  When I’m in a funk it totally shows in my cooking.  I burn things, it tastes bland or over seasoned.  It’s a hot fucking mess I tell you what.  But when I’m happy and in that zone where everything is just right everything is awesome.  Everything is cool cause you’re part of the team!!! Another thing my grandmother taught me was how to make stroganoff.  Just saying that word makes me think of her and how her kitchen would smell when she would make it.  The onions, mushrooms,  the bits of skirt steak or if she couldn’t afford it, ground beef.  And the sour cream…..Good God those were some amazing combinations of smells.  She taught me how to make her version of stroganoff when I was 10 and it’s the recipe I’ve used for near 30 years and it will be the one I teach Ari my niephew (not a typo) and my children (if I ever have any).  But until then I’ll share it with you all 🙂

 

For this recipe you will need the following ingredients.  I will also list appropriate substitutions should you have difficulty finding certain items or if they are outside your dinner budget. This can also be easily made into a vegetarian option by subbing out and omitting certain items.

  • 1 1/2 lbs skirt steak  sliced 1/2 inch thick (you can use ground beef if you can’t find skirt steak) ****
  • 2 medium yellow onions sliced thin ( I recommend using a mandolin if you have one)
  • 4 cloves garlic finely minced into a paste (or you can use garlic paste in a tube)
  • 12 oz sliced portobello mushrooms (I recommend using baby bellas)****
  • 1 1/2 c. beef stock****
  • 1/4 c. butter or margarine
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 c. AP flour
  • 1 1/2 c sour cream (you can substitute this with Greek yogurt for a healthier option)

**** For a vegetarian option omit the beef and substitute for 1 1/2 pounds of portobello mushroom caps.  Use the large variety for a more “meaty” mouth feel.  Also substitute the beef stock for vegetable stock****

Now to put it all together.

  •  Take a large skillet and cook your mushrooms, onions, garlic and butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are tender.  Once done remove from the pan and reserve in a bowl to be added at the end of the cooking process. If opting for a vegetarian version of this dish skip the browning stage of the meat in step 2 and continue with the instructions.
  • While your vegetables are sauteing take your skirt steak and slice across the grain into 1 1/2 inch strips.  Place the beef strips (or ground beef) into the skillet and brown on all sides.  Take note to not over crowd the pan as the meat will then stew instead of brown.  We want to achieve the Maillard effect**  Once brown on all sides stir in 1 cup of broth and the Worcestershire sauce.  Bring contents to a boil and then reduce to allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes.  If using ground beef drain out extra fat before adding the broth and omit the 30-45 minute braising step. While you braise your skirt steak, take remaining broth and stir in 1/4 c. AP flour to make a slurry.  This is your thickening agent to make the creamy velvet sauce that we all know and love.
  • Stir in your broth flour mixture back into the beef mixture.  Add your mushroom and onions back to the pan and heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Once at a boil stirring constantly for 1 minute.  This will activate the flour and the fat in the pan and help thicken the sauce.  Stir in your sour cream and heat till hot (do not allow to boil!!!!).
  • Serve over egg noodles with a chunk of crusty bread to sop up all the goodness at the end.

Helpful tips

Partially freeze your beef prior to slicing as this will actually make it easier.  Place in the freezer for about 20 minutes or so.

Always use a sharp knife.  This will help make the process easier as well as help avoid any accidents.  I’ve cut myself many a time due to a dull blade slipping and cutting my hand.  Sharp knives save lives………no seriously…okay they end lives too but in this instance I don’t want to end up with 9 fingers.

If you dont feel like pasta try subbing out pasta and turning it into a pizza using the mushroom beef gravy as your sauce and top with a little mozzarella baking in an oven at 450 until bubbly.  I recommend using a more bready crust like Boboli to avoid any sogginess.

ENJOY!!!!!