Saturday, February 23, 2008

Crostini with Blue Cheese Butter Spread and Sliced Pears

Ryan and I both really liked this. The butter spread has a great blue chese flavor but what I really liked about it is that you not only taste the blue cheese you taste the nuts and the lemon as well, individually. I like when you can taste everything individually yet haromoniously and nothing gets lost. And the addition of the thinly sliced pears, by yours truly, really makes for a nice contrast. The key however, is to slice the pears thinly.

But the best part of this recipe is the butter can be made the night before and this appetizer can be thrown together in no time. You can also freeze the butter for later use then it's ready to go for unexpected guest or if you are in the mood for a "fancy", fast snack.

Crostini with Blue Cheese Butter Spread and Sliced Pears
Courtesy of Emeril Live

4 ounces blue cheese, softened (about 1 cup)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped lightly toasted pecans
2 teaspoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (For some reason I misread this and did 1 tspn of lemon zest, still good)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt Ground black pepper (I didn't add any salt but I did add pepper)
1 loaf French bread, cut into thin rounds, accompaniment
1 Ripe pear thinly sliced.

In a bowl, cream together all the ingredients, except for bread and pears. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place mixture on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Form into a fat cylinder and roll up in the plastic wrap, pushing and tucking in as you go to form a tight log. Refrigerate or freeze until needed.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spread blue cheese butter evenly onto the French bread rounds. Then top each round with 1 or 2 slices of the thinly sliced pears, depending on how big your rounds are. Place on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Valentine's Day Dinner

For Valentine's Day Ryan and I usually go out to a nice dinner but since the closing our of favorite special restaurant we really didn't want to go anywhere else, so we opted for a special dinner at home.

I had purchased the book "Intercourses; An aphrodiasiac Cookbook" on a tip from my friend Joelen in Chicago. I've owned the book for some time now and had yet to make a recipe from it, so I thought what better time to make something from this book than Valentine's Day. I got the recipe for the Cornish Hens & the Asparagus from this book but tweeked the sauce for the hens slightly by combining it with a similar recipe from Cooking Light Magazine. I really liked the end results.

Here is our dinner, I will post the recipes and further reviews soon.

Our Menu

Crostini with Blue Cheese Butter Spread and Sliced Pears

Cornish Hens with Strawberry-Balsamic Sauce

Asparagus with a Crunchy Panko-Almond Topping

Tuxedo Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Camarones a la Diabla

I L-O-V-E Camarones a la Diabla but probably not as much as Ryan. He could probably eat them every day for lunch and dinner if I let him. He fell in love with them at my cousin's restaurant and has been hooked ever since.

Loosely translated "Camarones a la Diabla" translates to Devil Shrimp as in ON FIRE! And they are! These little guys are very muy spicy! I would have probably never have thought of making these at home if it weren't for Ryan suggesting it or I should say if it weren't for Ryan getting tired of the same ol', same ol'. So I went in search of a good recipe online and found nothing or atleast nothing good. I was about to give up until I remembered about Rick Bayless and he didn't dissapoint. This recipe sounds like my cousin's recipe with a little something extra.

Now I know what you'll be thinking once you read the recipe and instructions "Claud why would I go through the trouble of roasting the chiles & the garlic. And then reconstituting the chiles to then add bottled hot sauce to the mix?" Well I'll tell you, because that's the way it's done and my little spin on it makes it so that it doesn't taste like you are eating shrimp tossed in hot sauce.

The way Ryan and I eat them is we just make tacos out of them. We grab a corn tortilla pile on the shrimp, onions and sauce, wrap it up and enjoy! However, if you can't handle the spicy I suggest you top your taco with some sour cream and maybe some avocado slices, both of which would taste awesome on this. Anywho, enough yapping more recipe.

Camarones a la Diabla
Courtesy of Frontera Kitchens

Serves 6 generously
For the sauce:
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
8 medium-large (about 4 ounces) dried guajillo chiles
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, whole or freshly ground
1/8 teaspoon cumin, whole or freshly ground
1 medium-small onion, sliced into 8 rounds
2 cups chicken broth or water, plus a little more if needed
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1/3 to 1/2 cup red hot sauce (in Acapulco, many cooks choose Tamazula brand) (I used 1/4 cup of Tapatio & 1/4 of a cup of Cholula)
Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon, depending on the saltiness of the broth (I don't think I've ever had to add salt)

For finishing the dish:
2 tablespoons butter
2 pounds shrimp

1. Making Spicy Guajillo Sauce. Roast the unpeeled garlic directly on an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until soft (they’ll blacken in spots), about 15 minutes; cool and peel. While the garlic is roasting, toast the chiles on another side of the griddle or skillet: 1 or 2 at a time, open them flat and press down firmly on the hot surface with a spatula; when they crackle and turn a dark maroon color they are done remove from the griddle/pan.

In a small bowl, cover the chiles with hot water and let rehydrate 30 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure even soaking. Drain and discard the water.

Combine the oregano, black pepper, cumin and 1 slice of the onion in a food processor or blender. Add the drained chiles, garlic and 1/2 cup of the broth. Blend to a smooth puree, scraping and stirring every few seconds. (If the mixture just won’t go through the blender blades, add a little more liquid.) Press through a medium-mesh strainer into a bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy, medium-small (2- to 3-quart) pot (such as Dutch oven or Mexican cazuela) over medium-high. When the oil is hot enough to make a drop of the puree sizzle sharply, add the puree and stir constantly until it reduces into a thick paste, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups broth or water, partially cover and simmer over medium-low, stirring occasionally, 20 to 30 minutes for the flavors to come together. Add the hot sauce and, if necessary, stir in a little more broth or water to bring the sauce to a medium, saucy consistency. Taste and season with about 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.

2. Finishing the dish. In a large skillet, melt the butter with the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the remaining onion, breaking the rings apart, and cook, stirring, until the shrimp are done and the onion is beginning to soften, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Add the sauce and stir everything together until the sauce is boiling. Serve right away.

G-Money Quickie

Here is G-Money at her birthday party proudly posing by the cupcakes she made.

Gussie's Fried Chicken with Pecan-Honey Glaze

This post is a smidge late. We made this for the Chargers vs Patriots game, okay so maybe it's more than a smidge late. At first I was a little hesitant about putting a glaze over fried chicken but after reading the reviews on Food Network it was evident that I had to. And am I glad I did it really made the fried chicken over the top good!

There was also some leftover glaze and I poured it onto a piece of parchment paper and spread it out. After it cooled it was quite the tasty after meal snack. Anywho, needless to say it was really good and we'll definately make this again but not too soon after all it is fried chicken with "candy" poured over it.

Gussie's Fried Chicken with Pecan-Honey Glaze
Courtesy: Paula Deen

1 (3 1/2-pounds) frying chicken, cut up, or your favorite chicken parts
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder
Vegetable shortening or vegetable oil
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup honey
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Brown paper bag

Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. Beat the eggs in a 9 by 13-inch dish. Lay the chicken pieces in the dish, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Turn the chicken and season the other side, then slosh the chicken parts around in the egg until well coated.

Put enough shortening or oil in a cast iron pan or electric skillet to come just halfway up the sides of the chicken parts. Heat the shortening or oil just until smoking, about 375 degrees F. Put the flour in a paper bag, add the chicken pieces, a few at a time, and shake to coat well. Remove the chicken with tongs and place it in the hot fat. Cover the pan, leaving a crack for steam to escape, lower the heat to 325 degrees F for electric skillet, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn the chicken with tongs, cover again (leaving the lid open just a crack), and cook for 10 minutes longer. Very large pieces may need to be cooked a little longer. Drain the chicken on paper towels and transfer to a platter.

To make the glaze, melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the honey until well blended. Bring to a simmer and add the pecans. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle the glaze over the hot fried chicken and serve.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Packer Brats with Butter 'Kraut

These are made by yours truly's wonderful huband Ryan! These brats are awesome but what really makes them over the top is the sauerkraut. It is sooooo good!

Now the sauerkraut requires a lot of butter hence the name buttered 'kraut. I don't remember it having this much butter the last couple of times we've made them but this time it was just too much butter so I think next time we'll have to cut back.

Packer Brats
Courtesy of Greenbay Jim click here for original recipe

2 pounds bratwurst (we use Johnsonville) *
5 (14.5-ounce) cans Guinness Stout
1 onion, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
16 hoagie buns, split (We use Sourdough rolls)
Butter Kraut, recipe follows
Mustard, for serving
Chopped onion, for serving

Pierce the brat casing multiple times with a fork prior to boiling. We did this on the BBQ so our method varies from the original recipe. In a medium size aluminum disposable pan, add beer. Add onion and garlic. Bring to a boil. Add brats. Allow beer to come back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.

Remove brats from beer and grill, turning frequently, until brats are browned all over, about 8 to 10 minutes. At this time you can start toasting your buns on the grill.

To serve brats "Classic Style", serve 2 brats each on round, hard rolls with Buttered Kraut and brown mustard.

Buttered Kraut
1 (32-ounce) package sauerkraut, drained
1 (14.9-ounce) bottle of Guinness Stout
2 sticks of butter (next time we'd do 1 or 1 1/2)
Place sauerkraut in a pan over medium-high heat (this can also be done in a saucepan on the grill while grilling the brats). Add beer and cook until liquid is almost completely reduced. Add butter, cook, stirring frequently, until butter is melted and absorbs into the kraut, about 5 to 10 minutes.

I know what you're thinking, "Claudia you didn't really put 2 sticks of butter in the 'kraut." Well here is proof positive that I did, but I won't again in the future.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cooking with G-Money

For those of you who are wondering who G-Money is it's my niece Gia. You are probably wondering why I am calling this sweet five year child G-Money, well I'll tell ya. The first time Gia came over to bake with me she saw me wearing an apron and she wanted to wear one too. So I tied one of my hostess' apron around her waist and she was just in seventh heaven with that little apron. Well the next time she came over to bake with her Tia Claudia she came prepared, she brought her own apron:

Yes, she picked that apron out herself! She is so money! I love this child, tear. Anyway G-Money will have her own section in my little blog called, you guessed it, "Cooking with G-Money". These recipes will be recipes G-Money and I have made together. For the most part I think they are child-friendly but what do I know, I'm just the cool Aunt not the responsible parent, so reader discretion is advised.

P.S. For the record I have never called Gia G-Money to her face. Not for the fear that she might pimp slap me ala "I'm Rick James, Bitch!" but rather for the sheer fact that I don't want her running around introducing herself as G-Money, and trust me she would! Seriously, I love this child!