Monday, April 29, 2013

Shrimp in Pineapple Mustard Sauce

Printable version

Mustard has been around since ancient times. According to Food, by Alan Davidson, its cultivation was written about in the 5th century B.C. by the Greek scribe Herodotus. Also, a method for making a condiment very similar to the mustard we have today was recorded in the first century A.D. by a Roman writer named Columella. It's safe to say the pungent little sauce has been pleasing palettes for quite some time.

The making of Mustard as a condiment is somewhat of science experiment. When a mustard seed is crushed and combined with water, a chemical reaction occurs that creates the signature flavor. The reaction is stopped and the flavor is held with the introduction of acid, such as vinegar. The signature yellow color in the typical mustard found on a hot dog at a backyard barbecue is made from the addition of turmeric.

For this recipe, I make a sweet and spicy sauce made from pineapple juice and honey dijon mustard purchased at a local farmer’s market. The mustard has a spicy punch that is mellowed out by honey. I cut further into the spice with the pineapple juice. The two, combined with shallot and garlic, form a delicious coating for shrimp that is sautéd to perfection. The sweet and sour sauce provides a nice accent to the shrimp, which is then finished with a little cilantro for a subtle pop of extra flavor.

BEHIND THIS BITE
This is the first recipe I have made for the spring market at Salomon Farms here in Fort Wayne. The spring market opened last week and will happen each Monday for 10 weeks. There were many items to choose from but the homemade organic honey dijon mustard made by S&B in Auburn, Indiana caught my eye.

I took it home and developed this recipe to recreate and give out this week at the market. After this is gone I will roam around in search of another ingredient to feature in a dish for next week.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Serves 2; 20 minutes
1/4 C Shallot, minced
2 tsp Garlic, minced
1/4 C Pineapple juice
2 Tbs Honey dijon mustard
3/4 lb Shrimp, raw, deveined, tail & shell removed
1/4 C Cilantro, minced

Season shrimp, Start sauce
Season shrimp with salt and pepper to taste. In a sauté pan over medium heat cook shallot in a little olive oil until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste. Add garlic cook 1 minute more. Pour in pineapple juice and mustard bring to a simmer.

Cook shrimp, serve
Add shrimp, mix to coat with sauce. Cover and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp is cooked through and opaque. Stir once or twice during cooking. Remove and garnish with cilantro, then serve.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thai Curry Chicken


Printable version
The is my first attempt at creating a Thai recipe of my own. I love chicken thighs in anything, so using them as the protein was a good start for the dish.

I used 2 tablespoons of red curry paste and a sliced and seeded jalapeño for heat. I thought that would be enough but I should have used more curry paste and left the stems and seeds in the jalapeño. I would have liked more kick, which means the spice in this recipe is probably spot on for most people because, like I have said before, mild heat to me is most people’s hell fire.

The coconut milk really does a good job of mellowing out the dish. I really like working with it because of the balance it provides. I hope to utilize it in my savory cooking more. The ginger opens up the taste buds and gives the entire dish a great aroma and flavor.

All in all, I really liked this recipe. It was good for a first attempt. In baseball terms I will call this a double into the gap, which I’ll take every time I’m at the plate. It needs a little more love before I can call it a home run though. I would like for the sauce to be a little thicker and I’ll have to experiment with how to accomplish that.

BEHIND THIS BITE
I started this recipe the day before I actually created and finished it. I was working on the ginger when a simple slip of the knife while mincing it led to a gnarly cut on my index finger. No stitches were required but, I had to quit for a while to get it cleaned up and bandaged.

Every so often that happens when you work with sharp objects. Luckily, it wasn’t bad enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room. The entire day leading up to the knife incident was a fiasco - I took the cut as a sign to give up on the cooking and instead move onto working at the computer.

Some times a change of pace is all it takes to make a bad day better, and giving up on the recipe was the right move – the rest of the day went smooth and easy. I made the Thai chicken for lunch the next afternoon and all of my fingers made it through unblemished.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Serves 4; 40 minutes
1 1/2 lbs Chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cut into chunks
1/2 C Onion diced
1 Jalapeno seeded, sliced
3 Tbs Ginger, minced
1 Tbs Garlic, minced
2 Tbs Red curry paste
1/2 C Chicken broth
1 Can Lite coconut milk
1 Tbs Fish sauce
1/2 C Cilantro, chopped
1 Jalapeño, sliced
2 C Rice
4 C Chicken broth

Brown chicken, sauté vegetables; paste
Start rice, see below. In a large pan over medium-high heat brown chicken in a little olive oil on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove to a plate. Add some oil to pan if necessary, cook onion and jalapeño until soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in ginger and garlic, cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in red curry paste cook 30 seconds.

Add liquid, finish, serve
Add chicken broth and a little of the coconut milk scrapping up any brown bits and dissolving curry paste. Stir in rest of coconut milk and fish sauce, return chicken to pan lower heat to medium and simmer until chicken is cooked through. Serve over rice, garnish with cilantro and fresh jalapeño slices.

THE RICE

In a large sauce pan over medium-high heat toast rice in a little olive oil for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let sit at least 25 minutes. Remove lid and fluff rice with fork. 

Hog Wild Fries


Printable version
I have mentioned Buffalo Wild Wings in past posts and even made a couple of recipes that were inspired by them. This dish is not just inspired though, it's a recreation of their loaded french fries – What they call “Hog Wild Fries.”

I had eaten there many times before I noticed  it on the menu and decided to try it. They were sloppy, spicy and delicious – everything you would expect from food at a wings place. What I liked most was the hot sauce.

It seems like many national chains have a version of bacon and cheese smothered fries, but this is the first one I have eaten that included hot sauce, and that is why I had to make this at home and post it here.

There's nothing gourmet about my recreation. The fries are from the freezer isle, the nacho cheese is canned (BWW serves Queso on theirs) and Frank’s Red Hot provides the heat. I did cook fresh bacon and crumble it because I just can’t force myself to use store-bought bacon bits - especially on loaded fries!

I had to document these. I envisioned the layout of this post as I inhaled an order. I highly recommend trying either this homemade version or stopping by and getting some Hog Wild Fries at your nearest BWW, especially if you are a fry-lover like me!

BEHIND THIS BITE
As I mention in the beginning, I go to Buffalo Wild Wings on a regular basis. Over the past winter I have eaten lunch there between 7 and 10 times and on each occasion I have noticed the same guy sitting in the same spot.

I remember this person because he is always wearing flip-flops.

We have had a cold winter and I have eaten lunch not only while it’s snowing outside, but after huge snowfalls. There have been thick blankets of snow that must be walked through to get into the place. That apparently was not enough for this man to put on as much as a pair of socks – let alone some boots!

I have given him a title.

The Flip-Flop Blizzard man.

Not only does he wear flip-flops during snow emergencies, but I’ve seen him wearing sunglasses inside the bar. If having feet immune to the cold wasn't cool enough, he also has cones and rods that are ultra-sensitive to light!

He is usually with a number of friends, all of which are sporting footwear relative to the conditions outside – So the flip-flops are not a clicky thing. Now that the weather is warming up I wonder if the Flop-Flop Blizzard man will start wearing Ugg boots and wool socks just to be ironic. I bet not, flip-flops are probably just his thing – rain or shine. Well, rain, snow, ice or shine. I commend him for sticking to his guns.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Divide for 2 baskets (4 servings)
4 slices Bacon, diced, cooked
1/2 Cup Hot sauce
1 C Nacho cheese
1 lb French fries, Fully cooked

Place fries on a plate or basket and layer cheese, hot sauce and bacon. Then serve.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Italian Sausage Patty Melts


Printable version
My Mom has always been a big fan of patty melts and she is responsible for introducing me to these yummy delights. She has waited tables part-time for years and she has probably served about 37,000 of them. I was young when she introduced them to me and whenever I get hungry for one I think about being a kid at the local diner and Mom suggesting it for lunch to me for the first time.

I think of patty melts as grilled cheese sandwiches with a meat patty tucked inside.

I think they’re awesome.

I have some rules for patty melts:

• Never eat one at a fancy place, they have to be served at a typical mom and pop diner and should require lots of napkins.

• When the sandwich is touched, there should be an ultra-thin layer of grease left on the finger tips that will leave an annoying grease-fingerprint on any object touched.

• Grilled onions aren’t required but one without is like a salad without dressing.

• Finally, there must be lots of cheese, more than a typical cheeseburger. Almost a burger with double cheese – not a double cheeseburger – a double cheese single burger!

Those are my rules.

Instead of beef for this patty melt I used Italian sausage. Combined with the onions and provolone it was spectacular. I ate two of them myself. Had I not been feeding others, I might have destroyed another half sandwich, thank God more people were eating.

BEHIND THIS BITE
This is the first time I have designed a recipe with a black background and white text. Usually there is too much writing in a typical recipe to do this. There is only so much type a person can read in that style without it starting to mess with their eyes.

This, and the next recipe, are an exception and something new. I love the look and will try to incorporate it more. I think it will work best with sandwiches and pizza, or recipes that don’t include as much written instructions.

It’s always good to experiment when it comes to design and presentation, it might be the start of a new trend, or I may say to myself in a couple of weeks “What the hell was I thinking!” For now, I think it’s cool.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
4 sandwiches; 30 minutes
1/4 C Mayonnaise
8 slices Bread
16 slices Provolone cheese
1 C Caramelized onions
4 patties Cooked Italian sausage (1l4 lb each)

Spread a thin layer of mayo on sides of bread to be grilled. Layer 2 slices cheese, 1 sausage patty, a 1/4 of the onions, 2 more slices of cheese and top piece of bread. Grill sandwiches over medium heat until it's golden brown on each side and cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Then serve.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Zesty Italian Pizza


Printable version
This pizza features a yummy sauce that I recently discovered in Cuisine at Home magazine. It’s simple – just mix a little dijon mustard with some Italian dressing and that’s it. The spicy mustard with the herby dressing really goes well together and is something that I wish I would have thought of myself – but I have to give credit where credit is due.

I got the idea for the sauce from Cuisine at Home, but the concept of using it as a sauce for a gourmet pizza is mine. I decided to include fresh tomato as one of the toppings because the sauce isn’t tomato based. I also use my favorite vegetable combo on pizza – green pepper and onion. I consider them a pizza mirepoix because they add depth to the flavor of any pie. I choose ham as the protein for this pizza because of its mild flavor. Pepperoni or sausage would have competed with special sauce and I wanted that to be the star, the toppings are just compliments. Ham seemed to be the ideal choice for this concept.

In the end, this pizza rocked, and it tasted lite – almost like something you should make after harvesting from the garden. I highly recommend trying this sauce. Use it on a sandwich, wrap or pizza – whatever your fancy, it’s worth trying for sure.

BEHIND THIS BITE
I recently had an anonymous visitor leave me a couple of comments about my photography and food presentation here at behind the bites. The nameless reader said that the food looked cold, especially the pizzas. I have to agree with that assessment in some instances, it was a good critique.

The criticism didn’t end there though and the reader just got nasty. I didn’t publish the comments because the person who left them didn’t leave their name. I would have published them had the person taken credit for their words. I have experienced the “angry” reader before with years of experience in print journalism and the angrier they get, the better and more effective your work generally is.

It tickled me to finally get an angry reader here at the blog. It’s only natural with all the traffic to have someone insecure stop by and become totally threatened and therefore leave a nasty note. It was only a matter of time, and it let me know, in an ironic way, that my work is showing some promise.

I did heed my angry reader’s one good observation about the cold pizza though. The pie in the pictures for this post is hot out of the oven. I set up the shot while it was baking and worked fast to captured it while it was still gooey. I haven't reached the point as a food photographer that I'm doing things to the food that makes it look good for photos but makes it inedible. I may get there one day but for that I'm gonna need a bigger budget – I have to eat this stuff to afford doing it!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Make 2 12” pizzas; 30 minutes
1/2 C Italian Dressing
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 12” pizza crusts
1/2 C Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 C Ham, diced
1/2 C Green pepper, diced
1/2 C Tomato, diced
1/2 C Onion, diced
1/2 C Parmesan, shredded

Make sauce
In a medium sized bowl whisk together the dijon mustard and the Italian dressing until well incorporated.

Assemble and bake pizza
On pizza crust layer sauce, mozzarella, ham, green pepper, tomato, onion and Parmesan cheese. Bake in a preheated 425° oven for 7 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spice Rubbed Wings

Printable version

These spice rubbed chicken wings are the second of two recipes intended for the same snack.

Find a complimentary sauce to these savory spiced wings here.

Clove is a spice native to Indonesia and used all over the world in cooking. It’s difficult to harvest, making it more expensive than other spices. The Chinese used it as early as the 3rd century B.C. and Marco Polo mentioned clove plantations in his travels through the East Indies in 13th century.

In the United States it has many culinary purposes including use as a pickling spice or an ingredient in mulled wine and apple pie. Clove can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. Its distinctive aroma comes from eugenol which is also present in cinnamon and makes the two a natural pair that work well together.

Here, I incorporate clove into a rub for chicken wings. I add a tiny amount along with cinnamon for just a hint of flavor – too much will overpower the recipe and therefore must be used judiciously. The two impart an aromatic and fragrant taste to the wings and are just noticeable along with the flavor of smoky charcoal, making this recipe a must-try gourmet treat.

BEHIND THIS BITE
After destroying a couple of chilis and a steak or two I have finally gotten the clove thing right!

The secret - use just a tiny amount.

Although there is only a quarter teaspoon in this recipe it still makes its presence known in the rub - in the best of ways. It provides an aroma and a hint of flavor (along with the cinnamon) and it’s just enough to be noticed – but hard to identify. Both of the testers I served it to ended up asking what the secret flavor was.

This is the first time I had accomplished this with clove. Like I said, I have destroyed a couple of other recipes with it. (One was a chili that was ruined with a full teaspoon of the stuff, which is really enough for about two gallons of chilli – not 2 quarts.) I can’t wait to use my smoker this summer at the family campground - just to use a rub like this one on a couple of whole chickens I plan to smoke!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Serves 6; 1 hour
2 Tbs Salt
2 Tbs Chili powder
1 Tbs Cumin
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Clove
4 to 5 lbs Chicken wings

Make rub
In a bowl mix together salt, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and clove. Season wings on each side, first sprinkle on then rub in with hands. Let chicken marinate 30 minutes.

Grill wings
Prepare charcoal grill, let brickets burn until mostly covered with ash, 20 to 25 minutes, then spread evenly on bottom of grill. Place wings on grate, put cover on grill and cook 15 to 20 minutes, turning once half way. Remove when cooked through. Let rest 8 to 10 minutes then serve.

Parmesan Garlic Sauce


Printable version
This Parmesan garlic sauce is the first of two recipes intended for the same snack.

Find the complimentary spice rubbed chicken wings to drizzle this sauce on here.

This sauce can be used with just about anything from vegetables to steak. It's inspired by the Parmesan garlic sauce that can be ordered at Buffalo Wild Wings, but the only thing that they have in common are the main flavors. It’s more of a drizzle containing a ton of garlic, Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning. The Buffalo Wild Wings’s version is made for dipping and much thicker. Frankly, I have no idea what’s in it or how it’s made. I just wanted the flavors of Parmesan and garlic in a sauce as a compliment to the clove and cinnamon contained in the rub for the wings.

Overall, the taste of the sauce was yummy – Heavy with garlic and powerful – exactly what I intended. I don’t advise eating spoonfuls of this by itself, it’s meant to be a cool compliment to something spicy and it is just that.

BEHIND THIS BITE
When I made this I held back on the flour (my thickening agent) intentionally – and it came back to bite me. I didn’t want it to get to thick so instead of using two tablespoons of flour with two tablespoons of butter, I only used one tablespoon of flour, thinking this would make it less thick in the end. It was less thick, but really there was no thickening at all! It was kind of a waste of a tablespoon of flour.

The butter to flour ratio must be 1 to 1 to make the roux science work and thicken properly. After it cooled I added sour cream to give the sauce the consistency I was looking for and it worked just fine. Nothing like a little improv in the kitchen to make things right.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Make 2 cups; 1 hour
2 Tbs Unsalted butter
2 Tbs Shallot, diced
2 Tbs Garlic, minced
1 Tbs Flour
1/2 C Milk
1 C Chicken broth
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 C Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 C Sour cream

Saute shallot, garlic add flour
In a sauce pan over medium heat melt butter and sauté shallot until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Sift in flour and mix well to combine with butter, let mixture cook 1 to 2 minutes more.

Add liquid, stir in cheese; cool, finish
Whisk in milk , chicken broth and Italian seasonings, increase heat and bring to a simmer stirring often. Reduce heat and stir in cheese a tablespoon or two at a time until gone. Remove from heat and let cool. Once mixtures cools to room temperature whisk in sour cream, until well incorporated. Refrigerate overnight.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Slow Cooker Shredded Pork Tacos


Printable version
I have cooked several pork loins in the past. Usually I have either roasted them in the oven - or my favorite way - cooked them over indirect heat on a charcoal grill. Ironically, I had never cooked a whole loin in a crock-pot. Pork loin is lean and tender and I have always thought of the crock-pot as a vessel for turning the tougher cuts into fall-off-the-bone, melt in your mouth meals.

I found loin on sale and wanted to cook it overnight, so I thought the slow cooker was the best option. I made a sweet and savory rub for the loin and seared it on all sides before putting it in with tomato, onion and jalapeño. I set it on low at around 2 a.m. and went to bed.

I awoke around 9 a.m. and checked it. Everything look and smelled good but I decided not to remove the lid until it had been in for 10 hours. When I turned it off and lifted the cover at noon I used a fork to poke the loin. As soon as I touched the meat it feel apart. The entire loin had cooked into a tender juicy mess.

I shredded the entire loin and mixed the meat, vegetables and drippings together for some of the best shredded pork that I had ever eaten. The rub, vegetable base and cooking time of the meat culminated in a perfect pot of pork to share with a crowd. I served it with all the fixings to make either tacos or sandwiches. If you need to feed a group this recipe will do the trick.

BEHIND THIS BITE
One of the guys at the meeting I served the loin at really liked the meat. At first I thought he was just being nice but I could see that he was genuinely into it. I had some left over and decided to give it to him. I didn’t have any baggies but there was an empty sack of burger buns on the table - I asked him if it was ok to use it and he said sure! Off he went with a sunbeam burger bun-bag filled with enough pork for a couple of meals.

When I saw him later in the week he complimented me again and said he finished it off. I was happy because the bun bag would have tempted me to toss it away as soon as I got home, I’m glad he kept it and hopefully it provided him with a lunch or two!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Makes 20 to 25 tacos; 10 hours, 30 minutes
1/4 C Brown Sugar
2 Tbs Cocoa powder
2 Tbs Chili Powder
1 Tbs Cumin
3 Tbs Salt
1 Tbs Black pepper
4 to 5 lb Pork loin, boneless
1 can Diced tomatoes (28 oz)
1 C Onion, diced
4 Jalapenos, seeded, sliced
40 to 50 Corn tortillas (2 per taco)
1 1/2 C Taco sauce
1 1/2 C Onion, diced
1 1/2 C Cilantro, chopped

Make Rub, season loin
In a bowl mix together brown sugar, cocoa powder, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Pour over and rub into loin with hands until loin is completely covered, set aside for 30 minutes and let marinate.

Sear loin, prepare slow cooker
In a large pan over medium-high heat sear loin in olive oil. (Make sure pan is hot and oil is simmering before adding loin.) Mix together tomato, onion and jalapeno in bottom of slow cooker.

Cook loin, shred
Place seared loin on top of vegetable mixture in slow cooker. Spoon some of the mixture and the juice over the loin. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. Remove lid and shred loin with a fork, then stir together loin, juices and vegetables.

Make tacos
Toast or warm tortillas, stack two and layer pork, sauce, onion and cilantro, then serve.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spicy Thai Curry Beef


I made this recipe to challenge myself. I haven't had that much experience cooking Asian food, let alone Thai food specifically. I thought making a dish adapted from the Spicy Thai Curry Beef from Fine Cooking's One-Pot Meals would be a great place to start and introduce me to some new flavors or ingredients. I have eaten food similar in flavor at restaurants but I have never made anything like this at home.

I thought the recipe was delicious.

It starts with shallot and ginger, lots of ginger actually – a quarter cup. For a dish this size, it's the most I had ever used. I was worried that it might over-power the other ingredients and make it taste like eating a fancy bar of soap, but it didn't. It turned out to be the perfect amount and the right aromatic to go with the spicy red curry paste and unsweetened coconut milk that form the flavor base of the dish. I cooked the beef rare, because bloody is the way I like it, and the snap peas were the perfect vegetable compliment to round out the dish. I served it over rice. It was easy to make and loaded with flavor.

I can't wait to use these flavors in a creation of my own. I would like to try it with chicken or in a recipe that requires some braising, I think the spicy sauce would make a good base for a yummy stew. I might just make it again the way it is here though, it's good enough to make over and over!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Adapted from:
Fine Cooking
One-Pot Meals
Winter 2013
Page 29
Serves 4; 25 minutes

Spicy Thai Curry Beef
Ingredients
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 1/2 lb Sirloin tip
1/2 Shallot, thin sliced
1/4 C Fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp Red curry paste
1 13.5 oz can Unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 C Chicken broth
1 Tbs Fish sauce
1 1/2 C Frozen Sugar snap peas
2 C Cooked rice
Cilantro for garnish



How I made it
Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Season sirloin with salt and pepper to taste. Sear on each side for a minute or two to get a nice crust, remove to a plate. Add shallots and cook until soft, 2 to 3 minutes, add ginger cook another minute. Add chicken broth, scrap up any brown bits from the bottom of pan. Stir in curry paste until completely dissolved into liquid. Add coconut milk and fish sauce. Return beef to pan and simmer until cooked through, 10 minutes. Remove beef to cutting board. Stir peas into sauce, cover and remove from heat. Slice beef thin and on a bias, return to sauce.

Serve curry beef mixture over rice and garnish with cilantro.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Red Pepper and Onion Dip


Printable version
In the 1950s, the Thomas J. Lipton Company began promoting dip made from mixing their dried onion soup with sour cream or cream cheese. They sponsored radio and television programs and provided recipes on millions of their packages as promotion.    At the same time, potato chips were being mass marketed and it wasn’t long before the crunchy and salty treats became the favorite method of dip delivery.

The ease and convenience of chips and dip made them a popular snack to enjoy while watching television, which also became widely accepted in the 1950s and helped catapult the dip industry to the billion dollar business that it is today.

For this recipe, I make a homemade dip from red pepper and onion. The vegetables are sautéd with a little garlic to bring out their sweetness and to eliminate any raw or sharp flavors before being mixed with sour cream and mayo. The end result is a savory dip that will make devouring an entire bag of potato chips a simple task.

BEHIND THIS BITE
As the daily temperature slowly begins to rise in Northern Indiana I have been thinking more and more about warm weather cooking. I always think about grilling stuff, so I’m not really talking about that. I’m thinking about all the stuff that goes with grilled food.

Chips and dip are one such treat for me. They are also a party food, but curly chips with some creamy dip always reminds me of lunch on a hot summer day. I ate a lot of the two during summer vacation as a kid. When we were in school we had to eat the school lunch. In the summertime, there were many days that I was able to sneak off and eat a plateful of chips with a half tub of dip for my mid-day meal. I would just skip the tuna salad sandwiches Mom made for us all together.

Amazing how a plate of fried potatoes with a dairy based sauce could be enough fuel to play outside all day four hours and hours. These days it seems I need at least two meals and a gallon of coffee just to have enough energy to photograph and write about food.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Makes 2 cups; 15 minutes active; 2 1/2 hours inactive
1 C Red pepper diced
1 C Sweet onion diced
1 tsp Garlic minced
1 C Sour cream
1/3 C Mayonnaise

Cook vegetables
In a sauté pan over medium heat cook red pepper and onion in a little olive oil until soft with salt and pepper to taste, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, cook another 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and let cool at least 30 minutes.

Make dip
In a medium sized bowl mix together vegetables, sour cream and mayonnaise. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let flavors meld. Serve with favorite type of chip or fresh vegetables for dipping.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Smoky and Sweet Brussel Sprouts


Printable version
I took the easy route with these brussel sprouts. Bacon, sautéd onion and a little garlic can make about anything taste good. As the wild card, I threw in a little white wine just for some added pop. I needed these brussel sprouts to burst with flavor. It was the least I could do after a surreal experience the day before.

My Mom cooked up a batch for a family get together. I saw the bowl and suddenly I was overcome by the urge to snatch one up and gobble it down. After I popped it in my mouth like a humongous tic tac, something happened that I have never experienced. The brussel sprout had absolutely no flavor.

Blank.

Not even a slightest hint of taste.

It was like chewing water! I called out in horror “Where is the flavor!” My Mom and sister came running into the kitchen concerned for my well being. Mom answered “I know, I think I cooked them to long.” I then cried out. “Cooking is not the problem! They have no flavor!”

What had I done deserve this? Had I lost the ability discern flavor? I would rather it taste bad than have no flavor at all. How was I supposed to react?

I had nothing to say.

No opinion, critique or comment.

I had entered the the food blogger's Twilight Zone.

It took three Cadbury eggs, a bag of peanut M&Ms, and two trays of peeps leftover from Easter to calm my nerves. I made it my mission the next afternoon to cook up a mess of brussel sprouts loaded with flavor, just to try and erase the trauma of Mom’s tasteless batch.

I have no idea what Mom did or didn't do to those brussel sprouts, or weather they were picked to soon or to late, but they tasted no different than the water they were cooked in! The mess I created for this post has helped put the episode behind me.

BEHIND THIS BITE
I can’t ever remember eating something and not tasting anything, unless I was in the throws of a raging head cold where all flavor and smell is gone from everything I consumed. It’s weird that it happened with brussel sprouts.

I bet there are thousands of kids out there that wished the brussel sprouts they were being forced to eat had no flavor. I have often wondered why kids hate them so much. I really don’t think it’s a flavor issue as much as it is an appearance issue. Most people steam or boil them, and too much cooking time makes their appearance go south in a hurry. Overcooked brussel sprouts look like a glob of goo on a plate. I don’t know anyone who thinks a glob of goo is appetizing - except for maybe Jabba the Hutt.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Side for 4 to 6; 25 minutes
1 C Onion sliced
1 tsp Garlic minced
3 Tbs White wine
1 lb Brussel sprouts, halved
1/3 C Bacon, cooked, crumbled

Sauté vegetables, reduce wine
In a sauté pan over medium heat cook onion in a little olive oil until soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add white wine, increase heat and simmer until wine evaporates, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add brussel sprout, bacon, finish
Stir in brussel sprouts and bacon, turn heat to low and cover, let cook 10 to 12 minutes stirring occasionally, adjust seasoning if needed. Once brussel sprouts are cooked through and slightly crunchy remove from heat and serve.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bacon Aioli


My last post was of a basic garlic aioli from Cook’s Illustrated. It was the first step in recreating a bacon aioli I had tried with french fries at Box Frites, a concessions stand at Citifield, home of the New York Mets. I wasn't hoping to recreate the sauce exactly, really, I just wanted to make a good bacon sauce.

I thought that it would be easy to change out a few ingredients and make the aioli from Cook's Illustrated in a completely different way.

WRONG.

My changes to the recipe were to eliminate the garlic then add bacon and some of the drippings. I first tried making it by throwing everything in the processor at once. The drippings screwed with the science of the aioli and the oil never emulsified. That meant the first batch went into the garbage.

During the second attempt, I emulsified everything into an aioli, then added the bacon and drippings. So I basically made the aioli from the original recipe without the garlic. This was alright except that I used an olive oil that I don’t usually use because I ran out of my Felippo Berio brand. The less than stellar flavor of the oil and the missing garlic were noticeable. The overall batch wasn’t bad, but it wasn't great either.

That’s when I realized I needed to make the aioli according to the directions of Cook’s Illustrated, like I had originally, with good olive oil and mix in the bacon and drippings after the it was processed.

If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it!

I was hoping to invent a new sauce, but in the end I took a really good recipe from a trusted source and added bacon. I won’t use this for my print column or in a book of original recipes but it did make for a tasty sauce to dip some fries in.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Makes 3/4 cup; 5 minutes
2 Egg yolks
4 tsp Lemon juice
1 tsp Garlic, finely minced
1/8 tsp sugar
3/4 C Olive oil
4 strips Bacon diced
2 Tbs Bacon drippings reserved

Make aioli in processor
Place yolks, lemon juice, sugar, garlic, salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. Pulse to combine ingredients. Turn processor on and slowly drizzle oil in. Once all the oil has been incorporated and aioli forms stop processor and scrap down sides.

Add Bacon
In a pan over medium heat cook bacon until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve two tablespoons of drippings from pan and let cool slightly. Add bacon and drippings to processor and pulse until combined with aioloi. Remove to a bowl for serving.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Garlic Aioli


I've been wanting to make aioli for quite a while. Back in the summer of 2009 Citi Field, home of the New York Mets opened in Queens. The famed Shae stadium had closed the season before. The new park featured a food court that could rival any stadium in the country.

One of the concession stands was a french fry shack called Box Frites that featured different types of dipping sauce including yummy flavors named Ballpark Mayo, Bacon Aioli, Bleu Cheese and Chipotle Ketchup. I eventually tried them all and one stood out – Bacon Aioli. Which was what it's name suggests – a bacon infused mayonnaise. Yum!

One night I got a little container of it to take home with me so that I could try and recreate it for a weekend project. Once my buddy and I got back to the neighborhood we went to our favorite bar called Sunswick. After a few beers, and a decent buzz, I decided it was time to call it a night. I left the bar only to realize in the morning that I had forgot the sauce at the bar. My project was bust.

Recently, I purchased Cook’s Illustrated's new book and found a recipe for garlic aioli. I instantly thought about my lost sauce from Citi Field. I now had a mission. The first step to making the bacon aioli would be to make the recipe in the book. I have never made aioli, so I needed a starting point.

I followed the recipe exactly. I must say I was impressed. I had it on a turkey sandwich for lunch and a sausage patty at dinner. It was creamy with a fresh flavor unlike any mayo from a jar. I loved how the lemon juice brightened up and enhanced the taste. Also, it was easy! Cleaning up was more difficult a task than making it. I don’t know if I’ll ever buy mayo again.

I liked the recipe so much that I thought I should share it. Now I'm going back to the kitchen to work on my very own bacon aioli - stay tuned.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Adapted from:
Cook’s Illustrated
The Science of Good Cooking
Aioli (Garlic mayonnaise)
Page 317, Concept 36: Emulsifiers Make Smooth Sauce

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Makes 3/4 cup; 5 minutes
2 Egg yolks
4 tsp Lemon juice
1 tsp Garlic, finely minced
1/8 tsp sugar
3/4 C Olive oil

Make aioli
In processor place yolks, lemon juice, sugar, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Pulse to combine ingredients. Turn processor on, slowly drizzle oil in. Once all the oil has been incorporated and aioli forms stop processor and scrap down sides. Turn on for another few seconds, remove and place in a bowl for service.

Rosemary-thyme aioli

Cook’s Illustrated says to add one teaspoon of fresh minuced rosemary and one teaspoon fresh minced thyme with the garlic to create an herb aioli great with grilled meats and vegetables.