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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Never Fail, Not Even on a Tuesday When It's Raining, Fancy Pants Dessert

Dessert may bring visions of sweet mouthfuls to mind, but for me, it's cause for a slight panic attack. So many times friends have found out that I can't bake, and their jaws hung open in disbelief. Surprising? Not really, baking is a scientific experiment in patience and consistency. Im not trying to hate on my baker-friends, but to me, baking is for people who like to color inside the lines. It's a controlled, factual, almost militant process, while cooking, throwing in a pinch of this, a dab of that, a sprinkle of whatever, is all about the intent of the person performing the task. It's like making music, plucking notes from thin air. So this leaves me with quite a dilemma. Since baking isn't my forte, I'm left with store bought goodies or ice cream. And since I enjoy hosting elegant dinner parties where I expose my friends to the possibilities of restaurant-style home cooked meals, those options just weren't cutting it. That's when my fancy pants dessert recipe came to me. It uses a pinch of this, a dab of that, and you can substitute quite a variety of toppings and still gaurantee a pefect dessert, each and every time. Even on a Tuesday, when it's raining.

Fancy Pants, No-Fail Dessert 

1 all-butter pound cake (I buy mine in the frozen bakery products section of the store, next to the apple pies and puff pastry!)
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped and reserved
1/2 cup of your favorite sweetened liquor (I like Disarano Amaretto or Godiva Chocolate Liquor)
4-6 Fresh sprigs of mint

Nutella, slightly warmed
Macerated berries (strawberries, blueberries, rasberries, etc.)
Crystalized citrus zest
Ice Cream
Whatever tastes good on pound cake!

Take the heavy whipping cream, the vanilla bean seeds and the sugar and whisk with a strong arm until it becomes thick, rich whipped cream. (This can take anywhere from 2 minutes to 10 depending on your arm. Good luck!)

Take the thawed pound cake, slice it into one to two inch serving slices, and drizzle with the sweetened liquor. Top with whipped cream and a fresh sprig of mint. Your guests will ooh and ahh, and all you did was make whipped cream! If preferred, you can add other goodies, like nutella and/or macerated berries, as pictured below!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Curry Fried Chicken Hoagies, Anyone?

Fried chicken is great. But curry fried chicken is even better. Tonight's meal took fried chicken up a notch and to make it even more interesting, I stuffed it into a hoagie bun with a bright chutney sauce slathered on top. It was, phenomenal.

To start, I used boneless skinless chicken breast. I know it's not traditional fried chicken, where a whole chicken is cut into eight perfect bone-in pieces, skin intact, and soaked then coated and fried. It still is fried chicken, just on my terms. I blended my flour-curry mix by adding freshly ground cumin, coriander, garam masala, paprika, cardamom, ginger, chilis, turmeric, hing (asofetida), salt, pepper and paprika - among a few other special spices. Then I mixed a few eggs with milk, salt and pepper and whisked until combined. My chicken was sliced into even, thin strips, thereby changing it's fried chicken status to a technical "chicken strip" by definition. The chicken took a dip in the spiced flour, a wash in the egg mixture and then another dip into the flour. Then, I pan fried. I used my favorite cast-iron skillet, revved the bad boy up to medium high and filled it halfway with vegetable and olive oil, to add flavor but raise the smoke point. The chicken strips fried for about 4 minutes per side, and made the house smell like an odd combination of Curry House meets KFC.

My hoagie buns were split and toasted, followed by a lavish smear of hot mango chutney, mayonaisse, fresh english cucumber slices, spring mix lettuce, thinly sliced red onion and finally - the curry fried chicken strips.

We chased the internationals with an ice cold beer and a nice, spicy, burp!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I've Found the Secret Trick to Success!

My on and off again pursuit of homecooked pleasure has finally found a home. My home, to be specific. What has changed is finances. Apparently, the secret to stop eating out is to run out of surplus income. Like June and Lucy before me, I have finally found my coveted place in the kitchen. And quite frankly, I couldnt be happier!
I am proud to report that my family has not eaten out in almost two months. In that time, only three nights, I did not cook. Instead, we either ate left overs, or indulged in a reheated, frozen prepackaged meal. What I've learned during this time is that I love cooking even more than I thought. I make it simple by planning our meals two weeks in advance. I create a menu, itemize our shopping list, and prepurchase everything I need to make the meals. We've had everything from delicious Indian curries to spicy Thai salads and savory Mexican soups. There've been burgers and my now famous Torta Dogs - more on those later, sub sandwiches and meatloaf too. Tonight, linguine with meatballs and homemade marinara. Tomorrow, chicken pot pie (you know the one.) My family has found that the food we eat tastes better than the food we've bought. The flavors are more intense, the smells more aromatic, the cost - much cheaper! Our food budget allows us to eat like kings, while still managing to pay off more bills than we'd previously done before. I find our new culinary adventure exciting, and somehow, preparing us for the future as well. I look forward to coming here more often, and sharing my meals with you. So, from one friend to another, here's the recipe for my famous, delicious, Torta Dog. It takes hot dogs to a whole 'notha universe!

Torta Dogs (Mexican Torta Sandwich Inspired Hot Dogs)
1 lb. sweet cherry/cocktail tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1/4 yellow onion
2 tbs. minced fresh cilantro
1 lime cut in half
(2) 1/2 tsp salt
2-4 jalapeno peppers
2 ripe avocados
4 large beef hotdogs (we use Wagyu beef dogs from our local butcher.)
4 strips of your favorite bacon (we like applewood smoked thick cut peppered bacon)
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 16 oz can of vegetarian refried beans
1/2 cup Best Foods/Hellman's mayo
4 hoagie buns
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a food processor, blend the tomatoes, 1/2 tsp salt, garlic, onion, 1/2 lime, cilantro and 1-2 jalapeno peppers until smooth. I like to strain the excess juice through a wire mesh strainer to thicken the salsa. Set salsa aside. In a bowl, mash the two avocados with the 1-2 minced jalapenos (depending on how hot you want it!) 1/2 lime juice and 1/2 tsp of salt. Its ok if the guacamole is chunky. Set it aside. Place the hotdogs in a pot of water and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, take the hotdogs out and set to dry on a paper towel. Once they are cool enough to touch, wrap them in uncooked bacon, and if necessary, hold the bacon to the hotdog with toothpicks. In a nonstick skillet set to medium heat, add the extra virgin olive oil and then add the bacon wrapped dogs. Allow to brown on all sides, (about 3-5 minutes each side) until the bacon is crisp and the hotdogs are seared. Place on a place. Split your hoagie buns down the middle, careful not to completely separate the two halves. If they are cold, heat them up in the pan used to brown the hotdogs. For about 1 minute per side on medium heat. First spread one tablespoon of mayo on each side of each bun. Next, spread refried beans on one side of each bun. Spread guacamole on the opposite side of each bun. Place 1 tablespoon or more of salsa on the refried beans side of each bun. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese on each bun and then place the hotdog in the center. Serve immediately. The combination of ingredients may sound strange, but I promise you, you have never had a hotdog like this before. It tastes amazing!