Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Becker barbecued shrimp (p. 386), Grilled or broiled shrimp or scallops (p. 386), and Blender mayonnaise (p. 579)

I am being seriously punished for writing these posts so much later than when I actually cooked the dishes. This post (and about ten others) are going to be more like memory exercises!

Josh and I both love shrimp.

A lot.

Unfortunately, shrimp in landlocked Colorado can be quite expensive. So when I stumbled on a great shrimp sale, I was extremely excited to dust off the ole' TJOC shellfish chapter and see what I could find.

I started with Becker barbecued shrimp (p. 386). First, I ground rosemary, oregano, red pepper flakes, sweet paprika, whole peppercorns, and salt in my spice grinder. I added the mixture (which even at that point smelled spicy and delicious) to melted butter, along with a whole bunch of minced garlic:




I added peeled shrimp to the spice mixture:



Once cooked, the now-heavily-spiced-shrimp were removed from the pan:



Beer and chicken broth were added to the cooking mixture, which was then boiled for a couple minutes:



The shrimp were added back into the cooking mixture and heated through:



This dish was extremely good. It was extremely heavily spiced and flavorful--delicious, although not "barbecued" in the traditional sense (or really in any sense, I'm not exactly sure where the "barbecue" in the title comes from). The recipe looks long and complex but was actually quite easy once it got started. And when I dipped bread in the extra sauce it was amazing.

I also decided to make Grilled or broiled shrimp or scallops (p. 386). Josh is a big fan of the pre-made shrimp at Whole Foods, I always complain that it's way too expensive, so I figured that I could make the shrimp myself.

I laid peeled shrimp on a baking sheet and drizzled olive oil over them (I know I deviated from the recipe here but I didn't want to get another bowl dirty).



I broiled the shrimp for a couple of minutes and then flipped them over and broiled the other side:



Done! Incredibly easy. Easy and delicious. I think this might be my go-to recipe for simple shrimp from now on. I liked the flavor and texture of broiled shrimp more than boiled shrimp. And the lack of added flavors made the shrimp a perfect base for a sauce (in my mind, most items are the perfect base for a sauce, I love sauce)! I decided to make remoulade sauce with Blender mayonnaise (p. 579).

I placed an egg, dry mustard, salt, a bit of ground red pepper, sugar, and vegetable oil in the blender:



I blended it and, with the blender running slowly, first added vegetable oil, and then lemon juice:



And more vegetable oil:



And I blended until thick. Incredibly simple and much easier on the wrists than making traditional mayonnaise. It was tasty, although I rarely feel the need to make mayonnaise from scratch. Making mayo from scratch is pretty impressive to people, so it's a nice item to add to your repertoire of skills.


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jasper Fforde and Euclid Hall

I love, love, love the author Jasper Fforde. His books are almost in a genre of their own and are rather difficult to explain or categorize. Essentially, in his Thursday Next series, characters live in a world similar to ours (but not the same) where trained people can actually enter (and change) books. If you love literature and love the English language (and especially if you like wordplay and puns), you will love his books. They are clever and amazing. I have been a superfan for ten years now and convinced most of my friends and family to love him too.

So when I heard he was coming to Denver again (I saw him 4 years ago), I knew I had to go. Josh and I decided to make a nice little one day trip out of it.

Jasper Fforde and I:



Exciting!

I'm sure you are thinking "Fascinating, Jessica, but what the heck does this have to do with food?".

Josh and I decided that we would just stay the night in Denver and go to a great meal. My friend Kristin, an amazing local restaurant critic, gave me a bunch of recommendations. One of them was Euclid Hall. I looked at the online menu, was immediately intrigued, and chose it.

Euclid Hall is one of those truly interesting restaurants where the food is very creative and very delicious.

We would never have found this place on our own. The building was built in 1893 and has been everything from a Mason hall to a high-end brothel. It doesn't look like a restaurant. We walked in and couldn't quite figure out what to do--the area we walked in to was obviously a bar, there was no obvious restaurant area, and there was no hostess. We waited around awkwardly for a few minutes and then followed a waitress up some stairs. Ah! There is the restaurant! The waiter gave us attitude for wandering up on our own (annoying) but looked down and noticed the hostess was in fact missing, which improved his attitude.

We started with a couple drinks. My martini was amazing. Euclid Hall must have a mixologist on staff because there are some truly innovative drinks utilizing house made mixers, like maraschino syrup.



When I see something truly novel on a menu, I want to eat it. And, as I work in the meat industry, when I see a truly novel variety meat on the menu, I REALLY have to get it. So Crispy Buaffalo-Style Pig Ears were our appetizer.



The pig ears reminded me of sweetbreads. The texture is...odd. The word "mucous-y" probably isn't completely right but it's not completely wrong either. They tasted good, once we we got over the texture, but I'm still willing to leave the pig ears to my dogs as chew toys.

Euclid hall grinds their own sausage but, more importantly, they pickle their own pickles! We got the pickle sampler which included sweet bread and butter pickles, hops infused pickles, "hot, spicy, and very sincere pickles", and a seasonal pickle:



These were so good. I love pickles (remember, I'm part of a pickle-of-the-month club). And I LOVED these pickles. Each variety was totally different and equally interesting. The bread and butter pickles were sweet and spicy, the hops-infused pickles had just enough hops flavor, and the spicy pickles had a great multi-dimensional spiciness that many hot pickles lack.

I also love poutine. I think it's the best part of Canada every time I go there. So spotting poutine on a menu in Denver? Super exciting. They had three varieties and I picked the wild mushroom version ("Wild mushroom, porcini gravy, Wisconsin cheddar curds"):



Delicious. The exact right amount of savory gravy, perfect curds, a true winner. Sometimes poutine can be too salty and this one wasn't, which was great.

I also ordered the caraway spatzle:



I adore spatzle and this was a really good version, although it had an oddly herbaceous taste. It was also a HUGE portion for a side. I didn't come close to eating it all.

Josh ordered the grilled prime tri-tip steak, which came with cast iron roasted vegetables and a black garlic aioli:



The steak was perfectly cooked and tender and the vegetables were also incredibly good (and well seasoned).

If I see "S'mores" in a dessert, I can't pass it up. So I ordered the S'mores pot de creme ("house made graham crackers and marshmallows").



The pot de creme had creamy pudding base, a toasted marshmallow top, and the homemade graham cracker was terrific. I hadn't known what I was missing by not having tried homemade graham crackers in the past.

Josh got the sourdough waffle ice cream sandwich ("salted butterscotch ice cream, praline".



It, like everything else, was delicious. Frankly, it's hard to go wrong with a salted dessert.

The meal was truly terrific. The ambiance was awesome too, it made a perfect date night. I absolutely want to go back soon. If I had a rating system, Euclid Hall would get the perfect score. It isn't even as expensive as you would expect. I think our whole meal was only around $70 or so.


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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chicken or turkey divan (p. 113) and Seafood divan (p. 113)

Divans are one of those really retro (some would say "dated") casserole style American foods. They would totally be appropriate at that "Mad Men" party you are planning to throw. But they aren't anything that your average person even considers making on an average day. That being said, a divan is a pretty easy way to liven up leftover chicken and uses ingredients that you probably have on hand.

I decided to make both Chicken or turkey divan (p. 113) and Seafood divan (p. 113) because it took about the same amount of effort to make both that it was going to take to make one.

I didn't take pictures of the process for this one. Sorry!

I took slices of hot buttered toast and layered them with sliced cooked turkey breast. I spooned cooked broccoli on the top, sprinkled with a little salt, and layered Mornay sauce over the top. It was only after making batch one of the Mornay sauce that I realized the TJOC recipe only produces one cup at a time and I needed more than that. Fortunately, Mornay sauce is easy to scale up and I can make it super, super fast now, so it wasn't a problem. I sprinkled Parmesan over the top of the divan.




For the seafood divan I replaced the turkey with tuna (one with canned, the other two with pouch) and replaced the broccoli with asparagus. Seafood divan would be a great choice for Catholics during lent, who are getting sick of their McDonald's Filet O Fish.



Finished seafood divan:



Finished turkey divan:



So how where they? Josh said that the seafood divan using canned tuna was a bit soggy, so you are better off using pouch tuna or shrimp. I thought the turkey divan was quite good, it was almost good enough to sway me from my hatred of hot sandwiches. The lasting lesson from these two dishes is that Mornay sauce makes anything better. The Mornay sauce mixed with the vegetables was by far the best part of the dish.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Feta dressing (p. 576)

The salad dressings in TJOC have always been my go-to for easy recipes to knock out. Unfortunately, I have made most of the dressings that look good to me already. So when I spotted Feta dressing (p. 576) I was excited. I love feta! Everyone in the house loved feta (Mom and Josh) so I figured I had a winner.

It was easy. I combined feta, red wine vinegar, oregano, and a little salt and pepper in a food processor:



I slowly added olive oil:



And it was finished! It actually required more olive oil than the recipe called for because my feta was rather dry. Believe it or not, the dressing was actually sort of bland. I think it needed some "kick"--either red pepper or garlic or something extra. I also think it would work better as a dip than as a salad dressing.

And now two random pictures:

Josh, changing the oil on his car, and using a puppy pee-pad to catch drips. For some reason, I find this hysterical:



We have a lot (a LOT) of puppy pee-pads left over because we decided to skip that step of housebreaking. Any other puppy pad uses you guys can think of?

Our two dogs, on each side of a bewildered Muggy (my mother's dog). In the time since this picture was taken, little Lestat took down the screen door. You wouldn't think a 7-lb papillon could do that but you'd be wrong.





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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Peanut butter pie (p. 684) and Chocolate ganache glaze or frosting (p. 795)

My brother-in-law had requested a pecan pie for his college graduation party but I figured there are no events in which extra dessert was unwelcome, so I would make an extra pie. Mom only had a single pie crust left so I flipped through TJOC reading aloud to my mom and Josh all the single crust pie recipes. They were only interested in one--Peanut butter pie (p. 684)

Peanut butter pie may be one of the most fattening, sinful recipes I've ever seen.

I mixed cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until smoothly blended:



In another bowl I whipped cold heavy cream until stiff peaks formed:



I folded half of the whipped cream in to the peanut butter mixture to "lighten it":



Eventually I worked the rest of the whipped cream in to the peanut butter (be prepared, this step seems to take forever):



I poured it into my prepared crust (which had been baked):



I pressed a sheet of plastic wrap over the top and refrigerated it for about four hours. In the meantime I made Chocolate ganache glaze or frosting (p. 795). I heated heavy cream in a small saucepan until it came to a boil:



I added finely chopped semisweet and bittersweet chocolate to the cream (it was a mixture of both since that's what I had on hand):



I stirred until most of the chocolate was melted and then covered the pot and let it stand for 10 minutes:



I brought the chocolate to a boil (again) and then allowed it to cool to lukewarm. I poured the glaze over the pie and sprinkled chopped salted peanuts over the top:



If your arteries don't feel quite clogged enough, TJOC recommends topping the whole thing with a dollop of whipped cream.

The inside:



This was an incredibly decadent cake. It was silky, smooth, and delicious. The slightly bitter chocolate cut through the sweetness of the peanut butter and the peanuts lent a nice crunchy bite to the creaminess of the cake. It was a hit with absolutely everyone at the party. It also seemed like an expensive cake, bought rather than homemade. This is a good choice for a party that isn't particularly formal but one at which you wish to impress people.

Random facts:
  • Wikipedia says that the word "ganache" is from the French word for jowl. That seems extremely strange. On Food and Cooking's assertion that it is from the French word for cushion makes much more sense (p. 707).

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Pecan pie (p. 682)

I will share a small story so you all know how obsessive I am about TJOC. I have a giant Google document that includes every recipe I have yet to make. It includes which recipes have strange ingredients, which have strange equipment, and who (out of the friends and family I often cook with) would like to help me with each recipe. I am rather embarrassed about this because it seems over-the-top and share it sparingly (I think I've shown it to about 6 people). When Josh and I decided to go to his brother's graduation, I knew I wanted to make a dessert from TJOC. So I sent my BIL the document and let him pick what he was interested in.

He chose Pecan pie (p. 682), after slogging through about 600 desserts.

I blended together eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, vanilla, and salt.



I mixed in two cups of...pecans...(Mom didn't actually have two cups of pecans so my pecan pie became more of a pecan/walnut pie):



I poured the nut mixture in to a baked crust:



It was baked for about 40 minutes (make sure to cover your crust so that it doesn't burn--I have a new paper clip trick to try out and show you next time):



It was oozy when we cut in to it:



How was it? Good! Again, I think it was a bit too loose and the crust stuck to the bottom of the pan, which I didn't like. Overall, it had a great flavor (not too sweet and full of tasty nuts) and it was a winner with the crowd. It was certainly full of nuts, which I like in pecan pie--it seems like sometimes I buy a piece and it's all filler and not nearly enough nuts.

I always associate pecan pie with my Uncle Dale. Dale was an incredibly amazing and incredibly eccentric man. He was the type of man who told his friends that he would marry the next women who got on the bus (and he did--he was happily married to my Aunt Patsy until he passed away a few years ago). He owned a chimney sweep company, wore a top hat like Abe Lincoln, and even had a Madame Alexander doll modeled after him. He was an incredibly nice man (he would literally give you the shirt off his back), a super interesting person (he had gigantic collections of everything from Viewfinders to jukeboxes), and a great businessman (not a combination found in most people). And he made an amazing pecan pie. I don't think I ever spent any time with Dale which didn't, at some point, include pecan pie. So I reminisced about my late uncle while making the pie, making the experience bittersweet.

I have food memories about essentially all of my close relatives (my Aunt Charlotte makes the best gravy in the world and the best vinaigrette, I ate caviar and blini for the first time with my Aunts JeJe and Jen, I always associate vichyssoise and beef tartar with my Uncle Denny and my Aunt Ginni, and so on...) so when an association that I didn't remember until I was actually baking the item pops out of the woodwork, it's a nice surprise. Does everyone associate their family with food memories as strongly as I do?



(Photograph: The Augusta Chronicle)

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Breaded panfried fish fillets (p. 407)

While home for my brother-in-law's graduation party, mom mentioned that she had some fish that she would be willing to donate to the TJOC cause. I read some possible recipes and she picked Breaded panfried fish fillets (p. 407).

The recipe was simple (and, thus, the post is short). I poured flour in to a bowl and seasoned it with a little salt and pepper. I coated my fish (tilapia and cod) with the flour and popped them in hot butter:



After a few minutes I flipped them:



And finished:



Extremely simple and very good. The seasoned flour gave a little crispness to the skin but the fish was still tender and flaky. I will keep this recipe in mind for when I want fish cooked really fast.

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