the good, the bad, and the ugly

The last lab of my “freshman” year (my spring term is what regular students do in their second year) was Fundamentals of Food Service Production (FFP for short). I didn’t know very much about the class going in…other than I had some not-so-great french toast from there way back in September.

FFP focuses on the mastery of three skills:  savory baking, shallow fry, and saute.  We made SO. MUCH. FOOD. and had SO. MUCH. FUN. Our chef was an ex-military who had spent considerable time in D.C. and loved to swap stories and encouraged us to take these skills and punch it up a bit.

exhibit a: savory baking (good!)

breakfast burritos. with scratch-made enchilada sauce simmered until it was extra delicious.

the most amazingly delicious breakfast burritos i've ever tasted. ever. ever ever ever.

exhibit b:  shallow fry (good!)

risotto cakes. have you ever seen someone so happy to be standing over hot, popping fat?

look at that mug!

exhibit c: saute

oh wait i have no pictures of this because I was too busy scorching off my eyebrows.  (bad)

BUT–after cooking off 3 flats of eggs (flat=50 eggs) and working 3 or more flaming pans at the same time, I walked out of this class really feeling like I could COOK.

roasted tomatoes stuffed with mushroom duxelles, topped with mornay (cheese) sauce

 

note the lone, sad green vegetable in the corner.

 

oh! we also made sauces. lots of sauces.

 

baby quiche! smuggled a couple of these bad boys out and sold them on the black market (or fed them to manfriend)

 

slidersssssssssssssss

chef: "do something with these potatoes!" me: "you got it."

 

next time he said that to me…

i stuffed them with cheddar, bacon, and scallions and topped them with fried onions. oops!

 

and then one day,

a pastry class brought us baked alaska made with candied bacon ice cream.

“So you must eat really well, huh” is something I hear often.  Not to blow off all the glitter and magic, but this is what “eating well” looks like in culinary school:

nom nom....or something.

it’s all really tasty, but it sure ain’t glamorous.  (uglyyyy)

All right!  Now I’m only 3 classes behind. I  contracted a lively strain of the bubonic plague this week, so I’ll try and get us up to real time while i’m on the mend. over and out.

 

crazy love.

while football is great, let’s be honest–what’s really great about the sport is the food.  if you know me, you know i’m actually referring to one specific food-type item: buffalo sauce. my love for buffalo sauce knows no (sports) season.

coincidentally, february has just begun and love is in the air. here’s a nice little round-up of the many ways you too can fall in love with the insanely perfect and irresistible flavors of buffalo and blue cheese. [note: use ranch and you’re not my friend.]

wing sauce taste test

first things first. [serious eats]

 

buffalo chicken dip

an oldie but a goodie [dtms]

 

buffalo chicken slider

baby buffalo bites from bree! [bree bakes]

 

mac and cheese with buffalo fried chicken

let’s get cray-zah–buffalo sauce beyond wings [the kitchn]

 

buffalo chicken ravioli with blue cheese sauce

i’m. speechless. [the food in my beard]

 

buffalo chicken potato skins. yea you read that right.

i don’t–i just–i can’t–excuse me i need to wipe the drool off my keyboard. [sprinkles of parsley]

 

football. hot sauce. ❤

meatless monday: mmm mmm mushrooms!

Risotto is one of the meals Manfriend requests on a regular basis.  I usually have no objections, but when this summer revealed itself to be an unwavering sweltering soul-crushing eternal heat wave, creamy warm risotto wasn’t exactly what I wanted to eat. Or stand over, stirring diligently.

At the first whisper of cooler weather…”can we have risotto?”  I had some mushrooms that needed a home so in to the pot they went and dinner was born. Until…

Until I decided not to get my handy step stool ( judge me. do it) to get something from a high shelf, I just reeeeeached up as high as I could. I teetered on my tip toes and leaned a bit to the side and CRASH. My acrobatics knocked the handle of  the pot containing my nicely sauteing mushrooms and the whole lot tumbled to the floor. Your honor, Exhibit A:

This meal quickly would have headed into a monday meltdown had i not saved some of the mushrooms, intending to use them in omelets.  Manfriend assured me, despite my insistence, that I was not actually an idiot and complete failure, and back to the cutting board i went.

So, how do you actually make this stuff? For a basic risotto, you only need a few items: onions of some kind (shallots are best), arborio rice, warm liquid (chicken or veggie stock), and, well, that’s it! From there, you can make it your own. The process is also very simple, it just requires a little bit of time (about 30 minutes, unless you’re cooking for 12) and some upper arm endurance.  We’re going to walk through the whole thing together nice and easy.  I’ll list the quantities I used, but you can adjust them to your taste.

First, heat 3-4 cups of your liquid over low heat so it’s just barely simmering. Barely.  Melt some butter or oil in another pot over medium heat.  Add 1/2 c. onions and cook until starting to soften (don’t let them get brown. If they start to brown, turn your heat down).  Once the onions are on their way, add some flavor!  I added healthy dashes of rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, and my mushrooms (for round 2 there was only a scant cup) here so they could cook and release all their flavors into the rice as it all cooked together.

Now, add your rice. No liquid.  (1 cup will serve about 4 people).  Let the rice toast with the onions, etc until it juuuuust starts to turn the slightest shade of tan.  Toasting the rice before you cook it in liquid seals in the starch and helps make your final product nice and creamy.

NOW you add your liquid–sloooowly.  I use a 1-cup measure, dipping it into my simmering broth, which pulls up about 3/4 c. at a time.  What you’re going to do here, is add one ladle of broth and stir stir stir the rice until the liquid is completely absorbed.  This will happen very quickly at first then more slowly as it gets more and more cooked.  If you want to add wine (which is lovely in this), that should be the first liquid you introduce into your rice to maximize flavor and give it time for the booze to cook out.  Once the liquid is absorbed, add another ladle. Stir until absorbed. Wash, rinse, repeat.  A standard ratio is 3 cups of liquid to 1 cup of rice.  l usually use up ending a little more, so I start out with plenty of liquid at the outset so I’m not panicked at the end trying to warm up last-minute water. (Adding cold water halts the cooking process. bad. very bad).

about when you should add some more juice.

A note on stirring: purists say you need to stir this constantly as it cooks. Not fast and furious–but constantly. I’ve made it like that, and I’ve also made it where you’re doing more than one thing at once and maybe only stir it every couple minutes. Both turned out great.  You definitely can’t walk away from it for 10 minutes, but letting it do its thing, giving it a nice stir every so often is just. fine.

When is it done? The only way to know is to TASTE IT! It’s going to start looking all creamy, but I bet in that first bite you’ll find the center of the rice is still a little hard.  Keep tasting every few minutes, and it’s done when you like the texture.  Maybe you want it al dente, maybe you want it a little more cooked and super creamy. Whatever blows your skirt up.

And now, the best step: serve it up! As do most dishes in the DTMS household, we top ours with some grated parmesan. You could add chopped nuts, fresh herbs, anything you desire.

Ta-da! Total comfort food. The mushrooms (well, the ones that survived) added a deep, earthy layer of flavor. Perfect for warming you up from the chilly fall winds.

And look Ma, no recipe! If you actually got through this whole thing, you saw that strict rules and measurements really have no part in risotto-making. You have to make it your own!

meatless monday: spinach lasagna

Spinach lasagna…on a weeknight? Yes it’s possible. And yes it’s possible to eat before 11pm.  The night I made this, I worked until 6, went for an hour-long run, came home, went to the store, and had this ready with time to kill by the time Manfriend got home from his basketball game around 9.  Crazy, right? Yes, I am slightly crazy, but it’s also crazy that it’s possible.

Basically, you prepare all the ingredients separately then just layer it all in a bowl. And while I didn’t run the nutrition facts, this has got to be decidedly healthier version than the baked version.

I made two major modifications to the original recipe (from the gods over at Bon Appetit)–1. I made my own sauce  (really very easy and so much better) and 2. I didn’t blanch the spinach (i feel the same way about slimy spinach that i do about bananas).

A little more about the spinach: yes, you put it in there raw. On top of hot pasta and then layer hot sauce on top. What happens here is you get a great little wilted spinach situation–the leaves remain in tact, providing some nice fresh texture.  AND, then when you assemble your leftovers the next morning for lunch, you can just pop the whole thing in the office microwave and the spinach will be cooked–not overcooked. Brilliant. But despite what you’re thinking, I am not, in fact, a Rhodes scholar. Just a hungry girl-on-the-run. 🙂

full disclosure: I wrote this recipe the same way I actually prepared it all in the kitchen. I’m all about efficiency.  If it makes your head spin, click the source link and Framed has it written in a more sane manner.

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Working Girl’s Weeknight Lasagna

adapted from Framed (who adapted the original from Bon Appetit)

Ingredients:

  • Sauce:
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
  • 1 palmful dried basil
  • 1 slightly smaller palmful dried oregano
  • good dash of garlic powder
  • good dash of onion powder
  • healthy pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • Everything else:
  • 12 ounces baby spinach
  • 8 lasagna noodles, broken in half
  • 1 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Chop your onion and garlic. Break your pasta sheets in half. Fill a stock pot halfway with water.
  2. Heat 12-inch skillet (should have relatively high sides) over medium-high heat. Add enough olive oil to coat bottom.
  3. Add onion. Sauteed until slightly softened and translucent (NOT brown–if onions start to brown, reduce heat). Should take about 5 minutes. (Use this time to open your tomato cans and get your spices).
  4. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. Add spices. Cook 1 more minute (this will smell like HEAVEN. thats when you know it’s good.)
  5. Add both cans of tomatoes. Stir it all together. When it starts to bubble, turn the heat down so they are only baby bubbles. Let this guy go, stirring occasionally, until you’re ready to assemble.
  6. Add palmful of salt to the water in the stockpot. Turn that puppy to high.
  7. Now–cheese. Heat the ricotta and mozzarella in a small saucepan over lowwww heat. It will heat pretty quickly, just keep an eye on it. Add some fresh ground pepper. No salt. Stir your tomato sauce.
  8. When water boils, add noodles to the boiling water and cook until just tender, about 6 minutes (will be less than it says on the box because you’ve broken them in half.)
  9. While your pasta is cooking, grate the parmesan.
  10. Time to assemble! Line up 4 soup bowls and ladle a quarter cup of sauce into each bowl. Place one noodle on top of sauce. place a handful of spinach on top (try to keep it on the noodles). Add a dollop of cheese. More sauce. One more noodle. Spinach, cheese, sauce, 3rd noodle. Little sauce on top. Sprinkle some parmesan on top.
  11. Pour yourself a large glass of wine (if you haven’t already) and dig in!

For storage–store all components separately. For leftover lunch: assemble it all in a tupperware the next morning.

you crack me up!

And now, more adventures in yeast–crackers!!  This was probably the recipe I was most afraid of…it comes from Matt, Kath’s husband over at Kath Eats Real Food (a very cute healthy-living blog where they believe wine and manhattans are an essential part of life. just like my kind of life).   He’s a professional baker and is always whipping up pretty incredible things. Dare I take him on? I dare.

 

They came out pretty good! I let the dough rest for almost a full 24 hours, which definitely gave them a nice amount of light- and crunchy-ness. However, I definitely did not roll them thin enough and some of the thicker crackers were a little tough.  My toppings of choice were grated parm, chopped rosemary, and a throw-caution-to-the-wind dash of cayenne–but you can really do anything you want. Herbs, cheese, maybe some seeds, hell I bet you could even dump a little honey in and top with cinnamon and sugar….hmmmm.

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Matt Crack[ers]

adapted from Kath Eats Real Food

Ingredients:

  • 1.5  c. all-purpose flour
  • 3.5 oz warm water
  • 1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2t olive oil
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • 1/4t instant yeast
  • 2T dried rosemary, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Even though the basic instructions are add to bowl and mix, youll want to take note of a couple things. Because this is a pretty stiff dough (meaning it has a low water content), you want to make sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed before adding the water. It couldnt hurt to add all the dry ingredients to the bowl (flour, salt, yeast) and mix for just 30 seconds to make sure you dont end up with a salt ball in one cracker and another cracker that tastes completely bland.
  2. As for the other ingredients prep, I recommend using the warmest water your sink can produce. This is because the cheese youre adding will be cold from the refrigerator and we want to keep the dough warm so those yeast can get in a little activity before baking. The cheese can be prepared however you like I went with a very fine shred so that each cracker is uniformly cheesy (and I used Monterrey Jack). The great thing about these crackers is they can accept a variety of extra ingredients without changing the base recipe too much. I used a half tablespoon of chopped rosemary, but may I recommend all sorts of herbs, black pepper, seeds (chopped if theyre big ones), and any other spice you can think of.
  3. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, add everything else and mix for just a minute or two to bring everything together. Were not going for a super-glutenous bread here, so I just used the paddle attachment on my mixer.
  4. Even still, I had to finish mixing by hand, and you could probably do the whole batch this way if you dont have a mixer. This is because its difficult for the mixer to really push all that flour into so little water. Just knead until the dough ball is uniform. Unlike with bread, you dont need this beautifully smooth surface. Youll notice a lot of tearing on the skin thats okay.
  5. Cover and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes, but if you want some serious bready flavor, you could let it sit for an entire 24 hours if you wanted. But 30 minutes is enough to let everything relax for rolling out. Begin preheating your oven to 400* when youre about 10 minutes away from beginning the rolling procedure.
  6. This dough is so stiff that you probably wont need to put any flour down to aid in rolling.  Just muscle it out to the thinnest rectangle you think you can get it without tearing. If you feel the dough is springing back to shape with every roll, let it rest for a few minutes and come back to finish.
  7. As for pan prep, I tried a silicone mat, and on a naked pan with cooking spray. Either works fine, but youll want to bake them just a couple minutes longer if you use a mat because it absorbs some of the heat. Place your entire rolled out rectangle on the pan, and then its time for topping.
  8. At the very least, I recommend a little sea salt for topping, but you can put a variety of things on. Herbs, seeds, or even more cheese (use thick grated cheese so you can still see it on the baked product). Just sprinkle your toppings on, and then use the rolling pin to lightly roll them into the surface. (I used salt and parmesan).
  9. Then you should dock the crackers with a fork just kinda stab it all over to provide little holes for steam to escape. The extra texture also makes it look nice.
  10. I like to score the crackers before baking instead of completely cutting through them. If they stay in a whole sheet, theyll hold their shape better. But feel free to use fun cookie cutters too youll want to let the rolled out sheet of dough rest a little while longer before cutting your shapes out so they dont spring back as much. If youre going to use cookie cutters, you could do the cutting before putting on the pan.
  11. I used a pizza cutter to score, guided by a ruler. If youre going to use a pizza cutter, I recommend only rolling in one direction, and barely using any force. When you try to roll back and forth, its hard to keep it a straight line. Just roll multiple times until you alllllmost cut through the dough. I didnt actually measure the distance between cuts but if youre that much of a perfectionist, feel free. Just remember that when theyre in a big bowl, nobody will really be able to tell theyre not all the same shape. At the very least, try to have your crackers the same general size so they bake at about the same rate.
  12. Finally, we can put them in the oven, for about 23-28 minutes.
  13. Youll be tempted to take them out early as they begin to get little brown spots, but leave them longer. Note that a done cracker will NOT feel crispy coming out of the oven. They will crisp as they cool. To test doneness, give them a little push with your finger. A perfectly done cracker will feel a little dense have just the tiniest bit of give to it. Enjoy!

ho-hum.

Mmm these were pretty so-so. They look tasty, right? The melty, gooey cheese and gently roasted pepper were both tasty.  Unfortunately, the filling was pretty bland.  The concept is great, but I HIGHLY recommend spicing it up–maybe a little chili powder, a little cumin, cayenne if you’re feeling crazy.
You could totally nix the chicken and add more veggies to make it veg-friendly. So, consider this a starting place.  A coloring book page for you to fill in as your creative juices compel you to.
on the up-side, below, check out the handy little links for you! noshbot.com is rockin my world.

Chicken-stuffed Poblano Peppers

food.com

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium poblano chiles
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 -3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 2 roma tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup mushroom, sliced
  • 2 ounces monterey jack cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes (approximately 1/2 cup)
  • cooked saffron rice, 4 servings

Directions:

  1. While using gloves, wash the poblano chilies and using a sharp paring knife, cut a slit lengthwise from stem to tip of chile leaving stem in tact.
  2. Carefully cut away the seeds and membrane rinse the inside of the chilies and set aside.
  3. In a large skillet over medium high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, add chopped onions and garlic.
  4. Cook until onions begin to turn golden, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the diced chicken, sprinkle with seasoning salt and cook until chicken is almost cooked through; add tomato and mushrooms, continue to cook until chicken is done.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 2 quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  7. With remaining tablespoon olive oil, lightly oil the outside of the chilies and place them cut side up in casserole dish.
  8. Pack the chicken mixture into chilies and push cheese into mixture along the slit.
  9. Cover dish, place in preheated oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes; remove cover the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking.
  10. Serve on top of a bed of saffron rice.

carnage

so it’s been a while since i’ve posted something, you know, useful and culinarily-focused.  such items are usually known as recipes, and apparently i used to show you how it all went down.  well sure, let’s do that again.

although, first things first: following up on the very urgent matter i posted on last week, i feel it my civic duty to bring your attention to THIS.

moving on. pizza!  this guy showed up in the July Bon Appetit and it was love at first sight:

Phyllo Pizza with Smoked Mozzarella and Cherry Tomatoes
from Bon Appetit, July 2010

Ingredients

  • 12 to 13 ounces cherry tomatoes and/or pear tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 12 12×9-inch sheets fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup (packed) coarsely grated smoked mozzarella cheese* (about 3 ounces)
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup quartered pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh oregano

*Also called mozzarella affumicata; sold at some specialty foods stores and at cheese shops. If unavailable, use regular (not fresh) whole-milk mozzarella.

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and oregano in medium bowl. Scatter tomatoes on large rimmed baking sheet; roast until soft and beginning to collapse, about 22 minutes. Remove from oven and let tomato mixture cool. Maintain oven temperature.
  • Place stack of phyllo sheets on work surface and cover with plastic wrap, then damp kitchen towel to prevent drying.
  • Brush another large rimmed baking sheet with some of melted butter. Place 1 phyllo sheet on baking sheet. Brush lightly with melted butter and top with second phyllo sheet. Brush with butter and top with third sheet; brush with butter. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Repeat 3 more times for total of 12 phyllo sheets and 4 tablespoons Parmesan. Sprinkle stacked phyllo sheets with grated mozzarella, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Top with roasted tomatoes, pepper strips, and olives.
  • Bake pizza until phyllo is crisp, 25 to 27 minutes. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons fresh oregano over, loosen pizza from sheet with large metal spatula, and slide onto cutting board.

one slight problem: i’ve never worked with phyllo dough.  i had grand plans to pick up all my ingredients at the store, and come home and whip up this pizza pie lickety split.  Until the box of phyllo laughed evilly at me as I read “let sit in refrigerator for 24 hours, then at room temperature for 3.”  REALLY.

Because I do not accept defeat..ever…I regrouped and conquered the beast a day later.

As far as pizza goes, it’s pretty straight forward. Chop up all your toppings, roast the tomatoes (which was slightly obnoxious on a weeknight), and assemble.

And then the phyllo had it’s second good belly laugh.  You must create the crust layer by layer, paper-thin piece by paper-thin piece.  Ok fine, brush them with some butter, layer layer layer.  Got it. Except my phyllo (which at this point i’m entirely convinced is possessed by dark forces) didn’t defrost and separate as exquisitely as I’d anticipated. It was usable–there was only one section that had fused together–so a little patchwork reconstruction and VICTORY.

But this hard-fought battle was not without its casualties.  Please have your children avert their eyes.  The aftermath is a little unseemly.

the poor spoon, the poor salt shaker. they had no idea what was coming for them.

back to the pretty stuff: this guy’s ready to get toasty!

a nice little makeover in a 400 degree oven can do wonders for your complexion.

you are just so be-u-tiful. ze camera, she loves you.

Despite the triumphs and tribulations, this was a tasty little bugger.  Real tasty.  In an effort to maintain (or grasp on to the remaining parts of) sanity,  I think next time I’ll try it with some puff pastry that’s already assembled. (full disclosure: never used those bad boys either. get ready for some more carnage.)

sometimes

sometimes you get so busy you can’t cook.

sometimes you get so busy you forget to sleep or eat.

i’m currently somewhere in between.  cooking, yes. sleeping yes, but in that middle place is where writing blog posts has fallen out of the realm of frequent possibilities.

sometimes, when you’re in that place, Manfriend says “don’t worry about dinner, i’ll take care of it.”

sometimes he makes you 2 baby bacon grilled cheese sandwiches and sweet potato fries.  sometimes. 🙂

ole!

cinco de mayo. steak quesadillas. ready, go.

Skirt Steak Quesadillas

(printable version)

Ingredients

  • 1 1- to 1 1/4-pound skirt steak
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons (about) olive oil
  • 12 5- to 6-inch-diameter corn tortillas
  • 2 cups (packed) grated hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups Spicy Pico de Gallo or purchased salsa

Method

Place steak in glass dish. Sprinkle steak on both sides with lime juice, salt and pepper. Let stand at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour, turning steak occasionally. (DO THIS. 15 minutes and you will be amazed how much flavor it adds. trust. go. learn.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add steak and sauté to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for rare. Transfer steak to cutting board. Let rest 5 minutes; slice thinly.

Brush 4 tortillas with oil; place tortillas, oil side down, on 2 baking sheets. Spread 1/4 cup cheese and 1 tablespoon pico de gallo on each tortilla. Top each with second tortilla. Spread each with 1/4 cup cheese, 1/4 of steak and 1 tablespoon pico de gallo. Press third tortilla onto each stack. Brush top tortillas with oil.

Bake quesadillas 10 minutes. Using metal spatula, turn each over. Continue to bake until heated through and golden, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer quesadillas to plates. Cut into wedges. Serve with remaining pico de gallo. (and Manfriend’s secret tequila cocktail.)