Monday, October 31, 2011

Mustard Cream Sauce

I love how a sauce can really elevate a dish. For whatever reason, a (mostly) simple liquid drizzled over a piece of chicken or salmon or a crawfish cake can bring in a certain elegance, and give a dish depth. That's why they're great for dinner parties. With this one particular recipe, where I cheated by buying pre-made crawfish cakes, the sauce helped tie in a homemade element to personalize the meal. And  honestly, you can't go wrong with a mustard sauce in almost any situation... mustard just equals delicious in a way that few condiments can exemplify.
I don't make sauces this complex often because they usually involve butter, cream and other fatty ingredients, but sometimes you have to splurge. Though even just some reduced white wine with mustard and chicken stock would make a delicious topping as well, it's the special occasion feeling that allows me to indulge with cream. And over a simply grilled chicken breast or broiled salmon fillet it isn't as much of a caloric splurge as it may seem.

Banana Nutella Cake

A million years ago you might recall I had a dinner party. And promised recipes. So here is where I make good on my promise... albeit quickly, on a busy Monday. But I figured for whatever reason that this recipe seemed to fit well with the holiday (Happy Halloween!), so here goes.
This cake is very much like banana bread. It is super simple and a snap to make, plus it isn't one of those cakes that require a lot of hand holding or any sort of complicated techniques or tricks to make. And the Nutella "frosting" I put in quotes because it's really just straight out of the jar. So there's nothing to that. Oh I'm sure you could whip up some cream and fold it together to get something a little more mousse-esque, but if you dont' have the time, don't worry about that. The way the banana and chocolate and the pecans and the hazelnut just flow so well together, no one will dare say that it isn't anything but the most delicious cake.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Raosted Vegetables and Hill Country Brisket Pasta

On my laundry list of errands is buying a new memory card for my camera

Roasted Vegetable and Brisket Pasta
2 c. whole wheat fussili pasta
1/4 lb. precooked (smoked) chopped brisket
1 radicchio- sliced
1 small eggplant- cut into thin rounds
1 small onion, sliced thin
1 Tbl. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Hard, sharp cheese for grating

1. Preheat oven to 400. Toss vegetables in oil, spread in 1 layer over a baking sheet and sprinkle salt over. Roast for 30-40 minutes. While vegetables are roasting, cook the pasta.

2. If brisket is frozen, wrap in aluminum foil and throw in the oven for the last 10-15 minutes that the vegetables are roasting. When done, toss vegetables, brisket and pasta together and grate cheese over. Serve immediately.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Homemade Chinese Takeout: Cashew Chicken

One of my absolute favorite meals that I've been making recently is cashew chicken. It tastes remarkably like the stuff you get in the little white box from that takeout Chinese joint but I have the added satisfaction of knowing exactly how much oil goes into it and how much sugar (if any). I control the sodium, the kinds and amounts of vegetables, and the type of chicken used. And I usually pair it with quinoa mixed with rice, for added protein. Seriously, you can't tell the difference between the homemade stuff and what you'd get in a restaurant and that it's so easy to make is even better. Plus it's fast, great for nights where I'll spend an hour plus at the gym.

I also love the versatility. Ideally I like to keep it as close to "Chinese take out" as possible which means veggies like bok choy, shitakes, lemongrass, etc... but when I don't have those on hand I'll make do with whatever greens I have: spinach and brussel sprouts work great, any of the dark leafy greens that are so great for you, squash, zucchini, eggplant. I use low sodium tamari and will replace the granulated sugar for the sauce with brown sugar or honey. For oil I use 1/2 a Tbl for the veggies and 1/2 a Tbl for the meat and once I've cooked the veggies I'll let them drain on a paper towel while I cook the meat.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bourbon: There's An App For That

Like bourbon but sometimes just get so overwhelmed with the selection that's out there? Want to try new ones but forget the old one's that you liked? "Was it Old Forester or Old Crow? Booker's, Baker's or Basil Hayden?" Well just like basically everything else out there... there's an app for it. It's called Bourbon Enthusiast and it's $0.99, not unreasonable for a regular bourbon connoisseur. It also has a lot of features I really appreciate, like the ability to check it off the ones I've tried, show that I liked or didn't like it, make notes, view bourbons that are similar, go straight to the webpage, and even forward it on to email, facebook, twitter, etc.
As I have an iphone, I'm not sure what other providers have the same app, but I'm sure there's something similar if not. Give it a shot, if anything just to see the overwhelming amount of bourbon available out there.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dinner Party

I don't do a lot of these, but when I do, I think I can pull them off pretty well. The secret is simplicity and a few shortcuts here and there. Oh, and also timing. Because no one wants to attend this dinner party waiting for the osso buco to be ready.

1. Shortcuts. For the appetizer I did a crawfish cake over sauteed shredded brussel sprouts and a mustard cream sauce over. The crawfish cake was not homemade- in fact premade at Whole Foods and just warmed up at my house. The sauce and sauteed brussel sprouts... yes, those were homemade, but didn't take long at all and only used 1 pan. Which brings me to my next dinner party hint.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oak Barrels Post Bourbon

If you've ever taken a tour of a winery you'll find, especially for some of the smaller places, that they'll buy up recycled barrels that have been cast off from the big boys in France or California, as it's relatively cost efficient compared to a brand new oak barrel. So it's interesting to see how used bourbon barrels (also oak) are being used after the fact. Both Pappy Van Winkle and Woodford Reserve barrels are reused at Brooklyn Brewery which, as it just so happens, I will be visiting this Sunday! But very interesting, especially for the seemingly random things like herb planters at Alinea, Chicago's go-to for molecular gastronomy from chef Grant Achatz. In my dream yard I'm now picturing adorable used barrel planters too!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Welcome to fall. Despite the balmy 80+ degree weather we've had here in New York this past weekend, of course. I have no doubt though that soon we'll be fully immersed in autumn, for better or worse. Which means roasting, soups, stews, all those meals that'll warm up not only your home but erase the chill from your bones as well. And because you're roasting the vegetables prior they pick up further layers of flavor, so you don't need to simmer your soup for hours on end. This could actually be a meal made on a weeknight.
I love this particular soup because it's equally healthy: roasted squash, garlic, tomatoes with some spinach thrown in for good measure too, and also just as equally bad in all those delicious ways: caramelized onions, bacon, cream. It's thick and rich though, so you don't need to eat that much to fill up and freezes well, so you can make a large pot to put back for all of winter, or however long it'll last before being completely devoured because... well it's delicious. And it also gave me the chance to try out my brand new food processor (major appliance love post to come soon... this thing is seriously amazing).

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Sweet Stuff: Hummingbird Cupcakes

Rich. Decadent. Sweet, but in a Caribbean island dessert type way. Like lying on a hammock in the shade of a palm tree, drinking a tropical something with an umbrella in it , if that makes any sense. But that is Hummingbird Cake. There's no method to the madness that is this little cake. Full of banana, crushed pineapple, coconut and crunchy pecans, then luxuriously topped with decadent lemony cream cheese frosting. Like good Southern charm it's hard to resist.
If you aren't familiar, Hummingbird Cake is a Southern treat. Why it's called a Hummingbird Cake? Because life is sweeter in the South? Because only Southerners would name a cake after a flighty tiny bird with a serious sweet tooth? Actually no idea. The reason behind the name remains a mystery. First published in the February 1978 issue of Southern Living, the recipe was credited to a Mrs. Wiggins of Greenville, NC, though no explanation was given for the name. But one bite and the cake itself needs no explanation, it's sweet and delicious. It's a great use for overripe bananas, it freezes well and, most importantly, it's a snap to make.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Last Happy Birthday This Year

It's October, so the birthday month (the only full month I've celebrated ever) is officially over. And I got back from Portland (also my last birthday trip) today to find this little present waiting for me. How fun! My last birthday present this year. From Champagne Layer Cake to Hard Cider Apple Pie to "Old Fashioned" Snickerdoodles... I can't decide what to make first. Albeit after the post birthday mega diet. There's even a recipe for Beer Margaritas, so commence the college dorm flashbacks.
So thank you little A for the awesome birthday present! For the girl who'll add bourbon to just about anything this is just the perfect gift, and might help expand my booze, and wet bar, horizons. Anyone who wants to check out the book just go here. First person to comment on what sounds like the best recipe will be the first one I make. Promise.


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