Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Crispiest Apple Crisp, Ever? Ever!

Here is the apple crisp recipe that I teased yesterday, with the outrageous claim that it’s the crispiest apple crisp topping ever. Can I prove that fact? No, and that’s the beauty of such culinary hyperbole, no one can prove otherwise.

The secret ingredient, as identified by several astute observers yesterday, is Grape Nuts. This extremely crispy and crunchy breakfast cereal does some amazing things to your basic oatmeal-based fruit crisp topping mixture. I figured anything that can soak in milk for 10 minutes and still be crunchy, would work well.

Here is a link in case you are not familiar with this product, and if you can’t get any, don’t worry, you can just double the oatmeal, or add other things like chopped nuts, etc. Will it be as good? No, not even close.

By the way, in case you’re not sure, this is a dessert. It’s not a breakfast food, it’s not a healthy snack, it’s a sweet, buttery, deliciously crispy dessert. If you want healthy, slice some apples over a bowl of oatmeal, but if you want a semi-decadent after dinner treat, I hope you give this a try. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Some of you are having issues with your own "accidental apple candy," and while I joked about it in the clip, I should have been more clear about not cooking the sugar too much before adding the apples. You can add them pretty much right after the sugar goes in the pan to avoid this issue. The risk with that is too much water from the apples diluting the caramel sauce, but that's probably the lesser of two evils.

For the topping:
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oatmeal (rolled oats)
1/2 cup Grape Nuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar

For the filling:
5-6 apples
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp water
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Oscar Party Snack Ideas! And the Winner is...

I have no problem waiting a year to watch feature films via my overpriced cable provider, but the major drawback is that I never have any clue what's gong on during the Academy Awards show. I won't get any of Billy Crystal's inside jokes, and the video clip montages will only serve to confuse and annoy. So, for people like me, the highlight of any Oscar party is the food. Here are a few ideas that should garner rave reviews. Enjoy!

Deviled Eggs with Candied Pepper Rings
Clams Casino Dip
Italian Rice Croquettes
Green Hummus
Bacon Ranch Chicken Skewers

Friday, February 24, 2012

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup – Thank Goodness We Had Roasted Chicken Broth Around!

In case you haven’t been following along, let me catch you up. On Wednesday we made a gorgeous roasted chicken broth for the expressed purpose of making this soul-warming soup. Here, we used that wonderfully flavorful broth to complete the recipe, and let me tell you, it was incredible.

You know how much I hate to complicate a recipe, and I'll always err on the side of too few ingredients vs. too many, so when I make this chicken noodle soup it’s a constant battle to not add other “stuff.”

Not that’s there’s anything wrong with stuff, per se, but if properly made, this soup is just too amazing in its pure and natural state for any distracting, supercilious additions. By the way, a little advice to you young up-and-coming food bloggers; never use “per se,” and “supercilious” in the same sentence.

Yes, other than the mirepoix, and a tiny pinch of fresh thyme, the rest of this soup is basically chicken and noodles. Speaking of the noodles, I’m hoping you go with the wide ones I used. I was only half-kidding about this soup being a meditation, and egg noodle wrestling is half the fun.

Like I said in the video, this will work with regular chicken stock, but if you do decide to make this, I sincerely hope you go ahead and make the roasted chicken broth first. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4-6 servings:
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp rendered chicken fat
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 tsp fresh thyme leaves or pinch of dried thyme
1 pound cooked chicken breast, cubed
4 oz dry wide egg noodles
cayenne, salt and black pepper to taste

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Roasted Chicken Broth – Part 1 of The Ultimate Chicken Noodle Soup!

People throw around the word “ultimate” these days with total disregard for its actual meaning…and I’m no different. I was planning on posting my "ultimate" chicken noodle soup today, but then decided to show you a from-scratch roasted chicken broth first, which made the recipe too long for one single video.

So, we’ll finish this schmaltzy mini-series on Friday, and with all kidding aside, it really is the ultimate chicken noodle soup. And what makes it so much more ultimate than all the other ultimate chicken noodle soups is this deep, rich broth.

We’ve done classic chicken stock before, but this time we're roasting the chicken first, as well as using all of the dark meat to fortify the broth. By the way, it’s the meat addition that turns a “stock” into a “broth,” as stocks are made only using bones.

Regarding the ketchup addition, which will for some bizarre reason raise eyebrows (in particular, those bushy European ones). Sure, you can use a little real tomato, or tomato paste, but I really believe the ketchup is superior. I want those trace amounts of aromatic spice to be subtly present in the aroma as you sip on the broth.

Anyway, get your broth started, and you’ll be ready to complete this amazing soup on Friday. Stay tuned, and enjoy!

3 1/2 lb whole chicken (no innards)
2 tsp kosher salt for seasoning chicken skin
1 onion, quartered
1 rib celery, cut in pieces
3 cloves garlic, bruised slightly with flat of knife
1 tbsp ketchup
2 quarts cold water

Monday, February 20, 2012

Creole Crab & Corn Chowder – Let the Good Clichés Roll!

It’s so trite to say that something is only as good as the ingredients that go into it. Everyone knows that, right? It’s just common sense. Except, there I was, eating a very good bowl of crab and corn chowder that could have, should have, been very great; but it wasn’t because I didn’t remembered that old cliché.

As I mention numerous times in the video, this would ideally be made in the middle of summer, with ears of fresh, sweet-as-sugar corn. If that’s not seasonally possible (i.e., you’re doing a Mardi Gras themed recipe in winter), you can make a perfectly fine version using a premium-quality, extra-sweet, frozen corn. Or, you can do what I did.

I used an old bag of budget-brand corn I found in the freezer. The odd thing is, I’m not sure where it came from, or what it was purchased for. There are things like vodka and fair-trade coffee beans that somehow appear in my icebox as if placed there by invisible kitchen gremlins (btw, that would make a pretty cool name for a band), and I can only assume that’s how the corn got in there.

So, while I could have just walked two-blocks, and bought an expensive bag of something sweet and delicious, I instead went ahead and used a product that only a prison warden could love. The good news is that even with the almost-flavorless corn, this chowder was very good, so if you do as I say, and not as I clichéd, yours will certainly rock.

If you’re from New Orleans, I’d love to hear if they make anything similar to this. As I admit in the video, this is not my take on some iconic Creole recipe, but a simple soup inspired by those ingredients and style of cooking. Anyway, I hope you give it a try soon, and laissez le bon (corn) temps rouler!

2 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced bell pepper, or jalapeno, or combination of any sweet/hot peppers
1/2 cup diced celery
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay
1 1/2 tbsp flour
3 1/2 cup water or stock, divided (2 1/2 for the pot, and 1 cup for the blender)
1 pound sweet corn kernels, divided
2 cloves peeled garlic
8 oz fresh crab meat, divided
1/4 cup cream
1 tsp sweet Spanish paprika, or to taste
green onion to garnish

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chocolate Soufflés with Nougat Whip (Warning: Intended for Mature Audiences)

Chocolate Soufflés with Nougat Whip Photo (c) SmithBites.com
My friend, Linda from Salty Seattle, called this Chocolate Soufflés with Nougat Whip video, “porn without people,” and I couldn’t agree more. The term “food porn” gets thrown around way too easily these days. Sorry, that picture of your red velvet cupcakes was nice, but it wasn’t really pornographic. This, however, could make you blush. By the way, the surface temperature of a blushing face is the exact temperature at which chocolate melts. Coincidence?

This semi-sweet tour-de-force is from Debra and Rod “The Professor” Smith, from SmithBites.com. I’m relatively new to their work, but quite impressed to say the least. I’m very proud Food Wishes helped pioneer the chef-less recipe video, but this is taking that idea to a whole other place – surreal and viscerally sensual, yet still comforting and familiar. Please follow this link to check out the original post, and see more of their fine work. Enjoy!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Garlic Shrimp – Not Necessarily In That Order

The great thing about posting a recipe as generic as “Garlic Shrimp,” is that nobody can complain it’s not authentic. If it has shrimp and enough garlic in it, it’s authentic. Above and beyond that, just about anything goes.

The only real debate revolves around whether to cook shrimp first, and then add the garlic; or sauté the garlic first, and then cook the shrimp. I’ve used and enjoyed both methods, but I think I prefer the one shown here.

If you cook the garlic first, it mellows out the flavor, and gives it a little sweeter aspect, but it also increases the risk of browning it too much, which is the only way to screw this up. Besides that, it prevents getting any kind of color on the seafood.

By searing the shrimp first, you’ll get some nice caramelization, which I think really adds to the depth of flavor. Speaking of flavor, I can’t believe I’m giving away my caper brine secret; but I decided it’s just too good to not share. The little splash of salty goodness does something that’s easier to taste than explain.

Anyway, if you like shrimp and LOVE garlic, I hope you give this fast and delicious recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 large or 4 small portions:
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 pound shrimp
salt to taste
6 cloves garlic, minced fine
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp cold butter, cut in 4 pieces
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp caper brine
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley, divided
water as needed to thin sauce

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies – These are to Chocolate Chips as Turkeys are to Eagles

This classic peanut butter cookie recipe has me thinking about something I saw on the history channel a few months ago, about how the bald eagle became our national bird, instead of the wild turkey.

While the regal eagle was the popular choice, many, including Benjamin Franklin, argued that the lesser attractive turkey was more deserving. Not only was it truly indigenous, but they also argued it was more courageous, and unlike the eagle, was not a lowly scavenger. Of course, we all know how that one turned out.

Now, I don’t think America has an official national cookie designation, but if it did, I bet you a Benjamin (see what I did there?) that the ever-popular chocolate chip would beat out peanut butter cookies for the honor. It would be eagle vs. turkey all over again.

Sure the chocolate chip is always popular, and more visually enticing, but when you compare the relative historical significance to American culture, the peanut far eclipses the chocolate chip. I mean, come on, is there even a “Mr. Chocolate Chip?” I don’t think so.

By the way, let me go ahead and answer the obvious question that’s probably on many of your minds right now… no, I don’t have anything more important to worry about. I hope you give this peanut butter cookie, America’s cookie, a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes about 24):
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp fine table salt)
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
*Bake at 375 degrees F. for 10 minutes

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine’s Day Carpaccio – A Meat Heart for Your Sweetheart!

I like carpaccio. My wife and Valentine, Michele, likes carpaccio. So for us, a heart-shaped version of this classic Italian beef salad seems nothing short of fabulous. Of course, I do understand that this isn’t for everyone. If you don’t like, or more likely, are afraid of rare meat, I don’t imagine you’ll be giving this a try.

That’s perfectly fine, and we’re all too busy to bother trying to convert you over to the red team. However, for people that do enjoy this classic dish, and realize that properly handled, high-quality beef is no more dangerous to eat raw than sushi, or a spinach salad, I think this would make for a creative, and visually arresting start to their Valentine’s Day dinner menu.

While this preparation is fairly classic, I do like to keep my beef a little bit thicker than is traditionally done. Most carpaccios are pounded very, very thin, but if you’re using a really nice piece of beef tenderloin, why smash it so flat? Since it’s naturally tender and buttery, I like it to keep a little bit of its texture, instead of being mashed too thin.

Another tip is to season the meat generously. The salt is very important here, almost as much as some kind of bracing salad tossed with a sharp, acidic dressing. By the way, just because I went with arugula and traditional lemon mustard dressing, doesn’t mean you can’t take this in other exotic directions.

I’ve enjoyed some great renditions over the years, including several which incorporated Asian ingredients into the mix. As usual, I’d love to hear about (and maybe see?) how you adapt this carpaccio to your own personal tastes. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 portions:
4-6 oz freshly trimmed, high-quality, beef tenderloin, sliced thin
1 cup baby arugula leaves
1 oz shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tsp capers
For the dressing:
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne

Friday, February 10, 2012

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Dried Cherries (Aphrodisiac-Amplifying Alcohol Sold Separately)

As I mention in the opening of the video, this stuffed, prosciutto-wrapped chicken breast has everything you want in a Valentine’s Day entrée; it looks fancy, it tastes amazing, and contains dried cherries, a known aphrodisiac.

Of course, the efficacy of aphrodisiacs has been hotly debated for centuries, and while I think that some foods can have this effect, it’s virtually impossible to prove as scientific fact. One challenge with objectively analyzing the libido-leavening effects of these substances is that they’re often served alongside copious amounts of alcohol.

Would eating two-dozen oysters still turn you on, if you didn’t down all that champagne with them? Does chocolate mousse have the same effect if not preceded by a bottle of wine? I guess we could do some experiments eating these foods without drinking, but to be honest, I’m really not curious enough to do something that extreme.

Anyway, whether this delicious stuffed and rolled chicken breast helps gives your Valentine the urge to merge, or not, no one will argue that it would still make for a beautiful and romantic meal. I hope you give it a try. Enjoy!

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
4 thin slices prosciutto

For the stuffing:
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
1 tsp freshly picked thyme leaves
1 tsp freshly minced oregano
2 cloves minced garlic
1 rounded tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tsp olive oil
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne

For optional pan sauce:
3/4 cup chicken broth
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp cold butter
salt and pepper to taste

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pizza Sauce – Let’s Play ‘Hide the Little Fish’

I can assure you that the anchovies in this pizza sauce recipe are there for the subtle saltiness and unique savoriness they provide, and not just so you can tell your friend (the one who really hates anchovies) that they just ate some. Could it be for both? Sure.

This pizza sauce recipe represents a new and improved version of the one we posted way back in 2007. We snuck in some of the aforementioned fish, and we’re also using both fresh and dried oregano. I love this sauce. If there’s a tastier, all-purpose pizza sauce recipe out there, I haven’t tried it.

Convention wisdom says that great pizza is all about the crust. Which is certainly a huge factor, but if you were given the choice between a great crust topped with a bad sauce, and a grocery store crust made with a delicious, world-class sauce, which would you prefer?

Texture aside, no mater how they're combined, flour, water, and yeast can only taste so bad. But, a terrible sauce can actually make a slice of pizza inedible. I can’t remember ever not eating a piece of pizza because the crust was so awful, but I've given up after biting into an inferior sauce before.

Of course, around these parts the argument is completely academic since we’ve not only provided you with a plan for perfect sauce, but given you several great pizza dough recipes, like our famous no-knead pizza dough, as well as the venerable Wolfgang Puck California-style dough recipe. I hope you make pizza soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes about 3 cups):
3 tbsp olive oil
2 anchovy filets
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 can (28 oz) whole peeled “San Marzano” tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp sugar
very small pinch baking soda

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tiramisu Chocolate Mousse – Pick’em Up and Lay’em Down

Most foodies know that Tiramisu is a decadent dessert featuring coffee soaked ladyfingers layered with a zabaione and mascarpone, but what many people don’t know is that the recipe’s name is one of the best culinary double entendres ever.

“Tiramisu” translates to "pick me up." Considering that this popular Italian dessert is spiked with proven mood-elevators such as coffee, cocoa, sugar, and alcohol, the name seems to fit perfectly. But wait, there’s more.

As legend has it, tiramisu was a popular snack with the “working girls” of northern Italy, where the dessert originated. So, not only does "pick me up" refer metaphorically to the obvious restorative effects of the dessert, but also more literally to the solicitation of another customer.

Which brings us to this upcoming Valentine’s Day. Not only would this make for a very happy ending for your V-Day meal, but think about the stimulating conversation that could follow when you recount this racy tale.

Anyway, even if you don’t end up talking about Italian prostitutes over dessert, if you’re a fan of chocolate mousse, and you enjoy a good "pick me up," you can’t go wrong with this deliciously decadent, yet still fairly light dessert. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
3.5 oz dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
2 tbsp espresso coffee, or strong regular coffee
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp Marsala wine (may sub with rum, or omit)
2 egg yolks
4 tsp sugar
2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream, whipped

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowls of Cabbage Rolls

I wanted to wish you all a fun, festive, and very delicious Super Bowl Sunday! I’ll be watching the game with the in-laws, and if you’re wondering what we’re going to be eating, you may be surprised. There will be no Buffalo wings, no nacho cheese, and no baby back ribs.

I’m so tired of football food, having produced all these recent Super Bowl-inspired videos, that I made a batch of cabbage rolls using this very popular, previously posted recipe. Hey, they are football shaped after all. 

I didn’t re-shoot the recipe, but I did snap a couple cell shots that I posted to Instagram (don't worry, they're better the next day...the cabbage rolls, not the photos). Enjoy the game, and GO GIANTS!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Quick Pickled Jalapeno Rings – I Hear These are Great on Nachos!

Unlike nacho cheese sauce, the nutritional label on a jar of pickled jalapenos isn’t very scary at all, so you can’t use that as an excuse when your non-foodie friends start making fun of you for having too much time on your hands. Nope, you’ll just have to fess up to making these pickled jalapeno rings for the simple reason that you knew how.

While these are a no-brainer topping for your nachos, the fun doesn’t stop there. These make any sandwich more special, and any salad less snoozy. It would be faster to list things that this wouldn’t make more delicious.

As I mention in the video, these are intended to be used relatively soon after making, but they will last for a while in the fridge. You don’t have to be too worried about getting sick, as not much bad happens in a brine, but eventually they start to break down, especially if you slice them thin. Having said that, if you enjoy these as much as I do, they won’t be around very long anyway. Enjoy!

Please note: recipe below makes enough for two (8-oz) jars of peppers. I only pickled enough peppers for one jar, and saved the rest of the brine for something else.

10 large jalapeno peppers, sliced
3 tbsp sugar (I like these kind of sweet, so use less or no sugar if you don’t)
3/4 cup white distilled vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp oregano
1 clove garlic

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Homemade Nacho Cheese Sauce – Sure it’s Harder, But at Least it’s More Expensive!

Unlike most of the videos I post, this nacho cheese sauce recipe is not cheaper and easier to make at home. In fact, you could probably get a gallon of that industrial strength lubricant that passes for cheese sauce at the grocery store for the same cost as a single batch of this, but what you lose in cost and quantity, you more than make up for in actual food content.

I’m not really that militant about insisting people read nutritional labels. I mean, who has the time? But just for fun, the next time you’re in the processed foods aisle (if those are still legal where you live) check out the back of a nacho cheese sauce. Pretty frightening.

However, while we’re going to use real, honest-to-goodness cheese in this, we still want to mimic some of the other more desirable characteristics of that day-glow yellow cheese syrup they pump on your chips at the movies.

We want the same thin, slightly runny viscosity, so that the sauce seeps down and around all the chips on your plate. It’s a total rookie mistake to make a nacho cheese sauce too thick, since as soon as it hits the chips it tightens up considerably, and you end up with a lump of cheese, and some serious sauce-to-chip ratio issues. Even at room temp, this sauce remains fairly fluid.

As you’ll see, I used Jack, Muenster, and white cheddar cheese for mine, which gave me a pale, yet pleasantly-colored sauce, but if you want something a little “brighter,” then go with the classic orange cheddar instead. Contrary to popular believe, orange cheese is not artificially colored, and uses annatto seed to produce that iconic hue.

Anyway, if you planning on having a nacho cheese sauce involved in your Super Bowl party plans, and you really should, I hope you give this a try. By the way, I’ll show you how to do some quick-pickled jalapeno rings in a video Friday, so stay tuned for that. Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes about 5 cups of sauce):
1/4 cup melted butter
3 tbsp plus 1 tsp all-purpose flour
3 cups cold milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp chipotle pepper
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 lb Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1/4 lb Muenster cheese, grated