Month: February 2019

Cold Day Comfort Food 26 Feb

Cold Day Comfort Food

When I woke up this morning, it was bloody friggin’ cold, which I suppose is to be expected at the end of August here in Canada. After nearly two months of temperatures in the mid to high 20’s, waking up to a 6 degree morning was less than pleasant.

(For any non-metric folks out there, think 77 F to 42 F.)

Colder weather always seems to put me in the mood for some form of comfort food, and few things are as comforting to me as macaroni & cheese. I’m not talking about that crap that comes in the box with the powdered “cheese”, but actual, honest-to-goodness mac & cheese, made from scratch.

I’ve made plenty of mac & cheese in my life, a fact in and of itself that demanded that I try something different. Originally, I intended to create a variation based on a classic cheese fondue, with Gruyere, Emmentaler , and Appenzeller, but to my dismay, I learned that my cheese shop closed its doors permanently. Sumo being Sumo, I employed my superior improvisational skills and came up with a new plan.

Cold Day Comfort Food

It goes without saying that the new plan was entirely dependent on the types of cheeses I was able to find in the grocery store, but I was able to find some that I like, so it all worked out.

8 oz dried pasta (I used shells)
4 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
2 tbsp flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp dry mustard
Couple pinches of freshly ground pepper
Couple dashes of sweet paprika
2 cups whole milk

grated cheddar cheese, about 2/3 cup
grated mozzarella, about 2/3 cup
grated Emmentaler, about 2/3 cup
½ cup seasoned bread crumbs

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. Place cooked pasta in a large bowl.
Preheat the oven to 400° C.
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and salt and whisk until mixture is bubbly. Stir in the dry mustard, ground pepper, and paprika. Add milk gradually, whisking constantly.
Cook over low heat, whisking constantly until thickened.
Reserve ¼ cup of each of the cheeses. Add the rest to the saucepan with the milk and stir until melted. Add the cheese sauce to the cooked pasta and mix until it’s evenly coated. Transfer the pasta to a 9×7 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the reserved cheese.
Melt the remaining butter and combine with the bread crumbs and mix well. Sprinkle over the cheese topping. Bake until hot & bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes.

Pork. And more pork. And a little starch. 23 Feb

Pork. And more pork. And a little starch.

So there I was last week, sitting at the table, trying to figure out what to do with the leftover bacon from my bacon waffle experiment (I promise, I’ll come back to that one). I tossed about the idea of bacon wrapped shrimp (yum!), bacon wrapped scallops (double yum!!), then I had an epiphany – I’ve never tried wrapping bacon around PORK before! In my head, it sounded somewhat similar to filet mignon, which, let’s be honest, is friggin’ amazing. With that in mind, it was off to the grocery store to obtain some nice pork tenderloin.

But, just wrapping a strip of bacon around a piece of tenderloin sounded kind of bland. It needed some elan, some pizazz – it needed some Sumo-rizing!!!! In the spirit of Sumo-rizing, I decided to give it a bit of a teriyaki twist. Because you just can’t go wrong with teriyaki.

As delightful as this was starting to sound, I figured that I needed to serve something with it. All that thinking about filet mignon lead my convoluted little mind around to my favorite chain steakhouse, The Keg, and their awesome twice baked potatoes. Now, I do not do a lot with potatoes. Sure, put some in front of me and I’ll eat them, but cooking them isn’t really my thing. Why cook a potato when you could cook rice? In addition to the fact that it’s rice, you also get the option of having fried rice the next day.

But, I digress. A quick burst of Google-fu revealed a fairly simple (and tasty) looking recipe for a twice baked potato, so I figured “what the hell”.

It turned out fairly well, but I think the recipe will get a few tweaks the next time I make it. Just needs a little diversity in the flavor profile.

Anyway, this is what my dinner looked like last Tuesday:

Pork. And more pork. And a little starch.

Yes, yes, I know……the presentation needs work.

Bacon wrapped pork tenderloin:

1 pork tenderloin, roughly 1 pound
Bacon
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 brown sugar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp sake

Cut the tenderloin into chunks approx. the same width as the bacon. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and sake in a bowl or baking dish. Place the tenderloin in the bowl and toss to coat well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Wrap a piece of bacon around each medallion, affixing each strip with a toothpick and trimming off the excess and saving for some other bacony goodness. Place the medallions on a foil lined baking sheet, and roast for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the bacon is brown and crispy and the pork is fully cooked.

Twice baked potatoes:

2 medium to large baking potatoes
cooking spray (optional)
sea salt (optional)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 stick butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tsp salt
dash of black pepper
3 to 4 slices of crisp fried bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
paprika to taste

Spray the potatoes with cooking oil, and then grind some sea salt on them. Place them in an oven-proof dish and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour.
While the potatoes are baking, combine 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 stick butter, 1/4 cup chopped green onions, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a dash of black pepper. Cover this mixture with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it while your potatoes cook.
When your potatoes are done, split each of them into two equal halves with a knife. Since they will be hot, hold them with a potholder while you scoop out the potato meat. Place the potato meat in a dish, and reserve the potato shells.
Mix the potato meat with the mixture that you have previously made. Now blend in the crisp, crumbled bacon. Spoon this mixture evenly into the four empty potato shells. Sprinkle the top of each potato half with Cheddar cheese, to taste. Finally, sprinkle the potatoes with paprika, to taste. You may freeze the potato halves at this point, but be sure to thaw them before you bake them.
When ready to bake, if the potatoes are refrigerated or cool, let them come to room temperature. Then bake them in an oven-proof dish for 20 minutes in an oven that has been preheated to 400 degrees. If they are cool when you put them in the oven, it will take a little longer.

Christmas cheesecake 19 Feb

Christmas cheesecake

I love cheesecake. I love the flavor, I love the texture, I love the fact that you can put pretty much anything you want into it and it will taste fantastic.

A while back, I got it into my head that I should make mini cheesecakes. Just seemed like an easier way to share my experiments with more people. I probably could have made due with muffin pans, but I saw these nifty little mini-cheesecake pans online, and decided that I needed them.

I mean, come on – they have removable bottom plates to help get the cakes out. Who WOULDN’T want to have them?

In any case, I was having some difficulty finding the bloody things. Checked all the big name stores, and found squat. At this point, where my OCD was about to set off my anger control issues, a friend suggested that I check out a local specialty kitchen store before I broke something (or someone).

Found the pans (which were damned bloody expensive!) and churned out some cheesecake. The guinea pigs loved it, I loved it, and all the effort I put into finding the pans was worth it.

Christmas cheesecake

Flash forward to now: since the holidays are upon us, I decided to make some “Christmasy” cheesecakes to distribute to my fans. The most Christmasy ingredient I could think of was candy canes, and things just sort of snowballed from there. Enjoy!

2 8 oz blocks of cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 blocks Baker’s white chocolate, melted
6 candy canes, crushed into pieces
2 1/2 cups grahm cracker or Oreo crumbs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees C.
In a medium bowl, combine the butter and crumbs. Lightly grease the pans, and press 2 tbsp of the mixture into each cup.
Add cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Beat together until light and fluffy.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler and fold into cream cheese mixture.
Fold in candy canes.
Spoon a couple of tbsp of filling into each cup, almost to the top. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before removing the cakes from the pans.

Makes 24 mini cheesecakes (if you have those pans)

You could also use muffin/cupcake tins (with paper liners), but I don’t know how many this recipe would make. You could also make a normal sized (9 inch spring form pan) cheesecake, but I would add another block of cream cheese, another egg, increase the candy canes to 1/2 cup, decrease the crumbs and butter by half, and probably throw in another block or two of the white chocolate. But hey, that’s just me.

Sandwich of the Gods 16 Feb

Sandwich of the Gods

A while back, while perusing a forum that I belong to, I stumbled across a post describing something called a shooter sandwich. After I stopped drooling, I added it to the very long list of Things To Try In The Kitchen.

I mean, come on! Ribeye steak, bacon, cheese, mushrooms, and onions. Why WOULDN’T I try it? Did I mention the bacon?

This morning, I finally got around to it. I have decided that “shooter sandwich” just doesn’t do this work of absolute magnificence justice, so I have renamed it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the Sandwich of the Gods.

Sandwich of the Gods

Naturally, one begins by assembling the ingredients:

Sandwich of the Gods

Next, saute the mushrooms and onions together:

Sandwich of the Gods

Hollow out the big ol’ loaf of bread:

Sandwich of the Gods

Fry up those beautiful rib-eyes:

Sandwich of the Gods

Then start putting everything together. Slather some dijon mustard into the bread shell, put one of the rib-eyes on top of the mustard, and cover the steak with your favorite barbecue sauce, followed by half of the mushroom and onion mixture:

Sandwich of the Gods

Add some cheese. I went with sliced Provolone that I bought at The Italian Centre.:

Sandwich of the Gods

Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the next layer, but it consisted of bacon. Lots and lots of bacon. Followed by the rest of the mushrooms and onions:

Sandwich of the Gods

Then the other rib-eye:

Sandwich of the Gods

Moar cheese:

Sandwich of the Gods

Then you put the top back on the bread, and wrap everything in two layers of parchment paper:

Sandwich of the Gods

After the parchment paper, wrap it in aluminum foil. You may want to leave out the slightly illegal item, though:

Sandwich of the Gods

And now for the odd bit; weigh the sandwich down and leave it for 6 to 8 hours. This compresses everything together, and keeps the sandwich from falling apart when you chow down:

Sandwich of the Gods

After an agonizing wait, the finished product. Trust me, the crappy iPhone picture does not accurately portray the awesomeness of this sandwich:

And there you be. Enjoy.

Mmm…..chili 11 Feb

Mmm…..chili

So it’s no secret that I watch the Food Network a lot. In addition to being entertaining, I get a lot of new ideas for my culinary experiments.

Lately I’ve been seeing a commercial with Rachel Ray hawking Ziploc bags, which she then uses to store her ancho-chipotle turkey chili. That got me thinking – “Hey, I like chili. I like chipotle, and I’ve got a bag of ancho leftover from that chicken molѐ experiment! Let’s DO THIS!!”

The only thing that made me pause was the turkey. Not really something that I would normally want to see in my chili. But, that was a snag that was easily rectified. I used beef instead. Because I’m badass like that. I also threw in a can of red kidney beans, since I like beans in mah chili. And for once, I took the time to snap a few crappy iPhone pics while I was cooking.

Mmm…..chili

Started with seeding/stemming the dried ancho chiles. I’m sure there must be some sort of technique to do this more efficiently, but I’ll be damned if I know what it. I just tore them apart and scraped out the seeds:

Mmm…..chili
Mmm…..chili

Next up, had to re-hydrate the ancho in some chicken stock. Fortunately, I made some stock last week, so all I had to do was thaw it out and drop the chiles into the pot:

Mmm…..chili
Mmm…..chili

Now comes the part that I was really excited about when I first read the recipe. If I have to explain, then maybe you should find another blog to read:

Mmm…..chili

Next up, the chipotle. Unfortunately, I can’t think of anything clever or witty as a lead in to the next pic. I can, however, tell you that these things are messy, and smell fantastic as soon as you pop open the can:

Mmm…..chili
Mmm…..chili

Also needed an onion and some garlic. Recipe called for 4 cloves, but I recently acquired some massive purple garlic from the farmer’s market, and the cloves are about twice the size that you normally see:

Mmm…..chili
Mmm…..chili

From this point, it was fairly standard – brown the beef, add the veggies, et cetera:

Mmm…..chili

Then, the very best part of the whole process – deglazing the pot:

Recipe called for a Mexican beer, but since the only I could find was Corona, I opted for my favorite brew instead. Honestly, I’d rather drink cat piss laced with cyanide before I would let Corona enter my body in any form.

Mmm…..chili

The ancho/chicken stock combo got pureed and added to the mix, but I forgot to take pics of that part. Wasn’t terribly exciting, so you’re not missing much. After a good long simmer, this was the result:

Now, I could post the recipe, but since it took me nearly an hour to write this post, I’m just going to give you a link instead. Again, I swapped out the ground turkey for ground beef and added a can of red kidney beans, but other than that, this one is all Rachel.