Sunday, February 8, 2015

Chocolate Chip and Nutella Cookie Bars






Operation power belly continues onward, as I decided I needed more sugary treats in my life.  I found this recipe for cookie bars, and made the drastic innovation of swapping out peanut butter for Nutella. I know, I know, I’m like the Ferran Adria of baking. Seriously though, simple is usually the way to go wwith baking, even though I’m always tempted to go over the top and do stuff like 5 layer smores bars, or cheesecake topped brownies.

Ingredients:
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup Nutella
1 large egg
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (ghiradelli 60% cacao was used here) + extra on top

Preheat your oven to 350°F, and line an 8”x8” baking pan with parchment paper. Give it a spritz of cooking spray as well.

Place the butter in a bowl, and put that bowl on top of a small pot of simmering water, whisk as the butter melts. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool for a few minutes so it doesn’t cook your egg.

Add the cooled butter, egg, nutella, brown sugar, vanilla and salt to a bowl. Whisk until smooth.

Add in the flour, and fold until just combined – don’t mix more than you have to.

Fold in the 1 cup of chocolate chips. Transfer the batter into the baking pan, using a spatula to smooth out the top. Sprinkle some more chocolate chips on top.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the bars comes out clean (or mostly clean). Allow bars to cool for 30 minutes before serving.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Duck Ravioli with Seared Foie Gras






Okay, so maybe I went a little over the top here. This takes some serious time and money investment – I split the work over two days, doing the just, duck meat and cracklings on day one. Day two was making the ravioli and fillings, and the extra mushrooms/chard for the plate. Once all the crazy prep is done, this is actually quick and easy to cook, as long as you have your mise all set and plan out what need to be cooked when in your head. I got 13 ravioli – 4 was a sizable serving, because these were some jumbo ravioli. Duck just is probably enough for twice that, I froze the extra. Adjust other ingredients accordingly if you’re trying to scale this.

Duck Jus:
Duck carcass (see below for details)
1 onion, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of thyme
Black peppercorns
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups red wine
7 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons duck fat

The easiest way to do all this might be to roast the whole duck and divide it up afterwards; I thought I would just need to use 2 legs to get the meat for the ravioli filling, but in the end I used two breasts and one leg; Do whatever you need to do, but here’s the way I ended up going about this:

Remove the wings, legs, and breasts from the duck. Set aside the legs and breasts. Remove any remaining skin from the carcass – we’re reserving this for fat rendering and cracklings.

Place the remainder of the duck carcass on a baking tray along with the wings and the duck neck. Roast at 400°F for about 40 minutes, until everything has some nice color on it. Flip about halfway through.
Drain and save any fat on the pan. Cut the carcass into chunks and set aside along with the neck and wings.

In a stockpot over medium heat, add two teaspoons of duck fat and the onions/carrots/celery. Cook for 5 minutes until softened, then add the tomato paste and cook for a few more minutes, allowing the paste to start to caramelize. Add in the wine and reduce until it reaches a syrupy consistency.

Add in the chicken stock, reserved duck bones, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns. The liquid should be covering everything – if not add water until it does.

Simmer for 4 to 5 hours, then strain through a cheesecloth into a smaller pot. Discard the solids, and place the sauce back on a simmer and reduce until you have 3 to 4 cups of jus.

Cracklings:

Take the excess skin you removed from the duck and place it in a cold pan. Set the heat to low, and allow all the fat to render out, occasionally draining the fat through a strainer and saving it – this stuff is liquid gold so we’re keeping as much of it as possible.

Eventually all the fat will render, and the skin will start to brown. This could take in the neighborhood of 45 minutes depending on the heat in the pan, but that’s not set in stone. Once the skin is nice and brown, remove it from the pan. Chop into bite sized pieces.

Duck meat:

2 duck breasts
1 duck leg

Again, maybe not the optimum way to do this, but this is what I ended up doing. For the leg, roast at 400°F until it hits an internal temp of 165°F. For the breasts, place in a pan on medium heat, skin side down. Allow the fat to render until the skin starts to brown. Turn up the heat and get a nice color on the skin side. Flip, and cook briefly on the meat side, about a minute or two. Breasts should take 20 minutes to cook.

Remove the meat from the breasts and leg, and chop finely for ravioli filling.

Ravioli filling:
Reserved duck meat
½ pound crimini mushrooms, roughly choped
4 small shallots
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper

In a pan over medium heat, add some duck fat and the chopped mushrooms. Season with salt and cook for 4 minutes. Add the shallots and cook for an additional 2 or 3 minutes. Dump mushrooms and shallots in a bowl along with reserved duck meat, thyme, and some salt and pepper as needed.

Pasta dough:
9 ounces flour
6 ounces eggs (3 large eggs)
1 egg white and 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

I add the flour in a large bowl and weigh it out, then form a well in the middle and add eggs. If your eggs don’t quite weight 6 ounces, add a little water to make up the difference. Beat the eggs, slowly incorporating in the flour.

Once all the flour gets incorporated, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 7 minutes. The dough should have a velvety texture. Spritz a piece of saran wrap with cooking spray and place the dough ball on top. Hit the dough with an additional spritz of cooking spray and wrap with the plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Use a pasta machine to roll the dough out in two sheets. Spoon the filling onto one pasta sheet – I used about 1.5 tablespoons per ravioli? They ended up pretty big – I ended up with 13 all together.

Once the filling is spooned onto a pasta, make an egg wash by combining 1 egg white with 1 tablespoon water. Brush the egg wash around the each mound of filling. Take the second pasta sheet, and place it over the filling. Press the pasta together, removing air pockets as you go, and sealing the raviolis. Use a pizza cutter to separate and trim excess.

For the third sheet, place filling on one half, hit it with the egg wash and then fold over and seal.

If you’re making these ahead of time, place raviolis on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and lightly floured and stick in the freezer. Once frozen, place into a Ziploc bag.

Bringing it all together:
Duck Jus
Cracklings
Handful of small crimini muchrooms (or quarter larger ones)
Olive oil
Swiss chard
Duck raviolis
Foie Gras slices (mine came pre sliced, if you have a whole lobe you’ll have to look elsewhere on how to prep it)

Place the mushrooms and a small baking dish and toss with olive oil and salt. Roast in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes. Assuming you made the cracklings and duck jus ahead of time like I did, warm them up in the oven with a few minutes remaining.

For the swiss chard, wash and chop roughly. Add some oil in a pan over medium and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, until wilted, tossing some salt on for good measure.

For the ravioli, bring a pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the ravioli for 3 minutes (5 if frozen).

For the foie, score on one side with a knife (optional, strictly for presentation purposes – my score marks didn’t turn out super fantastic, but oh well). Salt liberally. Heat a cast iron or other sturdy pan on high – get it really hot now – and sear the foie gras for 30 seconds per side. That’s it, seriously foie gras is that easy to cook (if it comes sliced for you).

Place the chard and raviolis on the plate. Pour over duck jus. Top with roasted mushrooms and cracklings. Place seared foie gras on everything and dig in, because you’ve earned it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Buffalo Turkey Chili


A healthy, hearty delicious and cheap dish. What more can you want? I think there’s about 400 calories per serving (1 cup), if you omit the sour cream and cheese. Adapted from http://www.skinnytaste.com/2014/09/buffalo-chicken-and-bean-chili.html

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 10

Ingredients:
2 lbs. ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 habanero, deseeded and minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 15 oz. can pinto beans
1 15 oz. can navy beans
1 15 oz. can pink kidney beans
Salt and pepper
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
½ cup Frank’s hot sauce
3 cups chicken stock
2 cups corn
1.5 cups frozen peas

Garnishes:
Chedder cheese
Green Onions
Sour Cream

Heat a 6 quart dutch oven over medium high, add in a little oil and brown the turkey in two batches (about 5 minutes per batch), salting the turkey as it cooks then removing to a paper towel lined plate when finished.

Drop the heat to medium and add in the onion, carrots and celery, and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften.  Add in the garlic and habanero and cook for another minute. Add in the tomato paste, and cook for another additional minute.

Add all the stock and beans to the pot along with your seasonings – chili powder, cumin, paprika, Frank’s hot sauce (feel free to use less than ½ cup – start low and add as needed) salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the turkey back to the pot, give it a stir, and bring it back up to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add in the corn and frozen peas, give the pot a stir, then cover and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes.


Serve with sour cream, cheese and green onions.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Apple Bacon Gruyere Quesadillas




Apple, Bacon and Gruyere Quesadilla:
1 fuji apple, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
2 slices bacon
2/3 cup shredded gruyere cheese
½ cup arugula, roughly chopped
Caramelized onions (recipe follows)
4 tortillas

For the onions:

Slice 2 yellow onions. Heat a 12” pan over medium low and add a knob of butter (~2 tbsp). Add the onions and cook over medium low, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes until caramelized. Add ¼ cup water to the pan to deglaze and scrape up any frond with a wooden spoon, allowing the water to evaporate. Season with salt and remove from the pan. You’ll have a ton of extra onions, which you can use as a condiment for just about anything.

Quesadillas:

Cook the slices of bacon in a pan over medium heat. Crumble the bacon into little pieces and drain excess grease. Place a tortilla in the pan (still on medium heat), and layer on half of the apple slices, thyme, bacon pieces, cheese, arugula, and some onions. Top with another tortilla and cook for a minute or two until the tortilla on the bottom gets some color on it. Carefully flip and cook for another minute or two. Remove the quesadilla from the pan and slice with a pizza cutter. Repeat with remaining tortillas/ingredients.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Melon Gazpacho


This isn't the first time I've made gazpacho, and it certainly won't be the last. I look forward to making this soup every summer.

Gazpacho:
½ seedless watermelon
½ Santa Claus melon
1 large cucumber
1 large tomato
2 red bell peppers
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1.5 tablespoons salt
½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1.5 cups croutons (recipe follows)
Hot sauce to taste (I used Frank’s)

Remove the rind from the watermelon and Santa Claus melon and roughly chop. Peel and deseed the cucumber by cutting it in half lengthwise and using a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Give it a rough chop. Remove the seeds from your tomato, and give it a rough dice. Deseed the peppers and – you guessed it – give it a rough dice. Remove the papery husk from the garlic and dice.

Add all these ingredients to a large bowl along with the vinegar, salt, extra virgin olive oil and croutons. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours.

Add half the contents of the bowl to a blender and blend until you have a smooth soup. Repeat with the second half. Taste and season with salt.

To serve:
Gazpacho
Basil leaves
Black pepper
Prosciutto
Sungold cherry tomatoes, halved
Extra virgin olive oil
Croutons

Ladle some gazpacho in a bowl and garnish with the remaining ingredients.

Croutons:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed but kept whole
5 sprigs thyme
3.5 cups hearty stale bread


Cut bread into ¾” to 1” cubes. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the oil and the garlic; when the garlic starts to sizzle, add the bread and thyme. Cook until the bread starts to color (5 to 8 minutes? I wasn’t really paying close attention to how long it took, exactly), but be careful not to burn them. Add 1.5 cups to the gazpacho mixture, and reserve 2 cups (let them cool) for serving.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Puerco Pibil


I first heard about Puerco Pibil from director Robert Rodriguez, who featured his recipe on the DVD extras of Once Upon a Time in Mexico (naturally, you can find this online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gO8EiScBEjA).

It’s a really fantastic, tangy pulled pork dish with a little bit of kick to it as well. I made a few notable changes to Rodriguez’s recipe: I omitted the tequila (didn’t have any, wasn’t about to buy a bottle for this) as well as the banana leaves. I don’t know if the banana leaves add any flavor, but I suspect they are used as a traditional garnish since in the past this was cooked on coals buried in dirt (pib is Mexican for pit barbecue)

Puerco Pibil:
5 lbs. pork butt, cut into 2-3” cubes
5 tablespoons annatto seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon whole black pepper
½ teaspoon whole cloves
8 whole allspice berries
2 habanero peppers, deseeded and chopped
½ cup orange juice
½ cup cider vinegar
8 garlic cloves, diced
6 limes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt

Use a spice grinder to grind the annatto seeds, cumin seeds, black pepper, cloves and allspice into a powder.

In the container of a blender add the orange juice, cider vinegar, habaneros, diced garlic, brown sugar, salt, spice blend from the grinder and brown sugar. Juice the limes into the mixture as well.

Blend to liquefy, and add the marinade into a large Ziploc bag along with the cubed pork. Toss the bag into the fridge, and marinate for 4 to 6 hours, turning every so often.

Preheat an oven to 325. Add the meat and the marinade to a 9”x13” baking pan and cover with foil. Bake for 3 hours. Remove the pork from the sauce and shred. Serve over rice with some salsa. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Tomatillo Salsa:
6 tomatillos, halved
2 garlic cloves, still in their husks
1 habanero, deseeded
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
½ cup of water (more if needed)
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black peper


Put a pan over medium heat and add the tomatillos, garlic and habanero, and cook, flipping once, until everything starts to get some color on it. Add the tomatillos straight into a blender. Chop the habanero and add it to the blender. Remove the garlic cloves from their papery husks and chop, then add to the blender. Add the cilantro and water (go easy on the water and add more if you think it needs it) and puree. Season with cumin, onion powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Frog Leg Confit with Peach and Mango Salsa



Trying new things is always fun, so when this week’s theme of confit came up, I decided to try frog legs for the first time. Confit is a preservation technique using rendered fat to slowly cook meat. Typically you would use the fat of whatever meat you were preserving, but this wouldn’t really work in this case.

I have to admit I wasn’t a fan of this. It’s not that the recipe is necessarily not working, I just wasn’t a fan of frog legs. They’re not offensive in any way, but they taste like a combinating of fish and chicken, which isn’t really something I’ve been missing all my life.  That, and they were pretty expensive, especially considering the taste.

This is really just my personal preference (or lack thereof), so don’t let this dissuade you from giving frog a chance.

Frog Leg Confit:
Frog legs (I made 1 lb [4 legs] – good for 2 servings)
Duck fat
Rosemary sprig
Garlic clove
Bay leaf
Flour
Egg
Panko bread crumbs
Canola oil

Preheat oven to 275°F. Place the frog legs in a oven safe dish with decently high sides. Pour in melted duck fat to cover the frog legs by 1”. Add in sprig of rosemary, garlic, and bay leaf. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and place in the oven. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until tender but not falling off the bone.

Remove the legs from the fat and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. You can do this part the night before.

When you are ready to cook the legs, pour enough canola oil into a dutch oven to cover the legs by at least 1”. Heat the oil to 375°F.

Make a breading station by placing flour on a plate, a beaten egg and 1 tbsp of water in a dish, and some panko bread crumbs on a plate. Coat the frog legs with flour, then shake off the excess. Coat the leg with the egg wash, then the panko, shaking off any excess. Repeat with remaining pieces.

Fry the legs for about 2 minutes, until the breading is golden brown. Serve with salsa, arugula, radishes and red-leaf romaine.

Mango-Peach Salsa:
1 very large mango, diced
4 medium peaches, diced
3 small jalapeno peppers, deseeded and diced
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 shallots, diced
Lime juice
Salt

Cut everything up that needs to be cut and add to a bowl. Season with lime juice and salt. Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour before serving to let the flavors blend together.