Thursday, May 2, 2013

Side Quests: Twice Baked Potatoes, VF Style

I demand that you don't just walk, or mosey, or saunter to the kitchen to make these. RUN, dammit. These tatos are gold. Er, if you could eat gold, I guess. The key to their crack-like deliciousness is my lil twist on the recipe, and my secret . Well, I'm sharing it with you now so guess not so secret, huh?

4 large russet or Yukon Gold potatoes (Russet safe choice, but Yukons reallly elevate this recipe.)
1/2 brick cream cheese (4 ounces I think?)
1/2 stick butter, softened (yes, butter. Don't even consider margarine. Heathen.)
3 generous T. sour cream
1/2 cup grated extra sharp cheddar, plus more to top
1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning (wow, I sure use that a lot, huh?)
1/4 tsp. garlic salt, plus 1 sprinkle regular salt
2 T. fresh parsley, minced (please use fresh. It truly makes a difference.)
plenty shakes of black pepper
paprika, to taste (I go heavy.)

Out of my fave sour cream, boo :(

Scrub your tatos, poke 'em a few times wif knife/ fork/ your teeth and bake in the oven or microwave til tender. I prefer the microwave, because it's so easy, but be sure to check 'em by stabbing to make sure they're done all the way through. Microwave takes 15 minutes vs. the oven, which clocks in at like, an hour. Once they're cool, slice the tops off and hollow them out with a spoon-transferring the tato innards into a mixing bowl. Try to keep the potato shape intact.

Shallow husks lol.

To the bowl of tatos add the poultry season, butter, sour cream, garlic salt/salt sprinkle, pepper, 1/2 cup cheddar, and parsley. Blend thoroughly:

Fill  the shallow husks  with the mixture about halfway. NOW. Here is my secret. Cut off a good piece (bout thumb size chunk) of the cream cheese and nestle it into the filling like so:

Delicious results await you.

Really mold the chunks into the base filling. And then top wif more filling, sealing the cream chz in:

Almost there!

Lastly, top wif sprinkle cheddar an the (generous) paprika:

Or even sprinkle of red pepper, if you feelin froggy lol.

Pop into 375 oven an bake until tops of tatos browned, (about 35 minutes).

Well hot damn.

The implementation of the secret tip means you get tatos with their centers full of warm, gooey goodness.... Lord these are tasty. Might as well make a double batch because you'll WISH you had more the next day.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chicken Kiev (aka, fireworks on date night!)

Bad news. This recipe is entirely too much work. Still, I encourage you to try it at least once- because it is damn delicious. Alternatively, if you needed to bust out a meal to impress a date, or as a special dinner for you and your SO- this would be it. :) Let's get this fancypants show on the road.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (thin sliced is good, less pounding
1/2 stick butter
poultry seasoning
garlic powder
white pepper (black is okay too, but white is a little more delicate alongside the poultry.)
fresh parsley
3 eggs (to be on the safe side.)
1 c. all-purpose flour
1-1 1/2 c. plain breadcrumbs
few T. olive oil for browning

meat mallet (or whatever else you may have to smack the chicken.)
plastic wrap


On to the hard work now. Rinse and dry the chicken.  Place each piece of meat between two sheets of plastic wrap and hammer until flattened (without making holes). Try to hammer it into a rectangular shape if you can.

Fail. Oh well. Kinda rectangular...

Peel back the top sheet of wrap and season yo breast. Sprinkle on poultry seasoning, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley- as much or as little as you like. Cut the 1/2 stick butter into fourths- matchstick style- and place one matchstick right in middle of the chicken.

Easiest part of this recipe.

NOW. Tuck the short sides of the rectangle (the top and bottom in above pic) up against the butter and then roll from left to right until the butter is encased in almost a purse-like manner. Use your toothpicks to secure the meat around the butta and seasonings like soooo:

Jelly roll style.

As soon as they're all rolled up, chill in fridge for about 10-15 minutes (this ensures that the butter doesn't melt out too soon). Meanwhile get your dipping station ready (flour egg and crumbs) and heat a couple T. olive oil in a skillet over medium.Get your meaty rolls out and flour, egg, crumb (in that order) to coat:

The messiest.

Pop into the skillet and brown all four sides (DON'T cook all the way through!)

Luckily they thick enough to stand on all four sides.

Once browned, place those guys into a baking dish and bake at 365. After 15 minutes pull the pan out, tilt at an angle, and spoon the juicy good stuff that's collected back up over top of the rolls:

Omfg delicious butta runoff...

Bake for another 15 (basting again at the 7 minute mark if you like) and bam. All your hard work looks like this:

Lord have mercy...

Plate and spoon the pan juices over the chicken.

Tip: Cut chicken up to detect all hidden toothpicks :)

BOOM. You're gettin some date night lovin, guaranteed.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Side Quests: Crazy Good Cheddar Garlic Biscuits

You've been to Red Lobster right? And sampled their bland rubbery seafood that all tastes  suspiciously similar (and sometimes like bleach)? I'm a firm believer that the only reason to darken a RL's door is for their endless baskets of Cheddar Bay Biscuits. Lordy. Well! I've got greeaaattt news.

These are Cheddar Bay Biscuits taken up several notches (nomtches?)...bready cheesy garlic-y NOMS. Legit biscuits that taste like CBBs but like, times an assload of deliciousness points. And you can see what you're making them with. Unlike the tasty devils who materialize at your table, that feature a sketch abundance of (God only knows) monstrously unhealthy/chemically altered ingredients.

2 c. all-purpose flour + 3 additional T.
1/2 cup olive oil (I used classic, no extra virgin for this recipe.)
1 cup milk (whole please.) 
2 eggs
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4-1/2 tsp. garlic powder (depending on how garlic-y you like your biskies.)
2-3 T. minced fresh or dried parsley (I used fresh.)
1/2 tsp. salt
several grinds/shakes black pepper
16 oz. EXTRA SHARP cheddar-grated (more if you feel like fat kid!)
   -greased/cooking sprayed muffin tin, or cupcake holders to go in muffin tin

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl- set aside. In another mixing bowl combine oil, milk, eggs, garlic powder, and parsley; blending in the cheese. Dump the wet into the dry:

And mix JUST until combined. Don't overmix.

Lumps of flour are juuuust fine.

Spoon into your tins

I really need to ditch this ugly bakeware :\

and bake at 450 for 10 mins, or (as always) tops are as golden brown as you like. Alternately, you can stab em wif a toothpick. Clean toothpick, done biskies.

Serving size = twelve, right?

Oh dear God.... Prepare yourself for biskie coma >.<

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Side Quests: Super Easy Asparagus

This is the legit way to do asparagus. Sure, it'll still make your pee/junk smell weird, but damn is it tasty goin down. And it is soooo simple. 4 ingredients.

I bunch asparagus (with verrry slim stalks, look at the bottoms.)
extra virgin olive oil
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Simplest yet.

Clean asparagus very well (tends to harbor sand), soaking and swishing heads in a bowl of water if necessary. When rinsed, pat dry thoroughly, using a dishtowel to get 'em real real bone dry. Dried veggies ensure that the oil will adhere and cover them properly.

 Now,  grab each asparagus stalk, bending the length of it gently. When the stalk snaps, discard the bottom part of it. Asparagus will snap his own woody ends off, so no worries. Place the now tender stalks on a cookie sheet and drizzle wif the olive oil:

Greasin 'em up.

Then season with da salt and pepper to taste, tossin everything right on the sheet using yo hands. Bake in a 350 degree oven until as done as you like, or slightly wilted and charred. I love mine like this:

Aw yeah.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mushroom Bourguignon

This recipe is truly, TRULY decadent. Imagine the richest, most delicious roast beef gravy you've ever shoved into your maw. Yeah. It's even freakin tastier than that. No lie. In fact, you could go really fat kid style and serve this bourguignon over mashed potatoes or Yorkshire pudding. I tried to show some modicum of restraint though, and used egg noodles.

Ingredients: (super adapted from Deb Perelman's recipe)
1 lb mushrooms (I used half white button and half baby bellas, creminis would be acceptable)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. onion, minced (I used sweet, but yellow would work- just no red)
2 T. carrot, minced (about half a big one)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 T. all-purpose flour
2 c. Cabernet sauvignon (or other dry red wine, no merlot or burgundy, too sweet)
4 c. beef broth (sub 2 c. veggie and 2 c. mushroom broth for vegetarian)
5 oz. tomato paste (almost whole small can)
2 T. olive oil (extra virgin)
2 T. butta
several good grinds/shakes black pepper
egg noodles to serve (or mashed potatoes haa) 

Here ve go!

In a dutch oven or large pot, saute the mushrooms in a blend of 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium high heat until mushrooms brown and wilted a bit like so:


Remove them and set aside. Add the last tablespoon olive oil to the pot and saute garlic, carrot, onion, thyme, and black pepper-  til tender, making sure yo' garlic doesn't burn. Might have to turn the heat down or add a tablespoon or two of water.

Not appetizing, but just you wait.

All right. Time to deglaze the pan. A note about the wine- don't use cheap gutbomb wine. Pick a mid quality one that you might actually drink. Cheap wine will make your sauce brassy and bitter. I recommend this brand:

Drinkable, yo.

So. Pour your wine in and scrape up all your tasty brown bits. Cook on medium high until wine has reduced by about half, then add tomato paste and broth. Turn heat down to medium and let simmer away. It will originally look like this:

Just you wait part 2....

While it's thickening, mix the other tablespoon butter (softened) with the flour like soooo:

Despite its looks, NOT buttercream frosting.

When the sauce is reduced a bit, add in the butter/flour mixture, as well as the reserved mushrooms and reduce, reduce, reduce, until you have a gravy like consistency. While the sauce is thickening, cook the egg noodles according to package directions.

Done. Plate us, bitch.

Holy crap. Serve over the egg noodles, with a wee bit of sour cream and parsley if you wish. Recipes for the (pictured) side dishes to come ;)

I'm sorry, couldn't hear you over the sound of inhaling this.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Creamy Shrimp Curry with Peas

Full disclosure: this is an adapted (tweaked to perfection lol) recipe from my good good good friend the Heater.  She served it to me one time and I was immediately hooked. I'm sure I ate way more than my share. Now. I love a good curry. Thai, Indian, it doesn't matter. In fact, I have an awesome tongue-blistering recipe for leftover Thanksgiving turkey curry that is pretty legit. But this?

This particular curry?

It is reallllly something special. Try it. I swear you will not be disappointed.

2 T. Canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced, grated, or pressed
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more if you like your curry non-pathetic.)
1 tsp. white sugar
1 1/2 tsp. sea (or kosher) salt
1/2 tsp. garam masala (you must use this spice for this recipe, curry powder is NOT the same thing.)
2 T. cilantro, chopped finely (or to taste, since it's straight potent.)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (not Romas.)
1/4 c. slivered or sliced almonds
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
1 lb. medium/large raw shrimps, preferably the shell yourself kind (fresher, even though shelling is gross... those tiny legs..... UGH. For vegetarian, sub tofu using the method found here)
1 1/2 C. frozen green peas
About 6-8 cups basmati rice rice for serving (depending on how saucy you like your wenches. Er. Rice.)

Gettin ready.

Go ahead and get the most terrible part of the recipe out the way: shell dem scrimps and rinse them. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to have someone else around to do it...

Terrible, terrible little legs...

Okay worst is past us now. Heat oil in a skillet on medium until shimmering and add your garlic. When the garlic is tender, add all the spices (cayenne, garam masala, sugar, salt) and let the oil warm 'em a bit (masala tends to foam, just stir it). This step is super important cuz it releases the spices' potential.

Watch that garlic doesn't burn.

Start the basmati- preferably in a rice cooker, but if you don't own one then make on stovetop, following package instructions. Rice cooker is the best way tho, cause then if it gets done before the sauce you can just keep it on the "warm" setting ;)

Like clouds of deliciousness...

When your spices are nice and toasty and your kitchen is smelling delightfully spicy, add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until kinda broken down. Be sure to scrape any brown bits up and around.

I think we're broken.

While your tomatoes are busy breaking down, go ahead and toast your almonds in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring constantly. They go from raw to burnt in about 2.2 seconds so keep an eye on them lol. As you can see, I barely got to mine in time:

Too much! lol.

Tomatoes should be cooked into submission, so scrape pan again (if needed) and add the cream and the peas. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer just long enough to make sure peas won't be raw, stirring every so often. Once lightly simmering, add shrimp, bring heat back up to medium and put the lid on the pan. Let simmer for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally (to expose dem scrimp to the heat evenly). As soon as shrimp turn pink/orange (not gray) they're done, don't cook longer than that- they get ever so tough. Gross.


Immediately take off heat and stir in the cilantro. Serve over basmati, with the almonds sprinkled on top. I also had toasted naan brushed with melted BUTTA. Was the perfect accompaniment to an already perfect dish :)

Double perfection, aw yiss.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Eggplant Parm I'd Shank Someone Over.

So. The problem I have with eggplant parm any time I order it at a restaurant (save maybe once or twice in my life) is that it is slimy. Or bitter. Or slimy and bitter-with the added bonus of  leather-like skin you must chew relentlessly, like so much cud. There is no excuse for that! This recipe, while a little bit of work, will prove that eggplant is a most worthy creature. It will also make you wanna flip chicken parm the bird (ha ha) and never look back. Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, as are tomatoes. It kinda makes you wonder how they figured out which plant was damn tasty, and which led to a sudden painful death. Trial and error, I guess haaa. ALSO: eggplant contains nicotine, and to paraphrase Jay Leno: "You don't see people out eating eggplant in the rain!" Well who knows. These are so addicting, you might have the urge to do just exactly that.

Ingredients-(Eggplant Parmesan part):
1 medium/large eggplant (with nice looking, not-too-beat-up skin)
2 c. all-purpose flour (might need more or less)
2 c. Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (or season your own- also might need more or less part 2)
1 T. Parmesan or Romano cheese in the shaker (adheres to eggplant tighter than real grated parm)
few good shakes black pepper
6 eggs, beaten
at least 1/4 cup salt (might need more or less part 3 lol)
Extra virgin olive oil for fryin up
Shredded mozzarella to top the plants- maybe 8-12 oz.

Lookit that gorgeous eggplant!

Ingredients- (The accompanying pasta part):
13 oz. pkg whole-wheat thin spaghetti (or whole-wheat angel hair)
8 oz. sliced white/button mushrooms (or more if you like! or even other veggies! peppers, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini, etc.)
1 jar of your fave pasta sauce (I looooove Classico vodka sauce, or you ambitious foolios can make your own :p)

Simple and delicious.

First thangs first-- let's get rid of some of the slimy-inducing moisture, as well as the bitterness of the eggplants. Slice yo plants bout 1/4-1/2 in. thick and spread out on a rack (positioned over paper towels).

Salt, salt, salt, senora...

Salt the everliving daylights outta both sides of the plant, and massage in a bit. Don't worry, this salting will not make your finished product too salty. :) Wait about 30 minutes (perfect time for another beer :D) or even longer until the guys look like this:

Like they were on the treadmill.

You see it? Dat eggplant sweat means delicious results in the end. Go ahead and rinse the slices well, but no need to dry off.
 Assemble your dipping station: flour, egg, and the breadcrumb/Parm/black pepper mixture:

Heat a few T. olive oil in a skillet (I've found that non-stick doesn't brown them as well, fwiw) and start a-dippin. Dredge in flour first:

Then egg and crumbs:

And  fry in batches (might need to add little more oil every batch) over medium high, pressing down on the plants with a spatula every so often to rid 'em of even moar moisture til they resemble this:

Lookin good, guys.

Once done, place them on paper towels (much like bacon) to wick the oil away.  When you are close to frying up your last batch, start sauteing the mushrooms (and other veggies, if using) in a non-stick skillet until golden brown, as always.

Always golden brown. Always.

As soon as the plants are drained of oil and kinda cooled, arrange like so on baking sheet, topping each disk with a small pile of mozzarella:

Try to keep cheese off the pan, hard to clean UGH

Pop into oven at 350 for bout 20-30 mins. or until cheese is as golden and crispy as you like it :) Meanwhile, cook noodles per package instructions and drain, keep reasonably warm. Add the vodka (or fancier) sauce to your mushrooms, simmering on low til the plants are ready to come out of the oven.

I also enjoy this sauce with spicy Italian sausage. Shhh...

After the eggplant is out of the oven, assemble your plate as follows: pasta down first, then sauce, then the eggplant on top. This keeps the eggplant at its crispiest. However, if you wanna ladle sauce over the whole damn lot, be my guest. :)

Bam. Money shot.

See?!?! Sooooo addictive. NOM.