Wednesday, February 25, 2009

top chef disappointment


I'm so disappointed in tonight's Top Chef Finale. What the f*** happened?

I have bee a fan of the show since Hung one a few seasons back. Though last season kind of sucked with ho hum chefs, I have eagerly watched every episode of this season. I seem to love the a**hole chef. I love the well-deserved arrogance (um... maybe I'm seeing a bit of myself) so Stefan totally fed my need to see a talented chef. Slowly, I started to love Carla, too. She shows such passion for cooking that you can't help but find her endearing. To say the least, I was happy to know that Stefan and Carla were in the final three. It was almost perfect!

The third chef was Hosea... a guy that should have been kicked off awhile back. There has been a few episodes that I was shocked someone was kicked off before him (say... the farm episode). He didn't start showing any potential until they all went to New Orleans and I'm sorry but that's a bit too late. So how the hell did he win? (sorry, Hosea)

Yes, Carla flopped. She temporarily lost her way. We all felt for you, Carla.

But Stefan... he had to cook freakin' alligator! Plus, they said he made the best dish of the evening. How do you lose after that? I'm disgruntled.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

not just another can opener

I've gone through my share of can openers. I remember the cheapie one my mom always bought as a kid. You know... the one that looked like this. Your fingers would hurt as you cranked it around the can.

So... most of you must be thinking a can opener is a can opener. But if you are like me and have a fascination with kitchen tools, then no it's not.

Meet the Rösle can opener. It's beautiful in design, as well as, efficient in the kitchen. Unlike traditional can openers, it cuts cans along the outside rim of the lid so touching the can is safer and your food doesn't touch the can opener at all. Oh... and it's so easy to use. Don't be taken aback by the price tag because you'll be so happy once you own one. Suddenly, it will all make sense. (I'll add a picture of it in use as soon as I use it again.)

Rösle can opener $37

Ina Garten's pot roast with baked potato

While I was watching tv yesterday, I noticed that Barefoot Contessa was on the Food Network. She was making pot roast with baked potatoes. Now, I rarely eat pot roast but I couldn't help but continue to watch as I started to develop an appetite for some. Having to go to the grocery store, I decided that pot roast was going to be the night's dinner.

Four things came to realization as and after I made it. One- easy does not mean it's not a life sucker. I was so tired after all the cooking. Two- Ina Garten really likes salt and in the future, I will half the amount she says. Three- sometimes, it's much cheaper to go out and have someone else make it for you (the meat was $20something and the wine was $20something aside from all of the other ingredients). Four- don't start making pot roast at 6PM. It took me about 4 hours when all was said and done.

And on with the cooking...

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. You need a 4-5lb boneless beef chuck roast (tied), salt, pepper, flour, and olive oil. Pat the beef dry with a paper towel. Season the roast all over with 1 tablespoon salt (but use half) and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper; and dredge the whole roast in flour.

In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the roast and sear until nicely browned on all sides for about 5 minutes each side. Remove the roast to a large plate.

While the roast is searing, coarsely chop 4 carrots, 2 yellow onions, 4 stalks of celery, and 2-4 leeks. Also, peel and crush 5 cloves of garlic (I added more because, well... garlic is yummy).

Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil to the Dutch oven and cook all the vegetables, 1 tablespoon of salt (half, really), and 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper over medium for 10-15 minutes, occasionally stirring.

Now, you will need 2 cups of burgundy wine, 2 tablespoons of brandy, 28oz can of whole tomatoes, 1 cup of chicken stock, 1 bouillon cube, 2 teaspoons of salt (half), 1 teaspoon of pepper, and 3 branches of thyme and 2 branches of rosemary tied.

Add the wine and brandy and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bouillon cube, salt, pepper, and tied herbs. Put the roast back into the pot, bring to a boil, and cover. Place in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is fork tender or about 160 degrees F internally. Turn the heat down to 250 degrees F after about an hour to keep the sauce at a simmer.

Here it is out of the oven.

Remove the roast.

Finish off by preparing the sauce. Remove the tied herbs. In a blender or food processor, puree half of the vegetables and liquid. Add it back to the pot with 1 tablespoon of room temperature butter and 2 tablespoons of flour that have been mashed together. Cook for another 2 minutes.

When all is done, slice the roast and top with the sauce.

Per Ina's suggestion, I accompanied the pot roast with a baked potato covered in a yogurt and sour cream topping. The potatoes were baked in a 350 degree oven for about an hour. They were split open and sprinkled with salt and pepper (note: you can leave out the salt). The topping consists of 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup of sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon salt (half again), 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and chives mixed together.


Friday, February 13, 2009

crème brûlée is nice on valentine's

Usually, we go out to dinner for Valentine's Day but this year is different. It was an adjustment to go back as a two person household when my in-laws were here for about three months (so I didn't know if we would celebrate the holiday). But everything is semi-normal and I decided to cook dinner. I'm pretty excited about it, too. The menu is lemon chicken stuffed with garlic, mashed potatoes, and grilled asparagus. For dessert, I've made crème brûlée. Something that should be made in advance, I started it tonight. It's a relatively easy dessert to make. The most complicated part is getting it in the oven.

The first time I made crème brûlée, I used Ina Garten's recipe from Barefoot in Paris and it's the only recipe I'll ever need. It's simple and yummy so what more could I ask for?

You need 1 extra large egg, 4 extra large egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 cups of heavy cream, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon of Grand Marnier.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Mix the egg, egg yolks, and sugar.

Heat the cream until hot but not boiling (I turned off the burner just in time but as you can see, letting it sit there a second for a picture shows otherwise). Then add and mix to the egg mixture. Next, add the vanilla and Grand Marnier.

Pour the mixture into ramekins. For some reason, I like the more shallow ramekins. Place the ramekins in a bath of boiling water in a baking dish. It'll go in the oven for about 40 minutes. Be careful not to get the water into the ramekins (it doesn't hurt but it isn't a happy experience).

When it's done, the custard should be set.

Remove it from the water bath so it can cool and then go into the fridge. Why did I make six? Well, I don't know how to half an egg (going down a size in eggs doesn't really help) so we'll just have dessert for a couple additional nights.

Right before you're ready to have dessert, evenly sugar the top with 1 teaspoon of sugar.

With a torch, caramelize the sugar.

Once cool, I like to add fruit to the top.

Monday, February 9, 2009

what's an ebelskiver?

My husband was looking at a Williams-Sonoma catalog that we had gotten in the mail and was taken by the ebelskivers so... on Friday, I purchased the pan and the mix. Ebelskivers are Norwegian pancakes shaped into a ball and filled with whatever you like.

In the future, I will make it from scratch but since it was my first time to make ebelskivers or to use such a pan, I decided it was best to start with the mix. On Saturday, I made a huge breakfast with bacon, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and ebelskivers. I filled the ebskivers with Nutella. It was delicious. I will make it again this coming Saturday (I only make time to eat breakfast on the weekends) and share with you.

be warned

Dim sum doesn't look so good in pictures but damn, it's so good in the stomach. A friend told me that her family would be celebrating her mom's birthday with dim sum and my immediate thought was- I need dim sum. So, my husband and I went to Maxim, a great place for dim sum in Dallas, yesterday. I had gorged myself with the food that I had a dim sum belly the rest of the day. It was so good.

chicken feet (I don't eat it), pork spare ribs, and squid

shrimp in a rice crêpe-like roll


chinese broccoli

stir fried noodles (asked for half rice/ half egg noodles)

beef tendon

almond jello with fruit cocktail and evaporated milk

chinese bread (don't know how to spell it) in a rice crêpe-like roll

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

when i'm in the mood for delicious molten cake, i go to...

Penne Pomodoro. It's a decent place. The guy that owns it must be making a buttload. He has seven different restaurant concepts with some of them having multiple locations. Most of them are in Dallas but there's one in Austin and another in Las Vegas. Penne Pomodoro is probably the cheapest and basically more family oriented. I keep going there because I'm addicted to the molten cake (and I'm not even a huge fan of chocolate). We went to a different location just to check it out. Same restaurant but tastes kind of different. Here's what we had:

I love caesar salad. I could eat it everyday.

My husband had one of the specials. It was mahi mahi with shrimp, mashed potatoes, and vegetables.

I had pesto fettuccine. I had it the last time we went but it wasn't so good here as it was at the other location. I was a little sad.

I can have cappuccino any time of the day. It doesn't keep me up. Surprisingly, he got one, too. The guy doesn't like coffee.

And here is the delicious molten cake! I'm glad it's not crack because then I would have a problem.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

fabulous french toast

In my last post, I mentioned French toast. Here's the best recipe to make your own. First, I will write the ingredients and directions as in the Junior League Centennial Cookbook and then I will share pictures and my slight variation.

ingredients (to serve 4)
1 loaf of white or French bread
1 c milk
1/4 c granulated sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c bacon grease or vegetable oil
confectioner's sugar for garnish
Maple syrup

Cut the bread into 3/4 inch slices. Heat the milk in a saucepan; add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Remove from the heat; cool slightly. Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt; mix well. Dip each slice of bread into the milk mixture until well coated. Place in a flat baking dish and pour the remaining liquid over the bread. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

In a heavy skillet, fry the bread in very hot bacon grease until golden on both sides. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Serve hot with maple syrup.

VARIATION: Add 2 tablespoon of Grand Marnier to the milk; decrease sugar to 1 tablespoon and vanilla to 1/2 teaspoon. (I should try this next time; I forget I keep Grand Marnier but it surely sounds delightful.)

I just do it slightly different.

First, I half all the ingredients since I'm only cooking for two.

I use butter instead of bacon grease or vegetable oil. Who keeps bacon grease?

I do not refrigerate the coated bread overnight. I don't have time for that (or space in my refrigerator). Maybe it makes it better, maybe it doesn't.

Here is the final result. Though I keep Maple syrup (as you can see), it's never been opened. I only use syrup for pancakes. This French toast is already perfectly sweetened by the sugar added to the batter.

Try it. It's GOOD. Usually, my breakfasts are really big... eggs, bacon, and hash browns but no time today. Enjoy!