Recipe fantasy to food reality.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Girls' Night In

A few nights ago, while my husband worked late, I decided to make a nice meal for him to come home to. I fried some potatoes, flavoring them with rosemary, and made chicken marsala (my first time, too). It turns out he doesn't like chicken marsala, but I'd run all over town looking for that damn marsala, so I told him to shut up and eat it. He did so, but I was left with a bottle of marsala, and I really couldn't bring myself to drink it. I decided the best course of action would be to have a dinner party to use up the rest of the marsala in some more marsala chicken - one he couldn't come to. Thus the girls' night in dinner party.

The menu included chicken marsala (Emeril's recipe), a stone fruit and havarti salad (adapted from the latest issue of Cooking Light), and cold pesto pasta. Also, being a girly dinner party, I had to come up with the girliest cocktails I possibly could, and I settled on champagne cosmopolitans. For an appetizer, I just set out some cognac and truffle-flavored pate and crackers.

It was a really fun evening. We sat in the back yard on a blanket and ate dinner, and proceeded to polish off many bottles of champagne. We lit candles when it got dark, and sipped champagne and talked until midnight. It was a perfect way to spend a blisteringly hot evening, and an even better way to finish off the bottle of marsala.

Stone Fruit and Havarti Salad
1 peach
1 plum
1 nectarine
0.25 pounds havarti cheese
Salad greens
1/3 cup walnut oil
1/6 cup balsamic vinegar

Peel and pit the fruits, and dice the flesh into 1/2-inch sized pieces. Cut havarti into cubes of the same size. Arrange salad greens in bowl, and top with fruit and cheese. Make dressing of oil and vinegar, and pour over salad. Serve cold on a hot evening.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Relationship Advice

When you can't think of a gift for your husband on your anniversay, try a creme brulee torch. It is the most manly of kitchen tools, so he will be happy. You will be happy because every dessert I can think of is improved by a hard shell of bruleed sugar. For example:

2 peaches, halved and pitted
1 cup dry marsala
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 teaspoon nutmeg
white sugar
vanilla ice cream

Combine marsala, nutmeg, and vanilla extract in a saucepan, and reduce by half over medium heat. Sprinkle sugar over peaches, and fire with kitchen torch until a hard, golden brown shell forms. Drizzle marsala syrup over peaches, and serve one scoop of vanilla ice cream alongside each peach.

My wonderful husband created this recipe the other night (I am only guessing at the amounts in the recipe until I can confirm with him), and it was truly one of the most delcious things I have ever eaten. As peach season (my favorite time of the year) dawns, I encourage all who can to make this dish. Leftover peaches can be stored in the refrigerator, and this makes an excellent breakfast.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

CAUTION: Lovey-Dovey Material

Today is my one-year wedding anniversary. Exciting tales from my kitchen are being preempted by sweet, sweet lovin'. Please stay tuned for more information.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Regional Insanity

There are some regional foods that I have to chalk up to regular old insanity. Sweet tea in the South? Salty lemonade in India? I realize that it's a little ethnocentric of me, but I also don't think it's impossible that one's culture will drive them to eat some downright yucky things.

So, I was trying to think of what regional culinary insanity I've succumbed to, and I'm pretty sure it's fry sauce. I love fry sauce. I've heard it claimed that the stuff was invented in Lewiston, Idaho (a mere 40 minute jaunt south of here), though it is hotly debated. I wonder how mixing ketchup and mayonnaise ever had to be "invented," but I suppose it hasn't existed for all time - someone had to be the first.

I don't know what sort of deep fast food love it triggers in me, but I will patronize a burger place based solely on whether or not they provide it. The McDonald's locations around here used to serve it, but it was discontinued a few years ago, and now I don't really see the point of going to McDonald's - even if you really have a hankering for "food."

Monday, July 11, 2005

Iced Tea

It took me a long time to realize that iced tea didn't have to be a few bags of lipton thrown into a big jar and left in the sun all day to get bitter. In fact, it was only after hearing a story on NPR (a year ago? two?) that I realized any tea can be served cold. I blame the ubiquity of pre-packaged foods. Certainly not myself. Every once in a while, I have a sort of epiphone (if you can call it that) where I realize "Hey, I could make macaroons." Or, "Wait a minute, the difference between making a cake from scratch and making a cake from a box is only a few measured ingredients, and I don't have to pay for the packaging or wonder about the preservatives."

Anyhow, I'm currently drinking some cool darjeeling/peppermint tea, and was wondering what other tea combinations anyone likes to make in the summer. Suggestions?

Krusteaz Wheat and Honey Pancake Mix

I'm home from work with a cold today, and all I wanted for breakfast was pancakes. In my house, we don't normally cook breakfast - we tend to either roll out of bed in the morning and dash to work with some sort of energy bar in hand, or sleep until noon on weekends and ooze over to the Breakfast Club on Main Street for something delicious and effort-free.

Comfort food was my main objective this morning, so I went out and got orange juice and the above mentioned Krusteaz Wheat and Hoeny pancake mix. I would estimate that 70% of the breakfasts I ate throughout the first 18 years of my life consisted of these pancakes. I'm still not sick of them. I love them. My mother for some reason was always happy to make them for me, and I am sure this is a big part of how my parents indoctrinated me into preferring whole wheat flour-based foods to white flour-based ones.

Now that we've made it through the detour down Memory Lane, I can get to the reason I am posting this. I checked out the ingredient list, thinking I could reproduce it and see what a difference using my own eggs and my own milk makes. After browsing around on Allrecipes, however, I couldn't find something that replicated it. The ingredient list includes soy flour, oddly enough. Another important factor is that there is no buttermilk - I am not a fan of buttermilk pancakes.

With time, I can probably figure this out, but if anyone reading this knows where I should look for a recipe that replicates these pancakes, I'd appreciate the info.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I always thought I was good with gadgets

I have several lovely pork butt pictures on my ancient digital camera, but am not sure I'll ever get them off of the camera, let alone all the way up onto Orexia. So, I've given in to a pictureless pork butt summary. For now.

The recipe itself was not at all complicated. Brine your butt overnight in a mixture of water, salt, and molasses. Rub it with a mixture of spices. Set in smoker, and leave at 210 degrees F for 10-12 hours. Remove from heat, wrap in aluminum foil, and allow to rest for one hour. Then, most importantly, enjoy.

I did all of those things. It was a little stressful at times, and keeping a constant temperature was not really possible. I can't be sure if this is Alton Brown's fault, due to an unsound concept for a terra cotta smoker. It could also be my fault, since the equipment I used was not quite ideal. The contraption is supposed to be made out of two terra cotta pots that can be stacked mouth to mouth, with a grill in the middle to hold the meat over some smoking hardwood chips (heated by an electric hot plate underneath). The two pots we had did not quite have mouths of the same size, but we compensated by insulating any openings with a towel. After some early morning trouble getting an acceptable temperature, we did get several hours of good smoking time (while we were fiddling with the smoker, I threw it in the oven at 210, so the meat would at least be done by the time guests arrived). Dinner went off without a hitch, and a good time (and a lot of beer) was had by all.

This was my first barbecue experience, and I have honestly never eaten anything like it. I thought I'd crave it evermore. I did prevent that from happening, however, by making a small mistake: the towel used to insulate the smoker, smelling unbelievably like smoke, got stuck into my laundry hamper. It took a few applewood smoke-infused days to figure out why the smell had not left my home.

We did smoke another pork butt the following weekend, though we couldn't get the Alton Brown smoker to work. Instead we set the apple chips inside a gas grill, did some fiddling with temperature, and let it sit. This also produced admirable results, but by now, I believe I've inhaled at least a quarter pound of charred applewood, and I need a little rest.