Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thanksgiving Pinwheels

Last night I had some Bacon Pinwheels at the Rolling Pin Kitchen Emporium in Brandon, Florida.  They were quite yummy and during the class we were talking about different types of pinwheels and someone suggested turkey.  One of my favorite seasonal subs from Publix features turkey during the holidays.

Since I love the flavors in that sub so much I decided to use them as the base for Pinwheels.  One of the key ingredients is the cranberry-orange relish which is something that Publix already has made (again, only during the holidays) but you could easily make your own.

These bite-sized Pinwheels would make a great appetizer for something like an office party. They are also great on a day when your craving the flavors of Thanksgiving without all the hassle (like I was).  But for the ultimate easy ingredients, just use your actual Thanksgiving leftovers!

I started the Pinwheels by thawing out a sheet of puff pastry and spreading a layer of the relish onto it.

Next came smoked gruyere cheese and then strips of bacon.  I pre-cooked the bacon in a pan but took it out just as it was starting to brown so it could finish cooking in the oven.

Finally I laid down some thinly sliced deli turkey.  Use your favorite flavor, I chose mesquite because it was on sale :)  Next roll the pastry and ingredients up as tightly as you can.  If the puff pastry gets too warm while you are assembling it may be too stretchy to roll so just chill it for a few minutes.

I also learned from the chef making the bacon pinwheels that slicing the Pinwheel roll with a knife and sometimes stretch and flatten the roll.  I tried using my bench scraper to cut which worked well.  It still flattened the Pinwheels a little but I just had to execute a one stroke motion to cut them.  I was aiming for about a half in thick but use your judgement.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  The bacon will get nice and crispy during the oven cooking for a perfect texture balance against the puff pastry.

The beauty of these Pinwheels is that you can layer as much of the ingredients as you like.  If you are a cranberry fan add more...if you like a different kind of cheese, then go for it.  


Friday, October 12, 2012

Creepy Crawly Rice & Noodles for Halloween

 I was inspired while unpacking my Halloween decorations the other night...I wanted to make something black and orange!  Clearly rice was the answer !?!

 To make this follow the instructions on your package of long grain rice, the trick is to replace the water with chicken stock.  Cooking this way gives some needed flavor to the rice and also helps to keep it moist while cooking.

  I had decided that a pre-made black gel food dye would be best and headed to the store while the rice cooked.  I spotted some rice noodles and found the translucent color and slippery texture interesting so I decided to dye those as well.

I added the dye to both the rice and noodles while they were warm and then let them cool down over night. It ended up taking a surprising amount of gel dye to get the color to show (probably half a Tablespoon for a half a cup of starch). 

The orange was slightly paler the next day and the black had turned to a more purple/gray which actually worked quite well for Halloween.

In the end I think the rice noodles turned out better for Halloween.  The vaguely see-through quality they have worked well with the paler colors, they could pass for a "bowl of worms" at a party.  But the rice was pretty darn tasty.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Ad Hoc Lemon Brine ALMOST Fried Chicken

This recipe produced some of the tastiest and juiciest chicken I have ever had!  The inspiration is from several different places but the original recipe is from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc published in Food & Wine.  I used the recipe from inuyaki blog as my base.

I started out with 12 pieces of skinless chicken thighs, and after cutting off the extra fat, I followed the steps for the brine exactly. I brined all 12 pieces at the same time but after the process I split the pieces up into sets of four to be vacuum sealed.  I froze two sets of the pieces to be used later and because they are already brineed cooking them will be a snap.

*When you go to seal the chicken make sure that it is as dry as possible.  Even with the wet seal feature on my FoodSaver I still had to double seal each of these a few times to make sure no water would get in during cooking.

I then cooked the chicken in the Sous Vide as suggested.  After the water bath I removed the pieces from the vacuum bag and dried thoroughly with a paper towel making sure no brine bits were stuck on.  That particular day I was not really in the mood to deep fry so I ended up doing a pan fry.

To maintain the flavor profile from the original recipe I used the same dry ingredients that the dredge called for.  Because I had only four pieces for this particular dinner I split the dredge recipe from inuyaki by 2/3 using my handy dandy recipe divider.  Even cutting it down I still had leftover dredge.

I dredged each piece once through the dry ingredient mixture and immediately transferred to a stainless steel saute pan and cooked on medium-high with about 2 Tbsp. of grapeseed oil just until a nice golden color was achieved.  Once you get it in to the pan do not move it until you are ready to flip.  Even though I used skinless chicken the pan fry still put a very nice crispy crust onto the meat without the added fat from the skin or from deep drying.

This recipe has the modifications I made:

12 skinless chicken thighs 
2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 gallon cold water
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 large rosemary sprigs
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch of parsley
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
DREDGE INGREDIENTS (for cooking 4 pieces)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2/3 tsp cayenne pepper
2/3 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp ground pepper
2/3 tsp kosher salt
  1. In a very large pot, combine 1 quart of the water with 1 cup of the salt and the honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Let cool completely, then stir in the remaining 3 quarts of cold water. Add the chickens, being sure they’re completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry. Make sure the chicken is really dry and that you scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin.
  3. Add four pieces of chicken to each Foodsaver bag, then vacuum and seal the bags (freeze as many bags as you like).  Place the chicken at 140F/60C water bath for at least 1 hour. 
  4. Remove the chicken pieces from the bag and pat dry with paper towels. Make sure chicken is very dry.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, ground black pepper and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Working with one piece at a time, dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over.
  6. In a large un-coated pan heat oil over medium-high.  Pan fry until golden brown.
  7. Serve with thyme for garnish.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sweet Sous Vide Carrots

Requiring only a few steps of prep work, this side dish really delivers on flavor without being too over the top sweet.  By using the Sous Vide for cooking, the "carrot" flavor is really highlighted (in a good way).

We enjoyed these with a weeknight dinner but they would be great for special occasions and using the Sous Vide would cut down on stress when entertaining.

Sous Vide literally means "under vacuum" in French.  I have had my machine for a few months now and it takes a bit of adjusting to your normal cooking routine (you really have to plan things out to use last minute dishes) but it really produces delicious foods with very little hassle.  If you want to learn more about Sous Vide cooking you can get some great information here.

Really the only active prep for this recipe is to peel and cut up your carrots.  Nice even bite sized pieces will do the trick.  After you get those steps out of the way then you just need to load up your bag with the carrots and other ingredients then suck the air out!  I use a FoodSaver but any similar machine would work.

For 8-12 large carrots I used:
1 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. of maple syrup
Pinch of ginger (1/8 - 1/4 tsp.)
Pinch of cinnamon (1/8 - 1/4 tsp.)
Pinch of smoked paprika (1/8 - 1/4 tsp.)

I just shake the items in the bag for a nice coating then seal.  The pat of butter stays intact and melts as the carrots cook.  Place the bag into the water bath which has been pre-heated to 185° F for a minimum of 45 minutes.  This time yields a nice crunchy carrot but the longer you cook the softer they become.  When you are ready to eat just cut open your sealed bag and serve.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hazelnut Torte - KitchenAid Test

This week I was looking for a recipe to really give my new KitchenAid mixer a test.  The oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I made for its first run were good but they just didn't satisfy my need to really see it work.  So naturally I took to Goggle to figure out what recipe to use.  I found a thread posted to the Taste of Home community forum from 2005 where recipes for breaking in a new KitchenAid were being discussed.  After I read through I saw a recipe which is apparently from a 1987 copy of "The KitchenAid Cookbook".  It looked rigorous enough, using both the whip and paddle attachments so I gave it a shot and it did not disappoint!

The hardest part was to find the hazelnuts!  I went to the local grocery who apparently on has them seasonal starting in October.  I called the nearest organic grocery store and they said they had been out for months and so had their supplier.  With my recipe looking like it wasn't going to happen I called one more natural grocery store and they had they in the bulk section....thank goodness.  An hour later when I got home with my bounty of hazelnuts I proceeded to roast and skin them.  I put them in the toaster oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes (or until the skins start to crack).  I then put them in a big bowl and rubbed with a paper towel to get the new loose skins off.  This process will make your house smell amazing by the way.

I got the nuts all chopped up and everything prepped and measured I started mixing.

First up was the egg whites.....I messed this part up and added all my sugar at once instead of the partial amount the recipe called for.  The cake is still good and not too sweet.

I used a decent amount of the 7qt. capacity when whipping the egg whites and they had stiff peaks in no time at all!  

Next I switched over to a clean bowl and the paddle attachment to start the second part of the cake recipe.  I added another 1/2 cup of sugar here to make up for my earlier mistake so that the eggs would mix correctly.

Just a couple of more ingredients....

I folded the whites into the cake base and into a 9" round it all went to bake (I don't own a springform yet). 

 After the cake cooled down I sliced it in half and then filled it with the mocha filling from the original recipe.  I also made this in the KitchenAid but I think you could just mix this one up by hand.  I also decided to make a ganache for the top and as luck would have it the new October 2012 issue of Food & Wine arrived today and had just the recipe I needed (part of Chocolate Hazelnut Squares).  Note the full recipe calls for coffee but I left it out as I am not a big coffee fan and thought it might be too strong with the coffee already in the filling.  My fiance loved the cake, saying it was almost as good as his favorite cake of all time, a walnut torte his grandmother makes!



Original inspiration recipe here.
Ganache inspiration found here.

From the “The KitchenAid Cookbook” (1987).
Hazelnut Torte
6 eggs, separated
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. plain bread crumbs
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. finely chopped hazelnuts
Place egg whites in bowl. Attach bowl and wire whip. Turn to Speed 8 and whip until soft peaks form. Continuing on Speed 8, gradually sprinkle in 1/4 cup sugar, whipping until stiff peaks form. Remove from bowl and set aside.
Place egg yolks in clean bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater, Turn to Speed 8 and beat 2 minutes, until thick and lemon colored. Reduce to Speed 6 and gradually sprinkle remaining sugar, beat 1 minute. Stop and scrape bowl.
Add bread crumbs, flour, and nuts. Turn to speed 2 and beat 30 seconds, until well blended. Fold egg white mixture into egg yolk mixture.
Pour batter into a greased and floured 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325ºF for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes. then remove and cool completely on wire rack.
When cool, slice cake in thirds to form 3 layers. Frost with Creamy Mocha Filling.
Yield: One 9-inch torte.
Creamy Mocha Filling
2 sq. (1 oz. each) semisweet chocolate, melted
1 c. butter or margarine, softened
2 c. powdered sugar
2 t. instant coffee
1 t. vanilla
Place chocolate and butter in bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater. Turn to speed 4 and beat 2 minutes. Sift sugar and coffee into bowl. Add vanilla. Turn to Speed 2 and mix 15 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl. Turn to Speed 6 and beat 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Yield: 2 cups.


1/2 c. heavy cream
1 T. unsalted butter
5 ounces semisweet chocolate

In the microwave, heat the cream and butter until very hot.  Whisk in the chocolate until smooth.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Kitchen

For my first post I figured I would show off my kitchen.  We are currently in a rental with a standard contractor grade set-up so it isn't anything fancy :(.

I swear there really is organization to my pots and pans!

My 9 qt. Staub cocottee is too big to fit anywhere else so it lives in the oven :).

See that big, beautiful 7 qt. KitchenAid stand mixer, well I just won that a few weeks ago from My Halal Kitchen,