Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Delicious Southwestern Corn Chowder

Since I'm staying in New Mexico, my mom and I decided to make a southwestern style dish. And since it was snowing this morning, soup sounded great. We used a base recipe, but then made some changes. The most important being the substitution of New Mexico Green Chilies, which we roasted.

Here's the recipe:
3 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 cups fat-free chicken broth
2 cups fresh corn
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 New Mexico green chili, roasted
2 ribs celery, finely diced
2 cups low-fat milk
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish (we used sharp white cheddar)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (this made it fairly spicy, if you don't like spice, use 1/4)

Melt the butter in a large sauce pan. Toss in the onions and cook until tender, about five minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and all the vegetables. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender. About 5 minutes.

Puree two cups worth of the veggie mix, or briefly use an immersion blender, but don't over puree. The chunks really make the soup great.

Add the cheese, milk, and spices. Use fresh ground black pepper to taste. Bring back to a simmer, and allow to simmer until the soup is thick. About fifteen minutes. I served it with an additional cup of Cheddar cheese for garnish, which helped to cut some of the heat of the cayenne.

Overall, this was a really delicious soup. I was very happy with it. It's great for a cold wintry night!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Call me Julia! - Boeuf Bourguignon

After watching Julie & Julia, I felt inspired. I decided to go for the big time, and make Julia Childs' boeuf bourguignon. No small feat. I googled, and found a million different blogs, articles, and other websites dedicated to Julia's famous recipe. I used the recipe here: http://www.oprah.com/recipe/food/recipesmeat/20090806-orig-julia-child-boeuf-bourguignon.

Ignore the ridiculous typos courtesy of Oprah's staff.

Okay, so the first challenge I had was that I'm in rural New Mexico, and bacon rind was not an option. I just ignored that ingredient, and added a little extra bacon to compensate. This was another adventure where I once again learned that I should lay out all my prepared ingredients, because the first part of this recipe goes fastfastfast. But once you get it in the oven, it's pretty much done.

Don't worry about preparing anything else you're serving with this dish until after you get it into the oven. You'll have plenty of time. I left it in for 2:15, but I was cooking at high elevation, and I browned the meat pretty thoroughly.

While the stew was in the oven, I made a salad with pear, gorgonzola,spicy pecans, and a homemade vinaigrette. I served the stew over mashed potatoes, which really enhanced the flavor and paired nicely with the texture. I also served some fresh french bread, to use for soaking up the juices, and as a side I also provided some roasted garlic cloves to spread on the bread. Delicious!

I'll post the spicy nut recipe separately. I need to try it again when I'm not running around trying to accomplish too many things at once.

I have no profound insight on this recipe. I think this may be one of those practice makes perfect recipes. I may have to try it again, because I thought the meat was a little dry, and could have been seasoned better. But there are SO many delicious recipes to be made!

Happy Holidays!

In my family I am the designated dessert maker. Okay, okay. I designated myself dessert maker about 6 years ago, when I decided I was tired of store bought pies. I always try to make something new and different. I've got a contingent of anti-chocolaters, a majority are chocoholics, and then there is my Uncle who won't eat anything I make, so he doesn't count at all.

This year I decided to do a bread pudding. After perusing a few recipes, I settled with a panettone bread pudding that had an amaretto cream sauce. The recipe is herewww.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/panettone-bread-pudding-with-amaretto-sauce-recipe/index.html

Having no chocolate dessert would have caused an uproar, so I paired my bread pudding with the following alcoholic hot chocolate recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/hot-chocolate-drink-recipe/index.html

So, for the bread pudding, I found the panettone at the grocery store in a box in the bakery section. And when I opened it, it smelled delicious! I trimmed off all the outer crust, and cubed the pieces. I put them in a 13 x 9, and covered it with the cream/custard mixture. I let it sit in a cool, but not cold, room for about 45 minutes. Every ten minutes I'd press the bread down into the custard mixture to make sure it was soaking. Then I popped it into the oven and baked it slightly longer than the recipe called for. My grandma's oven is old, and not so hot.

While the bread pudding was baking, I prepared the amaretto sauce and the hot chocolate. Nothing special to say about the amaretto sauce. I probably could have used a little more cornstarch, because it didn't thicken as much as I would have liked. But the flavor was very nice, and the yield was plenty to cover the bread pudding.

On the hot chocolate, I doubled the recipe. I put the milk and cream on the burner to let it come to a low boil, and while I waiting I measured out some of my other ingredients. I do not recommend doing it that way. Measure out your ingredients first, because once the milk comes to a boil, it quickly goes from low to high to "OMG ITS BOILING OVER ON MY GRANDMA'S ELECTRIC RANGE AND NOW EVERYTHING SMELLS LIKE BURNT MILK!!!" Yeah, you get the picture. Now, I can tell you that the boil over was not the end of the world, and the hot chocolate still turned out delicious. But it was an awful mess, so watch your pot.

A useful tip here. I couldn't find the Dutch processed cocoa powder. You should not use regular cocoa powder when the recipe calls for dutch processed. But you can convert regular cocoa powder to "dutch processed" by adding 1/8th a tsp of baking soda per 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Worked fine for me.

My final recommendation on the cocoa is that homemade marshmallows would have been fantastic. I used fresh whipped cream, and while it was nice, I think marshmallows would have been better. And, of course, sprinkle some shaved chocolate over the top, because it makes things look classy classy.

I'll be honest, this was not the best pairing. Each dessert on its own was delicious, but served together and at the same time they were too sweet, and a little overwhelming. I probably could have served the bread pudding, then waited a bit and served the hot chocolate. Also, hot chocolate works better when its cold. 65 and sunny in So Cal is not really the weather for hot chocolate! But this hot chocolate would be awesome around a fire in a snowy state.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mac n Cheese Please!

I'd been itching to try my hand at homemade mac n cheese. And since it was finals, comfort food seemed to be just what was needed! I started with the following recipe:
www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/baked-macaroni-and-cheese-recipe/index.html. I used two types of cheddar, a smokey yellow cheddar, and an extra sharp white cheddar.

I also decided that a little bacon was in order to make this recipe extra delicious. So I substituted some of the butter for rendered bacon fat in equal amounts. I also fried up a few pieces of bacon. I chopped them up and added them to the noodle mixture. The bacon added that extra little touch that made this dish super delish. I'd say 5 strips of thick bacon will do the trick, but make sure you chop them finely. Some of mine were a little too big, which was not aesthetically pleasing.

The only tough piece in making this recipe was the tempering of the egg. Beeeee careful! It sucks to ruin all your work by adding the egg in before its been properly tempered. I spend forever tempering. Better safe than seriously sorry. Also, be active in stirring the heated milk. I wasn't so careful, and it formed a thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Not detrimental to the recipe. But made cleaning up after a serious pain.

Overall, this recipe was pretty easy and totally delicious. Much better than Easy Mac, especially during finals!

Wow Your Parents!

Want to wow your parents? Or, anyone really. Except your veggie friends. And want to wow them while not killing yourself? Yes. Okay! I've got the recipes for you!

I made a herb crusted pork tenderloin, gorgonzola and porcini risotto, and roasted asparagus.

These are the recipes I used:

For the pork, I used a 2lb tenderloin, rather than the 4lb. And I don't know what that recipe is talking about when it says that a 4lb tenderloin will only yield 6 servings. The 2lb tenderloin easily could have rendered 6 servings! Because I was using a smaller piece of meat, I changed the temperature and cook times. I did 15 minutes at 450, and 30 minutes at 375. I think could have done an additional 5 minutes at 375 to get it just right. But I didn't have a meat thermometer, so I was sort flying blind.

I used all fresh herbs, and used 3 teaspoons rather than 2. I used kosher salt. Kosher salt on roasted meat is awesome, and I happen to really enjoy it. But if you don't, then you might want to consider cutting down on the salt a little, because it was admittedly close to being too salty.

I had conveniently prepped the asparagus, using olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and lemon juice. Made sure the asparagus was thoroughly covered, put it on a baking sheet, and as soon as I took the pork out I put the asparagus in for ten minutes at 400. Make sure you turn the asparagus, or shake it up a little, half way through. The pork should rest for ten minutes after coming out of the oven, so this was a good way to productively use my time and limited oven space.

On to the risotto. This was my first time making risotto, and it was more demanding that I expected. Not in a complicated way. In a stirstirstir way. For the first part of the recipe I followed everything exactly. My mom only had red onions, so I used a red onion. A yellow one probably would have been better. But oh well. Once you get this recipe going its going, and unless you have someone else in your kitchen who can help you stir, be prepared to be very busy for about 30 minutes. I actually used all of the original chicken stock and had to add an extra cup in order to get the risotto past super crunchy and to al dente.

Once I took the risotto off the burner, I added the cheese. I made substantial changes to the cheese. I did 3/4 cup of parmesan, and about 1/2 cup asiago. I only added about 1/3 a cup of gorgonzola. And I'm glad I did it that way, because it stopped the gorgonzola from taking over the flavor. It was nicely balanced, and tasted great.

My only other word of warning on the risotto is that you should definitely use low-sodium chicken stock. Otherwise it will be just a touch too salty.

Overall, the pork tenderloin was really easy to make, asparagus is always a hit, and the risotto looks and tastes a lot more difficult than it is. Your parents will think you're classy. And isn't that always the goal?

Monday, December 21, 2009


I was recently treated to a very nice dinner at L'Etoile. I enjoy French food. It plays up all my favorite flavors, and everything is usually rich and decadent. To feel the part, Chris and I dressed to the nines. He wore a suit and tie, and I wore a floor length yellow chiffon dress with a heart shaped bodice and a single shoulder strap. But this isn't a fashion blog, so on to the food!

We started with the foie gras and the sweetbreads. The foie gras was delicious, and the crostini that came with it was perfectly toasted. Not too thick, not too dry, not to hard. It had a wonderful flavor and texture. I thought the sweetbreads were good, although not the best I've ever had. What I liked was that they were not in a heavy sauce, so all the flavor was coming from the meat itself. It gave me a new appreciation for sweetbreads. I feel like a good sauce enhances the natural flavor of the meat, which is why these sweetbreads are not my all time favorite. But they were very good, nonetheless.

For our second course we ordered the pear bisque and a salad. The salad had goat cheese, ham, pine nuts, and a citrus vinaigrette. The salad was very good, but how much can really be said about a salad? The soup, however, was interesting and unique. I was a bit worried that it would be a sweet soup, because of the pear. It was a freezing night outside, and sweet was not what I was in the mood for. But it was a savory blend. It reminded me a little of a butternut squash bisque, where the sweet and savory work together. It had the same creamy consistency as butternut squash bisque, with a beautiful champagne color.

For entrees we decided to go with a meat and a pasta. For our meat we ordered the duck with cranberry, mashed potatoes, and mushrooms. The duck was perfectly cooked, and the sides came together to enhance the rich flavor of the meat. It was some of the best duck I've had, because it was so moist and flavorful. Why do people order chicken?! For our pasta we ordered a delicious goat cheese gnocchi with sweet potato and other fall root vegetables. I thought some of the root vegetables were unnecessary and even distracting, but the sugary flavor of the sweet potatoes really brought out the goat cheese. Both of the entrees were delicious, and I was glad Chris was willing to share with me, so I could try them both.

Chris had been eyeing the bread pudding on the dessert menu from the moment we sat down. There was no denying him the southern style bread pudding with chocolate chips. I opted for the pot de creme. Chris' dessert was the easy winner. The pot de creme wasn't as creamy, rich or flavorful as I expected. But the bread pudding was amazing. Rich and moist, and the chocolate chips were a great addition.

If you want to go on a really sophisticated date, L'Etoile is a great choice. The wait staff was friendly, professional, and attentive. The drinks (he had scotch and I had a Kir Royale) were well made. The atmosphere was quiet, private, and romantic. And the food was...superb.

Overall, if you want to impress a girl, this is the place to go. Thanks for taking me, Chris! :)

So, the breakdown, on a scale from 1 to 5:

Ambiance: 4
Service: 5
Entrees: 5
Desserts: 4
Overall: 5

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Cookie Party!

I hosted a holiday cookie party study break. Holiday cookie parties are a fun way to see friends and then mix and match cookies and take a plate home. Great for study time!

I busted out my great grandmother's peanut butter ball recipe. It's my all time fave holiday treat.

1 lb butter
3 tbsp vanilla
2 12 oz pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 blocks paraffin (I've never used the entire amount)
2 cups peanut butter
3 boxes powdered sugar

Mix together the butter, peanut butter and vanilla.
Add 1 box of powdered sugar at a time to first mixture. Mix until crumbly.
Roll peanut butter mixture into small balls. Refrigerate until chocolate is ready.
Melt paraffin over double boiler and add chocolate chips, stir.
Use toothpicks to hold balls and dip in chocolate. Lay out on wax paper until solid.

They are kind of time consuming to make, because you end up rolling and dipping about 100 individual balls. I had three full cookie sheets worth. I'd allocate a good hour and a half to prep work and dry time. But they stay good and taste fresh for weeks, and are extremely crowd pleasing.

Oh, and you'll probably have extra chocolate for dipping, so buy some nice strawberries and dip them afterward. Or shortbread cookies! Good chocolate should not go to waste!