Thursday, February 20, 2014

Homemade White Chocolate Nutella?! Ooh, Girl!

Do you like Nutella? Wait, that was a dumb question. Of course you do. What I meant to say was, Do you like it, but kind of wish it had more hazelnut flavor like its European cousin? Do you look at your jar of Nutella and shake your fist in the air, cursing those heathens at Ferrero for not having a white chocolate version? Well curse no more, girl, because today is your day! Here is my tasty recipe for White Chocolate Nutella, which I came up with just the other night!

2 c roasted and skinned hazelnuts

2 c white chocolate chips (about 12 oz)

2 T neutral oil (any neutral oil would be fine, but hazelnut would be perfect!)

1-2 t vanilla*

1/4-1/2 t salt (1/2 is my recommended amount, but start with 1/4 if you doubt my tastes. Shame on you if you do, though.)

Putting it all together is super easy, but I'm going to skip the part where most food bloggers tell you to roast the hazelnuts at xxx degrees F/C for xx minutes, and here's why: In my experience, if you see a recipe for something like homemade white chocolate Nutella, you either say 'YES, YES, OH GOD YES!!' and run out to buy the ingredients (if you don't already have them), or you're like, 'Ooh, Nutella, yeah I'll have to get me some of that on the way home from work.' In other words, you're either the kind of person who really likes to play with their food and try anything homemade, or you think that Sandra Lee and her semi-homemade stuff is too much work. In *other* other words, if you don't already know how to roast a bunch of nuts, then you probably don't care anyway. The skinning part, however, is another matter. If you google how to peel hazelnuts, you'll find a few different ways, probably the most common being to roast them in the oven and then boil them for 3 minutes in water with a little baking soda. The other way is to wrap them in a towel while they're still warm from the oven and roll them around in it. (I've recently read that using a damp towel works better than a dry one.) That's the way I did it because I wanted the flavor of *roasted* hazelnuts, not boiled. I don't know for sure if boiling really affects the final flavor or not, but I suspect it probably does. When you roll the hazelnuts around in the towel, you definitely won't get all the skins off, but that's ok. Just tell your friends that it's vanilla bean flakes.

Take your roasted and skinned hazelnuts and blend them in the food processor. While that's going on, melt the white chocolate in the microwave. When the hazelnuts are pretty well blended and smooth, add in the rest of the ingredients and blend some more. That's pretty much it. You could additionally strain the mix through a fine mesh sieve for more smoothness and to get rid of some leftover skins, but I say why bother? I've read that hazelnut skins can add a bitter taste, but I've not found that to be the case at all.

After you first make it, your homemade Nutella will be nice and smooth and spreadable, but over time it may thicken up to almost a peanut butter-like consistency if your kitchen isn't super warm. If that's a problem, you can easily soften it back up by microwaving it for a few seconds.

***

As far as white chocolate goes, no need to use fancy-pants super expensive hipster stuff... y'know, the kind made from organic locally grown cocoa beans harvested by angels and then ejaculated by unicorns into pristine cocoa butter, etc. etc... The main thing you want to look for on the ingredient list, besides as few ingredients as possible and nothing artificial, is that cocoa butter and sugar are at or near the top of the list. I used my local grocery store's 'Private Selection' brand for mine and it came out great.

* As for the vanilla, when I was working on this recipe, I originally wrote down 1 t, but I could swear I actually used 2, so I'd start with 1 and see how it tastes and add more if you feel like it needs it.

(Hopefully a photo or two will be coming in the days ahead...)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Chermoula

How's about some Chermoula recipes, y'all? Yeah, I know I'm a good bit behind in posting these. I've been kinda busy and totally forgot about them.

As you know, Chermoula is a popular condiment/marinade in Moroccan cooking, especially with fish. And while it's been slowly making it's way into into American cooking over the last several years (the NY Times posted a recipe in 2009), it's still not very well known around here, even among folks who cook for a living. That needs to change, because Chermoula is easy to make and tastes amazing. You *will* impress your friends and loved ones if you make them a dish with it. Even more so if you mix it with the Orange-Cardamom marinade from one of my previous posts!

I've been taste-testing some different fresh Chermoula recipes and have found at least one really excellent recipe online, and made up a couple of my own that I'm also proud of. Today's first recipe is for the online one, the other (my) two follow behind.

Let's take a look at the photo-


chermoula photo chermoula_zps81471ef2.jpg


The spoon on top is the recipe from Choosy Beggars.

Here's the quick details-

small bunch cilantro (1/2 cup finely chopped)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp smoked paprika*
4 cloves garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon (or 1/2 preserved lemon, juice and flesh)

*If you don't have smoked paprika you can sub regular (which is what I did), but smoked is definitely recommended.

Simply mince everything up finely and mix it up in a bowl. (You could use a food processor, but this is how they outlined it on their website, and I wanted to follow their recipe as closely as possible, so I opted not to.)

Looking at the recipe before I made it, I honestly didn't expect to like it. It seemed to have about half the oil it needed and twice the lemon and chili flakes. Turns out that's not the case- it's excellent! (In fact, if you eliminated the oil and added some diced tomatoes it could also be used as an excellent salsa.)

As for how to use Chermoula, there are plenty of ideas to be found online, but one way in particular that I like is to use it as a marinade for baked chicken**. (And then to drizzle the reduced drippings over oven-roasted potatoes and onions!) Simply coat your favorite chicken parts (boneless breast is quite common, though thigh meat is much more flavorful) in a very generous helping of Chermoula and let set for an hour or two (or more) to marinate. Then bake on 350 F, along with all of the marinade, in a foil pouch or partially covered baking dish, until done (an internal temp of 165 F is recommended). As previously mentioned, drizzle the drippings over oven roasted potatoes and onions. Serve the potatoes and chicken together, with a cilantro garnish (and maybe some feta or goat cheese), and you and your friends are in for a treat!


**For extra juicy chicken, I highly recommend brining the chicken before you marinate it. While there are many elaborate brines out there with all sorts of spices and flavorings, 2-4 T kosher or sea salt per half gallon of water is all that's really needed for absolutely delectable chicken. Throw in some sugar if you're feeling sassy, but it's not really necessary. 1/2 hour to several hours, depending on your schedule, then coat in the marinade.


And now here's two of my own that I really like. (These also are great when combined with the Cardamom-Orange Marinade I told you about recently.) The two are pretty similar (but definitely different). And don't worry if you don't have everything necessary to make them, such as the Chimayo chile powder called for in the first one - I'm a firm believer in using recipes as guidelines (think of a recipe as a basic outline rather than a set of specific, necessary instructions) and going with whatever suits you instead! Here's the first one I tried-

35 g cilantro
20 g flat leaf parsley
25 g garlic (5 cloves)
25 g ginger
1 1/2 T coriander
1 1/2T cumin
1 1/2T paprika
1 1/2T Chimayo chile powder
1 T turmeric
juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
3 finger pinch of kosher salt

Don't have a digital kitchen scale? No problem, just start with one bunch each of parsley and cilantro (use a little less parsley); as for the ginger, just pick up 5 cloves of garlic and use your best guess as to an equal amount of ginger. (Seriously, it's really that simple.) Use more or less depending on your preferences. As for the Chimayo chile powder, regular chile powder would work, but if you can get guajillo or ancho, those would be closer. (If using whole chiles, start with 3-4.) Simply drop everything into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

Second recipe is as follows-

40 g cilantro
20 g flat leaf parsley
25 g garlic (5 cloves)
25 g fresh ginger
1 1/2 T coriander
1 1/2T cumin
1 1/2T paprika
1 T dried mint
1 1/2 t chili flakes
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 c + 2 T neutral oil
Two 3 finger pinches of kosher salt

As you can no doubt see, this one is pretty similar to the first one, but it's different enough to stand on its own too. If you look at the photo above, the first spoon is the recipe from Choosy-Beggars, the second spoon is the second recipe, and the last spoon is the third recipe. You can see the greener color from the added cilantro and the addition of mint. As with the first recipe, simply drop everything into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. As for how to use Chermoula, besides marinating and baking chicken, and then drizzling the juices over oven-roasted potatoes and onions, Chermoula also goes especially well with (and is traditionally used over) fish. As for our dried Chermoula, if you mix it with roughly equal parts olive oil, and lemon juice to taste, it can be used exactly how you'd use the fresh stuff, but we've heard great reviews of folks sprinkling it into ground beef for tacos (in place of traditional taco seasoning) and over rice with a splash of fresh lime juice and a pinch of cilantro, as well as mixing it into ground turkey for a definitely non-traditional pasta sauce! Fresh or dried, I highly recommend you try some Chermoula soon!


 photo chermoula_zps6208f85c.jpg


Friday, September 27, 2013

Blueberry-Espresso AwesomeSauce

After playing around with a recipe I found for blueberry-chipotle ketchup (on Saveur.com, I think) I ended up creating the following:

Blueberry-Espresso AwesomeSauce!

1 lb blueberries
3 1/2 oz espresso
8 oz dark brown sugar (Get a kitchen scale! Best $25 you'll spend!)
1/2 c cider vinegar
1/2 c lime juice
1 can of tomato paste (the small kind, I think they're 6 oz.)
1 1/2 oz fresh ginger, minced
3 finger pinch of kosher salt
1 t ground cardamom
1 1/2 t Vietnamese cinnamon
1 t baking soda (add a pinch or two more as needed. cuts down on the acidity and gives it a smoother flavor)
3/4 t allspice
1/4 t nutmeg
5 whole cloves

Pour everything into a medium sized saucepan, bring just to a boil or to a near-boil, then turn down to about medium low. Blend thoroughly with a stick blender, then simmer until your desired consistency, keeping in mind it'll thicken up some after it cools. 15-20 minutes will give you about the consistency of apple butter. Don't forget to stir it occasionally. Hit it again, harder this time, at the end with the stick blender and you shouldn't have to strain it through anything.

Some notes:

I highly recommend using actual espresso instead of extra strong coffee, even espresso roast. I tried both ways a couple times and the espresso way is definitely better. If you can't get any actual espresso, I also made it with my normal, good quality coffee and brewed it double strength. It's still good, I just think the espresso is better.

I used whole cloves because I didn't have any ground and I knew I wanted to use between 4-6, but I didn't feel like grinding them in my mortar/pestle and it wouldn't have been enough for the coffee grinder. After a good blend or two with the stick blender, especially at the end, they completely disappeared.

I really recommend using Vietnamese cinnamon instead of regular. It's a lot stronger. Spice Barn carries it for about $8/lb. As for the amount, I added 1 1/2 t, but not until it was already done cooking. If I'd added it at the beginning, probably 1 t would have been enough. If you can't get Vietnamese, I'd use probably 2 t. Either way, I'd made about 3 batches without cinnamon, and added it to the end of the 3rd batch (which was when I'd first thought of using it), and that one was definitely the best.

Goes great on toast. Goes better on toast with peanut butter. Goes even *better* on toast with goat cheese. Or try stirring it into your plain, organic, r-BGH-free, made-organnically-from-scratch-by-your-Greek-neighbor's-organic-109-yr-old-grandmother-from-her-organic-grass-fed-cows Greek yogurt.  OR just shovel it into your pie-hole with a large wooden spoon. Point is, it's GOOD. And though I haven't yet tried it out on grilled meats, it really tastes like it'd go well as a bbq sauce on chicken or pork.


 photo blueberry-espresso_zps70aa96a0.jpg
This is what REALLY EFFING GOOD looks like

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Amazing Thai Coffee

Ah yes, Thai coffee. If you've ever had it before you know how awesome it is. If you haven't, seek out your nearest Thai restaurant pronto and order yourself one. They are incredible. I've been on a Thai coffee kick for the past couple weeks, working on a good recipe, and I think I've gotten it down. This is some of the best, if not the best, Thai coffee I've ever had. Rich and thick and almost chocolate-y (even though there's no chocolate in it). It's hard to stop drinking it.

The only ingredient that's not readily available in grocery stores everywhere is the actual Thai Coffee grounds, but if you don't happen to live in a town with a decent ethnic mart you can always find it on Amazon.

  photo thaicoffee_zpsdcb75f74.jpg

Here's what you'll need-

Heaping 1/2 c of Thai coffee (Not instant! And I've been using, and recommend, Pantai)
3 c water
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 t ground cardamom**
2 egg whites (I know what you're thinking, but trust me!)
Pinch of kosher or sea salt

***

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
Whipping cream*

Mix everything but the two milks and the cream together in a large saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally until it just comes to a boil. Let boil for several seconds, or until the coffee foams up to the top of the pot (I use a 3qt. pot), then remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth, then stir in the condensed milk and evaporated milk. Let it cool down completely in the fridge (it should be cool enough after adding the milk that you can just put it in right away without affecting the fridge temperature). When it's nice and cold you just pour 1/4 c cream into a glass, followed by 3/4-1 c of the coffee mix (or vice-versa, whatever). Stir thoroughly and add lots of ice. Take a long sip and prepare to be blown away.


 photo coffee_zpsf8a622ee.jpg



***

Ok, egg whites? Yeah I know, seems kind of odd, but do not skip out on them. I made this several times before remembering that adding an egg white can really smooth out your coffee, especially if you're going to be boiling it. (Some folks also add egg shells, I've recently learned.) So I tried it with the egg white and the difference was quite noticeable! The coffee I'd made before was definitely very good, but the batch I made after adding the egg whites to the mix was downright exceptional!

* The type of cream you use does make a difference. You want plain old 'whipping cream,' not 'heavy whipping cream,' not half and half, and definitely not anything 'lite' or lowfat. If you're unsure if you have the right kind or not, check the nutrition label- what you're looking for is 4.5 grams/fat per Tbs. I've tried creams with 3 (half and half), 4.5 (regular whipping cream), and 5 grams (heavy whipping cream), and the 4.5 seems to have the best balance of everything. The half and half is too light and the heavy whipping cream is too... well, heavy. It leaves your tongue kind of feeling coated with fat. If all you can get your hands on is heavy cream, just dilute it slightly with milk or half and half.

** UPDATE- I just made another batch of the stuff and upped the cardamom to 2 teaspoons, as well as added a couple grinds of fresh black pepper. Totally the best batch I've made yet, by far. All of the other stuff had a chocolate-y taste to it, as I've mentioned, but this latest batch had more of a caramel-y flavor going on (which I definitely prefer). I've also tried Honey Bee brand Thai coffee, which has sesame seeds in it (and maybe one or two other things that the Pantai brand doesn't have, I can't remember and I don't have the label to check), and I'm thinking I like that even better. I don't know that it was the defining factor in this batch (I think probably not, since I used about half of each kind) but overall I think it's at least as good as Pantai, and maybe even better.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Orange-Cardamom Marinade

This is something I've been wanting to make for awhile now. Actually, what I originally wanted to make was an orange-cardamom vinaigrette, but it ended up becoming this instead. I still have plans to work on the vinaigrette, but for now this is a really, really good diversion. It makes for a fantastic marinade for chicken, both by itself, and maybe even more so when mixed with Chermoula, which I'll be posting recipes for here in the next week or two.

The really interesting thing to me about this marinade is that, at least when you mix it with Chermoula, the dominant flavor seems to change depending on how you blend it up. Here's what happened when I made it- the first time I made it, I used my immersion blender, but it didn't really completely emulsify; the oil separated a little after awhile, which wasn't really a big deal since I ended up using it as a marinade instead of a dressing. But the second time I made it, I used a regular blender to make it, and in that case it emulsified quite well- to the point of almost being aioli-like in consistency. In fact, it could even make a good condiment! Both times I ended up mixing it with Chermoula, and the resulting blend would also make for a good condiment. The first time (when I used the stick blender) the flavor of the Chermoula was more dominant (not overpowering, but you noticed it before the flavor of the orange-cardamom marinade). When I mixed it with the the blender, the flavor of the orange-cardamom marinade was more prominent. Interesting...
Anyway, here's the recipe for the marinade, and coming in a couple weeks or so are some Chermoula recipes (with photos) that I've tried that I like (both my own creation, and a couple I found online).


Orange-Cardamom Marinade

200 ml straight (undiluted) orange juice concentrate
300 ml neutral oil (I used sunflower; I think canola tastes shitty)
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 1/2-2 T ground cardamom
1 1/2-2 T ground coriander
1 T prepared spicy brown mustard
pinch of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper


A couple notes-

For this particular recipe, I ground my own cardamom in my coffee grinder, but I used pre-ground (commercially ground) coriander. If you're using pre-ground spices, 1 1/2 T is good, but since coffee grinders don't get the grind quite as fine, if you grind your spices yourself in a coffee grinder (which I recommend- fresh ground is best!), you may want to lean towards using 2 T instead of 1 1/2. Or if you just really, really like cardamom and coriander, like I do, then up the amount as well.

As for the mustard, it doesn't really make much difference whether you used plain yellow, spicy brown, or dry. The first time I made the recipe I used 1 t dry mustard. The second time, I was out of dry, so ended up using the 1 T spicy brown that this recipe calls for. I didn't really notice much difference as far as the mustard goes, so probably whatever you have on hand will be fine.


Chermoula recipes ahead, so stay tuned- they're damn good!





Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Introducing... Spicemongers!

Well, Hallelujah! After many months of planning and hard work and delay, it's finally here!

It started off as a half-joke in the kitchen of my friend and business partner, Lo-- we'd just made up a batch of our own Za'atar, as well as Zhug, and were comparing them to other, well-known brands that we (up until that point) thought were pretty good. But our two blends were just so much better, and we hadn't even spent long periods of time refining them; we just created them in one evening while hanging out with friends. And since we already had a few other spice blends worked up- we've both got our own version of Ras el Hanout, and I've had a Jalapeno-Lime spice blend for years- he remarked that we should just start our own damn spice company! And so here we are, several months later, just opening our doors-

Spicemongers

We don't have a huge variety to start with, but we couldn't be more proud of what we do have. My Ras es Hanout has long been a favorite of both of us (as well as our friends) and is pretty much made for the Moroccan Chicken Sandwich. Chermoula is something relatively new to us, yet our dried version (which is also the only dried version we know of) is top-notch; actually better than the fresh versions we've tried so far! And for chile-heads, Blaze of Glory is something I'm especially proud of. I've been working off and on to create this exact flavor for about 10 years now, and I finally got it. It's designed specifically to be used on home-fried tortilla chips and combines a great flavor with a slow burning heat. We don't have the Hint of Lime snack seasoning at the moment, mainly because we had to change suppliers for some of the ingredients used, and so have to start over with the testing process to make sure the flavor is exactly what we're going for.

So, we're starting off small, but we've got big plans and ideas, and nowhere to go but up.



Friday, January 25, 2013

What's Going On...

(Update, 2/27: Going to look at a commercial rental kitchen  today; it's almost certain that we'll take it, and once we do, the next step is getting the Dept. of Agriculture to come in and inspect our process, make sure everything's kosher. Once that happens, we're pretty much going live. So (fingers crossed) ... within a week.


So in a previous post or two, I mentioned that I had a super-awesome-for-me announcement coming up, and that it would be up this month for sure. And so here it is (sort of) -

A friend and I are starting a spice company. A super bad-ass spice company. Well, sort of a spice blend company, as opposed to just your ordinary, all-purpose 'We sell basil and thyme and black pepper and stuff,' company. See, we won't be selling thyme and black peppercorns and dried basil (though we're looking into dried Thai basil, since no one else seems to carry that). Our feeling is that you can get good quality 'regular' herbs and spices pretty much anywhere nowadays. Our focus is on unique and/or exotic/unusual stuff that you have to search high and low for, and maybe go through several different sources to get everything you want (like we've had to do in our own personal spice-buying ventures). Basically we're taking all of the flavors and spices and spice blends that we love to use in our own personal kitchens, and offering them for sale, in one convenient place, to other 'fellow seekers of the exotic.' Naturally, we came up with the idea after several beers. But it wasn't just the beer. We'd been snacking on some flatbread with store-bought Za'atar that we thought was pretty good, as well as a dried Zhug spice blend, that we also thought was pretty good. We decided to try and come up with our own version. And we did, and both of them were so, so much better than the stuff we'd paid money for that we just thought, 'We should just start our own spice company!' And so that's what we're doing.

Our standards are pretty high; we've bought plenty of different spices and spice blends from plenty of different companies. And while most are good, even our favorite companies offer some products that are, in our opinion, just plain mediocre. But that's just our opinion, right? Hell, maybe other people really like the stuff that we don't, and think it's just peachy. And that's fine. But our whole thing is that we won't carry anything that we don't absolutely love and think kicks ass. No, we don't expect everyone will love our stuff as much as we do; however, if someone were to say to us, 'Y'know, I really don't dig on your Za'atar that much, I've had better pre-packaged stuff from my local Ethnic Mart,' we honestly wouldn't be able to say, 'Yeah, so have we.' Bottom line: if we were selling beer, we sure as hell wouldn't be selling Bud Light. It may be one of the most popular beers in the U.S. (if not the most popular), so we might sell a ton of it, but we think it tastes like watered-down ass, so we just wouldn't carry it.

Here's some of what we plan to offer:

Za'atar

Zhug (aka Skhug) a Yemeni hot sauce/condiment (though ours, along with all our other stuff, is a dried spice version)

Jalapeño-Lime snack seasoning (hot and mild)

Vadouvan 

A Tostitos w/ Hint of Lime clone, based on the recipe I came up with years ago, but slightly different, and much better. (Also, better than the commercial variety.)

Harissa

Chermoula

Ras el Hanout


...as well as some other various blends, both our own original ideas as well as more well-known standard flavors, like Jamaican Jerk. In addition to blends, we also plan on carrying more exotic single spices like Ethiopian Cardamom (Korarima), Szechuan peppercorns, Omani/Loomi, Sumac, etc.


Unfortunately, we're not quite official yet, so I can't announce the company name or URL, but soon. Target date for going live is Feb. 1st.

We're starting off small, so we've got a long road ahead of us, but we couldn't be more excited!






Tuesday, December 25, 2012

You'll Want To Put These Balls In Your Mouth Two At A Time!

(Title credit: Amy)


Alternate titles:

'My Second Favorite Set Of Balls'

'Now Here's Some Balls You'll Really Love Eating'


It's pretty tough coming up with a decent title for a blog post about cheese balls. You can't just say 'World's Best Cheese Balls,' or even, 'Totally Amazing, Must-Try, Most-Deliciousest-Ever Cheeeese Baaalllsss!!1!' Nobody's going to want to read about that, even though in this case it's probably accurate.
Anyway, the lowly cheese ball- it's just a ball of cheese, usually covered in almonds, that you spread on crackers. How good can it be, right? Well, if you're my friend Heather, who was married to a chef for ten years, then it can be really, really good. We were at a party at a mutual friend's house one night a few weeks back, sitting out on the patio, and she was telling us about this cheese ball that she'd made. Said she'd used Laughing Cow, goat cheese, and that one with garlic and herbs, she couldn't remember the name. (It was Boursin.) Ok, that alone was sounding pretty good, but then she mentioned that she put dried blueberries in it. I must have made a face because then she said, 'Yeah, I know, it sounds weird, right?' I said, 'Hell no, it sounds awesome! You got anymore?' Turns out it was her contribution to the party's food supply and it was sitting right there in the kitchen for the taking! So me and a friend rushed in to get some. I took one bite and right then I knew- I knew - that even if I hadn't been drunk it still would have tasted just as awesome. And it does. The mildness of the Laughing Cow balances out the weirdness of the goat cheese, and the sweetness of the blueberries balance out the savoriness of the Boursin. Sesame seed crackers make for a really nice diversion from the usual Ritz or whatever, and the almonds add more visual appeal as well as extra crunch.

Like I often do when I make stuff, Heather didn't really use a recipe, but she remembered enough about it that I was able to pretty much recreate it. Here's what you'll need:


12 wedges Laughing Cow cheese (regular, not that light crap)

1 package Regular (garlic & herb) Boursin

1/2 lb. goat cheese

~1/3 c mayo 

~1/2 c (packed) dried blueberries

Toasted almonds

Sesame seed crackers


Putting it all together is about as straightforward as it seems. The worst part is unwrapping all those Laughing Cow triangles- kind of a pain in the ass, really, but it's worth it. You'll want the cheese to soften up a little to make it easier to blend, but in my experience, the LC triangles are easier to pop out of the wrapper if they're nice and firm, so I usually just unwrap all the cheese and toss it in a bowl while it's plenty cold, and then leave it out for a little while (or microwave it on low power) to soften up. Then add the mayo, then the blueberries, then mix thoroughly. Put back in the fridge for awhile to firm up so you can form balls with it, then roll in chopped, toasted almonds. The sliced almonds you get in the baking aisle of the grocery store are ok too, but they tend not to have a whole lot of flavor. I wouldn't waste my money on them.

Serve with sesame crackers at your next party, and watch while folks gobble these balls up like porn stars gobble up the other kind!








(I mentioned in my last post about an upcoming special announcement, thinking it'd be up by now, but the holidays, among other things, have caused delays. So, next month sometime for sure. It's really cool, too. Can't. Wait!)




















Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bodie's Most Bad-Ass Red Beans & Rice

Usually I hate it when I lose something I was working on (like a recipe) and have to start over from scratch, but in this case it worked out pretty well. What happened is that a couple months ago or so, I came up with what I thought was the best rice and beans I had ever eaten. Actually, it was the best rice and beans I'd eaten- at that time. (There was one time before that, but I never bothered to write anything down, so all I had was an awesome dish with no accurate way to re-create it.) And this time, luckily, I actually managed to write everything down as I made it so I'd be able to re-create it any time. But unluckily, I stored the main copy of the recipe in my Gmail account, thinking it'd be about as safe there as anywhere. And actually it was pretty safe there, so I erased the copy I had on my dry-erase board in the kitchen. But in an effort to clean up my Gmail, I completely deleted a whole bunch of emails, accidentally including the red beans and rice recipe, among a couple other kind of important recipes. (Even though it's unlikely to ever happen again, I'm now using Backupify again. I used to use it a long time ago when it first came out- thankfully, because that means it's still free for me- but didn't really see the need for it, so I stopped.) So there went my most-bad-ass-ever recipe for red beans and rice. But I figured since I'd done it once or twice before, I might be able to do it again.  And not only did I do it again, but I think this one is even better! So yee-haw for happy accidents (though I'm still sticking with Backupify).


What you'll need:

3 c dry pintos or red beans
7 c water

1lb bacon (minus what you eat after smoking it, because it's so damn good) + drippings
2 smoked pork hocks/pig's ears/whatevers
A couple jalapeños and cayennes (if you like yours a little spicier)
2 each guajillos and pasillas de Oaxaca*

3 T chopped chipotles in adobo (I highly recommend La Costeña brand)
3 T chili powder
3 T toasted cumin
3 T granulated garlic
2 T paprika
2 T mild jalapeño-lime blend**
2 T cider vinegar
2 T dried epazote
2 T dried cilantro
1 T onion powder
1 T oregano
1 1/2 t sugar
1 1/2 t coarse sea salt
1 t thyme
pinch of dill
several grinds of black pepper 

1 can of no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1/2 can of tomato paste
1 can of beer
6 T Louisiana hot sauce
2 T Valentina hot sauce
1 ea. red bell pepper and yellow onion, diced
fresh cilantro and/or green onions (and more Valentina) for garnish


Take your raw bacon (high quality or cheap-ass store brand, it really doesn't make much difference in this case) your smoked pork/turkey/whatever parts, and smoke them again. Really, fire up the grill, load on the wood chips and smoke the hell out of those suckers! Make sure you have some sort of drip pan underneath to catch all of the drippings. If you have a big enough grill and can fit it all on, I'd also recommend smoking your chile powders, cumin, salt, pepper, etc. I don't have a big enough grill to do it all at once though, and by the time the bacon and pork is smoked to the point where I want it to be, the wood chips are spent and I don't feel like doing it all again.
It's almost impossible to oversmoke the smoked pork parts, but I suppose you could, in theory, overdo the bacon since this involves hot-smoking and letting it go too long will result in burnt bacon. I let mine go until it's dark brown and crispy. I've burned the smoked hocks before, but it was only superficial and after cooking down in the beans awhile they were as tasty as ever. Bacon being so thin, however, that wouldn't work.

Next come the beans. I have a pressure cooker (Presto, 8 qt.) so that's how this recipe was written. If you don't have one, then cook the beans however you normally would, soaking them overnight or whatever. But with the pressure cooker, I never bother with that. Take the unsoaked beans, add the water, smoked meats, guajillos and pasillas (and the other chiles, if you're using them) and add it all to the pot. Bring it up to high pressure, then turn down to low pressure and set a timer for 21 minutes. When the time's up, release pressure using the cool water method and return to the stove over med-low heat. (When you open the pot, it'll probably look like there's not nearly enough liquid, but once the beer, hot sauce and tomatoes come into play, it'll be perfect.) In a separate pan, sauté the pepper and onions until they're brown and crispy, and deglaze with some of the beer. Scrape it all into the beans, pour in the rest of the beer and wet ingredients and add all your dry seasonings. At this point you just let it simmer away happily on low to med-low for awhile, either until the beans are completely softened up (if they weren't already after the initial pressure cook) or for at least a good 20-30 minutes. While that's going, get your rice cooking and have a few more beers. Speaking of which, every time I've made this, I've used el-cheapo Genesee Ice ($2.99/6-pack!) and it's always come out amazing. I can only imagine how much better it would be if I used a better beer. Then again, if you have to pay for beer, is there a better one than the one that costs $3 for a 6-pack? I'm not sure.






* Pasillas de Oaxaca... not the same as regular pasillas (pasilla negro). Pasillas de Oaxaca, as the name suggests, are from Oaxaca. I don't know much more about the differences between them other than the Oaxacan version is very smoky tasting (which is why I like them) and much harder to find, therefore more expensive than the regular. Like 3x more expensive. Last I checked, they go for around $30/lb. They're so good though. Definitely worth trying out.

** Mild jalapeño-lime blend. It's a custom spice blend I make, most often to put on tortilla chips, but it goes well in stuff like this too. Not available for sale anywhere yet, but it will be soon, so stay tuned for that announcement. But if you don't want to buy it, I'd just sub some canned green chiles and fresh lime juice.






Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kitchen Confidential

So I just recently finished reading Anthony Bourdain's 'Kitchen Confidential' for the first time.  I couldn't believe that it had been first published 12 years ago and I'd never read it before. I actually didn't really know that much about him, other than that he was a 'celebrity' chef and all that b.s. But if you haven't read the book, I highly recommend it, especially if you want some insight into the restaurant biz. I found it to be not only highly entertaining, but also there was very, very little that I've found not to be 100% accurate, based on my own experience. (Case in point: he says that despite all the foul language to be heard, joking around about 'your mom, girlfriend/boyfriend, etc.,' is off limits. In my own experience, 'your mom/girlfriend' jokes are abundant, and par for the course. Maybe things have changed since he was in the biz, I don't know.) In any case, as I've already said, if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it; in fact, I can't recommend it enough. Very accurate, very entertaining.

On a side note, I've got a totally badass red-bean-and-rice recipe coming up, as well as a special announcement (special to me, anyway). Stay tuned; one (maybe both) should be up within the week...