Friday, March 31, 2006

Hey all, preoccupied this weekend with visiting family. Will try to be back sometime after the weekend.

Happy Spring to you all!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Chicken Tikka Masala

A week and a half ago, I saw this recipe on Tigers & Strawberries. I had to make it as soon as an opportunity arrived. Tonight!

From what is written in the post...

*Chicken Tikka Masala was named the national dish of the UK a few years ago!
*This is a cheaters version, the real deal should have tandoori chicken.
*head over to the post and read the whole discussion in the comments on the dishes supposed history, as well as the role of spices in UK cooking and the migration of spices from India and Africa and how that influenced everything.

This is recipe is spicy! Adjust as you see fit. I followed the recipe completely. I have a few things I would change if I were to make it again. I'll put those at the end.

SPICY CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA from Tigers & Strawberries

2 small, or one medium onion peeled and roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 or 2 thin red chili peppers to taste
12 cardamom pods, seeds removed and reserved-discard the pods
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 TB coriander seeds
1 TB paprika
1 TB fenugreek leaves, ground
1 TB butter or butter ghee
1 1/2 cups water
1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup yogurt, plain
2 TB butter or butter ghee
1 cup or less heavy cream
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
handful fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish

In a food processor or blender grind the onions as fine as possible. A paste is preferable, but as fine as you can.

Grind together garlic, ginger and chili peppers, finely to a paste, like the onions (I had to add a B or two of water to help the processor). Keep seperate from onions.

Grind all dried spices together...finely, if necessary, put through a fine mesh sieve to sift out larger pieces that didn't grind.

Heat first TB of ghee in a deep frying pan, (nonstick is best) and add onions. Stir and fry until the onions begin to brown (5-7 minutes). Stir constantly. If they start to burn, add a tiny bit of water.

When onions are brown, add the garlic, ginger and chili paste, and stir, frying for about three more minutes.

Add dried spices and cook until mixture is very fragrant--a couple of minutes.

Add water, and stir together into a sauce.

Add tomatoes, and stir together. Turn heat to low and cook until sauce has reduced by one half.

Stir yogurt until smooth, and add to simmering sauce, one TB at a time. Whisk until sauce is smooth.

Add ghee, allow to melt, whisk until smooth.

Add cream, and salt to taste (add cream a little at a time, and to your liking).

Add chicken and simmer on low until the chicken is done and just tender, probably around 8 minutes.

Stir in cilantro and serve (w/ saffron rice!)

*As noted, I had to add a little water to get the peppers, garlic and ginger into a paste. A little until it pulls together.
*The peppers...Giant didn't have red chilis, so I bought one jalapeno and one habanero. Too Hot! Maybe just the jalapeno.
*I might add just the yogurt and not the cream. Just a thought.
*Create a yogurt sauce to serve on the side (plain yogurt, shredded cucumber, salt/pepper, cilantro). This will help cool you down.
*I'm thinking of adding some pureed tomato and / or tomato paste. Adding a touch of sweet and further richness to the sauce.
*If you can perhaps char grill your chicken, it might be tastier?
*Try to let your sauce simmer down a ways before adding the chicken. Our sauce was a little 'watery' after the chicken cooked. I don't know why, it seemed nice and thick before hand? Interesting.

Ghee: Ghee is clarified butter...the water and diary solids are removed...the butter is put in a small pot (I did two sticks of butter, unsalted and if you have organic butter, that is preferred) and put over medium heat, allowing the butter to simmer, bubble, foam and burn out the solids. The ghee becomes this rich golden color. Skim off the top layer of foam, becareful not to stir up the dark bits that fall to the bottom of the pan. Gently pour the ghee through three or four layers of cheese cloth in a sieve, again try to leave the dark bits on the bottom. I rinsed out the pan, cleaned out the bottom and returned the new ghee to the pan and repeated the process one more time. When done, ghee can last unrefrigerated for a long time...some sources say one month, some say several months. I guess, just watch for it to go bad. Here's some wikipedia entry on Ghee.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Big Fat Dinner

**Update: Pictures are working on blogger!**

...and by fat I'm referring to how I felt all day...that and hungover!

On Sunday, I had invited a handful of peeps over for a yummy dinner. Food, Friends (old and new) and good conversation. My favorites!!! The guests were Footnotes, Lost in Somewhereistan, Mr. and Mrs. Chilefire, TVF16S, Chase-ing Complacency and Lord and Lady Brandenburg.

We had a great time and from the few leftovers, we enjoyed the food.

The Spread

I first proposed this gathering about two months ago, maybe even three months....and I spent as much time worrying about what to make. It had to be tasty. I really wanted it to be something that I'd made before, so I would know how it would turn out. Something that could hold up being served buffet style. And safe for a range of tastebuds.

I settled on
*Cola Baked Hame with Cherry-Orange Glaze (below)
*Carmalized Onion Marmalade (for the ham) (below)
*Rosemary Parmesan Au Gratin Potatoes (below)
*Sweet Chili Cucumbers (tart and clean taste, slightly sweet and mildly spicy)
*Fennel-Orange Salad (very refreshing, bright flavors against the richness of the ham/potatoes)

and that morning, I decided to make some Brown Bread as well.

With this menu, I knew I could have virtually everything done prior to my guests arriving and we could go back for more without worrying that something wouldn't hold up.

A big thank you to Chilefire for bringing a spicy rubbed, smoked lambchops with four different chili dipping sauces. Those sauces were amazing and there was a near war over who could take some of the leftovers! I admitted that I don't like lamb. I've never had lamb I've enjoyed...until these! There was nothing lamby about them. Excellent. There were also blue corn muffins with bacon and chilis...made in corn husks! And Lost in Somewhereistan brought us some Myer Lemon Pound Cake with Blueberry Sauce. The Best Blueberry Sauce I've Ever Had....I want waffles for the leftovers!

So...the recipes:

Cola-Baked Ham with Cherry-Orange Glaze
serves a bajillion! 10-20 in reality

1 (10-12 pound) fully cooked, bone-in ham
1 TB ground allspice
1 (2 liter) bottle of cola
1 cup cherry preserves or jelly
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 TB orange liquor (Triple Sec)
Extras: Dinner rolls, a favorite mustard and carmelized-onion marmalade (see below)

Preheat oven to 325F.

Trim rind and excess fat from the ham. Leave some fat on the ham for flavor and moisture. I cut off most of the fat and then placed a few pieces back on top of the ham to melt down over the meat!

Place the ham in a large roasting pan and sprinkle with allspice. Pour the cola into the bottom of the pan and bake uncovered for 90 minutes, basting every 15 minutes with the cola/fat juices in the pan.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the cherry preserves, orange juice and triple sec over medium heat, stirring, until melted and warm. Reserve.

After the first 90 minutes, start brushing the ham with the cherry-orange glaze, continue, brushing every 15 minutes, for another 60-90 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees and the glaze has carmelized and sticky!

If the ham is starting to brown to much, loosely cover with foil, again until the internal temperature reaches 140F. Remove ham from the oven and let rest for 30-60 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature, thinly sliced. (Thanks for the help Lord B!)

I served this with the ham:

Carmelized-Onion Marmalade

2 medium red onions, sliced thinnly
1 tsp oil oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper, freshly ground
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp ground or rubbed sage (I find it easier to find 'rubbed' sage vs. 'ground')
1/8 tsp ground cayenne (or more to taste)

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil of high heat. Add the onions and stir to coat. Allow to sizzle and cook for about 5 minutes. Lower heat and allow to carmelize for about 10 minutes. Add the water, brown sugar and raisins. Stir to incorporate. Add the wine and vinegar, sage and cayenne. Lover heat to medium-low to low, cover and cook for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender and the mixture has thickened.

I made this a day in advance, then reheated the mixture prior to serving.

My favorite side dish for "spring" menus...the season when I make this with the most regularity, are the:

Rosemary Parmesan Au Gratin Pototoes

6 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-1/4 inch slices
1 medium onion, sliced thinnly
2 cups 1/2 & 1/2
2 TB Rosemary, plus 1 stalk/sprig
2 cups heavy cream
2 TB Butter, plus 1 TB extra for the casserole dish
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup Parmagiano Reggiano, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 375. Lightly butter a 9x13 casserole dish. Set aside. Add the ½ & ½ , onions and potatoes in a heavy pan, add water to cover the spuds. Also add the extra stick of rosemary. Slowly bring to a simmer and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, over low heat, steep the rosemary and garlic in the heavy cream and butter.

Spoon the potatoes and onions into the casserole, layering with a sprinkle of cheese as you go along. Pour in the cream/rosemary/garlic mixture. Watch how much you add, 2 cups may be too much. You only want approximately the bottom ¼ of the pan to have the cream. If you have ½ the casserole with cream, your dish will remain loose and not set up nicely. Top with the cheese. Bake for 45 minutes. The cheese will start to get brown and bubbly. If you want more brown and bubbly, bake for another 15 minutes.

There you have it kids...a whole boat load of goodies!


I've feeling a wee bit doggish this morning after a touch too much wine last night. Please bear with me as I revive myself and watch for a photo filled tasty post this evening.

And if I get bored during the day and feel up to it, I have a post saved in draft mode waiting to be posted as well. But right now I need to take a nap, too bad my desk isn't equipped with the pull out hammock I've been advocating for!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Unhappy belly needed something 'safe.'

This afternoon for lunch I went to Potbelly's and had my sandwich and decided I had to have a strawberry shake. Oh it was soooo worth it. I was sooo happy with it!

All that said, I had to pay the piper with a bad belly ache. Damn lactose intolerance!!!

Dinner was going to be challenging. A challenge I think I won!!!

I had oatmeal. But not boring oatmeal. I tossed in dried tart cherries, sliced apples and cashews. Flavored with cinnamon and some fresh grated nutmeg. And a touch of brown sugar for some extra sweetness. It was some awesome oatmeal. I'm just saying!


Honey Pepper Pork

Wednesday night's dinner was an old favorite from the past few years. But it has changed each time I've made's evolved. Originally prepared as a roast that dried out and was over cooked, eventually I decided to cut the pork tenderloin into medallions/cutlets...quick cooking, tender and juicy! Those were all good things. But then I'm left with the sauce. To help that process, I tossed in some sliced shallots, wine and the rest of the ingredients.

Honey Pepper Pork with Thyme'd Rice
Serves 2 to 4

1 ½ lb pork tenderloin, fat & silver skin removed, cut into about 1/2-3/4 inch slices
2 medium shallots, sliced thin
1/2-1 cup dry white wine
1 TB olive oil
¼ cup honey
¼ cup hot water, plus more if necessary
2 TB brown mustard
1 TB coarse-ground black pepper
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp salt
1 tsp dried garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or less…this was hot tonight)
1 TB butter

Combine honey, water, mustard, black pepper, thyme, salt, garlic and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a large skillet, over high heat place the pieces of pork in the pan. Leave in place, allowing the meat to sear nicely. Flip pieces and sear the other side. (2 minutes per side.) Remove and set aside.

Place the olive oil in the pan, when shimmering and hot, add the shallots and quickly sauté until soft and translucent. Add the white wine, scrap up tasty bites on the bottom of the pan (fond), and allow to reduce, about 2 minutes. Add the reserved honey pepper sauce. Stir into the shallots and bring to simmer. Lower the heat to medium-low. Return the pork medallions to the pan and allow to simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the butter to enrich the sauce.

If the sauce thickens too much and looks like it will burn, add a bit of water. You don’t want burnt honey. Blech. Serve with rice and veggies or salad.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Hungarian Goulash

I have made this recipe a few times over the years and have made a few tweaks here and there. This is probably the best version so far, but it still has a ways to go to perfection.

Hungarian Goulash
Serves 4-6

8-10 strips bacon, chopped
3 onions, peeled and sliced
1 ½ lbs round steak, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
2 tsp salt
1-2 TB paprika (depending on tastes, start with 1 and taste after the broth is added, add 2 if you like)
½ TB ground black pepper
1 TB marjoram
1 can beef broth
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup red wine
2 TB tomato paste


In a large heavy stockpot, cook the bacon slowly, stirring frequently, until browned lightly. Remove the bacon; set aside.

Add the onions and cook over medium heat until they begin to carmelize. Remove from pot and place in the bowl.

Add the round steak to the kettle and brown evenly. Stir in salt, paprika, pepper and marjoram.

Add beef broth and wine. Add the onions. Add the tomato paste.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer covered for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender. Cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken. Stir in reserved bacon bits and serve over egg noodles, spaetzle or rice.

In the future when I plan to make this, I think I will follow the recipe as stated up to the the point of adding the wine and broth. In the future, I will transfer the entire thing to a slow cooker and allow it to go for a few hours. I think this low and slow method will produce a perfectly tender and moist goulash. The stove top method works, but it is not quite tender enough.


UPDATE: Jon from I Hate Broccoli pointed out that I have in fact posted this recipe before. For some reason I didn't put it on the recipe index page. Oops. Thanks Jon! PS: Go check out Jon's recent post for Pork Chops with Blueberry Honey Sauce...looks to die for! Can't wait to try it.

Wahoo Pictures!!!!

Blogger is finally working proper for are some pictures from the past few days!!!

Here is the Shepherd's Pie (Cottage Pie) from St. Patty's Day!

And the Irish Brown Bread! I'm so happy the bread turned out!
This is the best bread I've made.

Spice Addict

I just ordered $30+ in spices from Penzey's. Oops. I'm looking forward to trying a few new items and restocking some old favorites. This is a dangerous habit I'm forming.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

So Awesome!!!!

I had today off, so I did what I do best, sat in front of the TV and watched Food Network for 95% of the day. As shows came on, I'd surf online to look at the recipes and save those I liked. One of the earliest recipes I liked the look of, a Sara Moulton recipe from Sara's Secrets.

Sara's plan was to get already prepared ingredients at the store, go home and prepare a quick dinner. I used that as a guideline...I actually prepared most of the stuff at home myself, that way I could fully control the quality of the ingredients. Ms. Moulton bought roasted red peppers. I roasted my own. She used prepared pesto from a jar, I whipped up my own. She bought a rotisserie chicken, I had a bunch of chicken in the freezer from a sale at Giant, so I poached my own. She used fresh fettucine, so did I! It's really simple and I highly recommend trying this recipe!

Here is Sara's recipe:

Fresh Fettuccine with Pulled Rotissiere Chicken, Pesto and Roasted Peppers

2/3 cup basil pesto
9-ounce package fresh fettuccine
1 TB olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups pulled cooked chicken meat
2 cups sliced roasted red bell peppers
1/2 cup pitted olives, halved lengthwise
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for the table

Put the pesto in a large bowl.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Whisk the pasta water into the pesto.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until soft and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken, peppers, and olives and cook, stirring until hot, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the pasta and cheese to the pesto and toss to combine. Add the chicken mixture and combine. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls and serve immediately. Pass Parmesan at the table.

AGAIN, Blogger is acting up, so no pictures yet. Perhaps tomorrow?!!? Grrrrr.


Saturday, March 18, 2006

Irish Brown Bread


I have made my first "loaf" bread that has turned out. I'm am tickled! I've made bread a few times and it's usually not that great. My foccacia is usually pretty good, but that's about it.

But this...this was awesome!

In line with the my St. Patty's day dinner, I attempted Irish Brown Bread....and it worked!!!

The recipe I went with was from the recent, March 2006 Saveur magazine. The recipe was for two loafs, I adjusted it for one is my adjusted version.

Doris Grant's Brown Bread

Makes one 5x 8 1/2 loaf

This is based on Myrtle Allen's version of a simple no-knead, one-rise bread developed at the request of the British government during World War II by English cookbook writer Doris Grant. After Allen started serving it at Ballymaloe, it become popular all over Ireland.

"Ballymaloe" is the magic word in Irish food today--the name of both Ireland's most influential
restaurant and its finest cooking school. Ballymaloe, the guesthouse/restaurant was operated by Myrtle Allen.

1/2 TB Butter
1 7-gram packet active dry yeast
1 TB molasses (the recipe calls for black treacle, but...this is what I could find)
5 cups stone-ground whole wheat flour (sifted, but don't throw out the wheat bits...just no lumps)
3/4 TB fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 200. Grease a 5 x 8 1/2 loaf pan with butter and set aside in a warm place. (But not hot, don't want that butter to melt).

Place the flour and salt in an oven safe bowl and combine. Place the bowl in the oven and let rest until the flour mixture is warmed through, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile,put yeast into a small glass bowl, add the molasses and 1/2 cup of lukewarm water, and stir to dissolve. Set aside and let rest until yeast bubbles and becomes frothy, about 10 minutes.

Remove bowl from oven, add the yeast mixture and 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water, and mix together with your hands until well combined and a sticky dough forms.

Increase the heat in the oven to 400. Place the dough in the prepared loaf pan, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm spot until the dough has grown by 1/3, 15-20 minutes. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until the loaf is browned on top, about 45 minutes. Loosely cover with foil, then continue to bake for 25-30 minutes more.

Let the bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then gently run a table knife around the inside edges of pans to loosen. Turn loaves out onto a rack and let rest until completely cool, 2-3 hours.

Brown Bread is all over Ireland and soo delicious. It's very hearty and wheaty. Wrap what you have left in foil and place in a ziptop bag....the next day is it awesome toasted with some butter.

PS::::Blogger is only part way to won't let me load photos....those will be forthcoming!
If you get to this page...Blogger is acting up and I can't do anything in terms of posts. As soon as things are working right, I'll be back! 3/18/06, 6:27 pm, EST.

Friday, March 17, 2006

This is a paid endorsement

I am a BzzAgent! A what? A BzzAgent. And you can be too...more later.

As a BzzAgent, I am 'voluntarily employed' to create buzz about things. This isn't covert...although it certainly would be fun to go undercover. Really I would suck because I'd tell the first person..."Hi, I'm an undercover agent." Dumbass.

As an agent I am given an opportunity to talk about products and services, to spread the word as it were. I then report back to the "hive" with either short reports about what I've done/said to spread the word, or full reports detailing conversations about the Bzz product.
Most recently I recieved my BzzKit for a great yummy foodie product.


I recieved a full size jar, about 10 sample containers and materials to read about the product.
I have never actually had NUTELLA, so I was really excited to try it.

For those of you unfamiliar with NUTELLA, it is "The original creamy, chocolaty hazelnut spread."

And it is GOOD! I was working at the Theatre last night and got the munchies, so we cracked open the jar, some pretzels and started dipping. Wonderful! Perfectly satisfied the munchy/chocolate craving.

I can't wait to try it with some good bread that's been toasted. And I really want to have it with some sliced bananas...a Nutella Banana Sandwich! Considering my in frequent love affair with grilled PB & Banana sandwiches, this has to be right up there!

If I understand correctly, the Europeans have been eating NUTELLA forever! It started as a paste, which would be sliced and placed on sandwiches...but the kids figured out they would just remove these NUTELLA 'coins' and toss the bread. Eventually the maker Ferrero (makers of Tic Tacs and Ferrero Rocher chocolates), developed this creamy spread, changing the face of the afternoon snack world forever. Today, NUTELLA outsells all Peanut Butter Brands, combined!...worldwide!! How's that for an endorsement?

It seems that most people first became aware of NUTELLA when they have travelled outside of the United States. Is this true? I would love to hear your stories, thoughts, ideas and recipes on/with NUTELLA.

For those who want to play and are willing to share a mailing address....I will send to the...:

FIRST RESPONDER: Send two (2) of the sample containers of NUTELLA and two (2) coupons for $1.00 off, each.

Second, third and fourth responders: I will send two (2) coupons.

Please feel free to share even if you're not an early responder! for being a BzzAgent. It's pretty cool. So far this is my second campaign. The first was for Take Five candy bars. It take a little bit of time to sign up and take the survey, but it's free and you decide what types of campaigns to participate in. So far I've only had the opportunity for the two campaigns. I'm looking forward to upcoming campaigns. If you are interested, visit their website. Hey for a little bit of work/chatting about yummy stuff, you get free stuff!

Kiss My Blarney Stone!

Top o' the morning to ya!

(correct response...? "and the rest of the day to you!")

I hope you all have a wonderful, exciting and safe St. Patrick's Day. Have a Guinness, Beamish or a Bailey's. Kiss your Irish friends. Spread the love.

Check out Lost in Somewhereistan for a recent post on Irish food. She talks about the most recent issue of Saveur Magazine where they focus on Ireland. I had to pick it up. It really is a great read.

After tomorrow, I will have my first day off in 28 days. Once I shake this stupor I've been in, I hope to return to my regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

We Irish are the Best!

I started prepping last night for the St. Patrick's Day dinner. I'm really excited! This is the main course, of course, but on Friday I will be making one of our favorite things from our trip to Ireland in 2002. But you'll have to wait to hear about that.

Last night as I made a quick dinner of fresh (store bought) tortellini and a quick chunky tomato sauce, I whipped up the base for Shepherd's Pie.

Shepherd's Pie
A Shepherd's Pie made with beef is properly called a Cottage Pie.

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
2 small onions, diced
2 carrots, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 TB butter
2 TB flour
1/4 cup Guinness
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Brown beef in a large heavy saucepot over medium heat. Allow to simmer until cooked throughout, about 5 to 10 minutes. Drain excess fat when cooked and add onion, carrots and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent and the carrots just tender, but still crisp. Add the herbs and salt and pepper.

Create a well in the middle of the pan by moving the meat mixture to the side. Add butter, allow to melt. Add the flour and stir to incorporate to the butter, allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring the whole time.

Add the stout, wine, broth and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and bring to a simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.

THIS is where I stopped last night.

On Friday I will make the Champ Topping and bake the pie in the oven. Champ is a traditional Irish potato dish, where mashed potatoes are mixed with scallions. The cousin and more common dish is Colcannon, where the mashers are mixed with green cabbage (white cabbage is sometimes used, though less tradition) or kale.

Champ Topping
1 1/4 pounds potatoes, about 4 medium
4 TB butter
1 cup finely grated Irish white Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup scallions or chives, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub and peel potatoes. Cut into large pieces. In a large pot, simmer potatoes in water until fork tender. Drain well and return pot to low heat to remove excess moisture. Stir in butter and whip, gradually adding milk, parsley and scallions or chives and cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon potato topping evenly over meat mixture, making irregular peaks with the back of a spoon. Alternatively, use a pastry bag and star tip to pipe potatoes over meat mixture. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown and crusty on edges and mixture is heated throughout.

If desired, place casserole under broiler for 1 to 2 minutes to crisp potato topping. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly to set, and serve from casserole dish.


I'm not sure which type of dish I will bake this in on Friday. I have about 6 cups of the meat mixture. I'm going to take six cups of water and test which will be the best. Which ever I go with will hold the six cups and leave enough of a lip to hold the Champ and keep it from sliding off the top. I'm hoping to use an acutally pie'll look better than a boring rectangular casserole. Stay tuned, I'll put up some pictures after the well as a recipe for our surprise!

Click here for a photo of the Shepherd's Pie!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Red Letter Days

Hello gentle readers,

If you happen to be in need of event coordinators in Southern California for weddings, anniversaries, fundraisers, concerts and other important events, please consider hiring Becca and Mia at Red Letter Days. If you need their help, or someone you know is in search of organized, responsible, creative, fun and sexy event coordinators, give them a call!

And Yes, I know them and love them and
I'm not paid for this endorsement, in cash anyway!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Shanti, Shanti and Yum!

This is a wonderful dish from America's Test Kitchen. It's easy, but a little time consuming. I'd recommend this for the weekend and not particularly for a weeknight when you've come home from work and want dinner.

The flavors of this Indian dish are rally amazing. Saffron, Mint, Cilantro, Jalapeno, Ginger, Cinnamon, Cardamom. WOW! The whole thing starts with simmering and steeping some spices in water to make the rice. Then the onions, garlic and Jalapeno....and the herbs!

All the ingredients are then layered together and put over low heat until the rice it prefect and tender and chicken is cooked through and juicy. Try this one!

Chicken Biryani
Serves 4

This recipe requires a 3 1/2- to 4-quart saucepan about 8 inches in diameter. Do not use a large, wide Dutch oven, as it will adversely affect both the layering of the dish and the final cooking times. Begin simmering the spices in the water prior to preparing the remaining ingredients; the more time the spices have to infuse the water (up to half an hour), the more flavor they will give to the rice. Biryani is traditionally served with a cooling yogurt sauce; ideally, you should make it before starting the biryani to allow the flavors in the sauce to meld.10 cardamom pods, preferably green, smashed with chef's knife

  • 10 cardamom pods, preferrably green, smashed with a knife
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger, cut into 1/2 -inch-thick coins and smashed with knife
  • ½ tsp cumin seed
  • 3 quarts water
  • table salt
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed of excess skin and fat and patted dry with paper towels
  • ground black pepper
  • 3 TB unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, sliced thin (about 4 cups)
  • 2 medium jalapeño chiles, one seeded and chopped fine, the other chopped fine with seeds
  • 4 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 ¼ cups basmati rice
  • ½ tsp saffron threads , lightly crumbled
  • ¼ cup dried currants or raisins
  • 2 TB chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 TB chopped fresh mint leaves

1. Wrap cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, ginger, and cumin seed in small piece of cheesecloth and secure with kitchen twine. In 3 ½- to 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan about 8 inches in diameter, bring water, spice bundle, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt to boil over medium-high heat; reduce to medium and simmer, partially covered, until spices have infused water, at least 15 minutes (but no longer than 30 minutes).

2. Meanwhile, season both sides of chicken thighs with salt and pepper and set aside. Heat butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foaming subsides; add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and dark brown about edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Add jalapeños and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer onion mixture to bowl, season lightly with salt, and set aside. Wipe out skillet with paper towels, return heat to medium-high, and place chicken thighs skin-side down in skillet; cook, without moving chicken, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Flip chicken and brown second side, 4 to 5 minutes longer; transfer chicken to plate and remove and discard skin. Tent with foil to keep warm.

3. If necessary, return spice-infused water to boil over high heat; stir in rice and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain rice through fine-mesh strainer, reserving ¾ cup cooking liquid; discard spice bundle. Transfer rice to medium bowl; stir in saffron and currants (rice will turn splotchy yellow). Spread half of rice evenly in bottom of now-empty saucepan using rubber spatula. Scatter half of onion mixture over rice, then place chicken thighs, skinned-side up, on top of onions; add any accumulated chicken juices. Evenly sprinkle with cilantro and mint, scatter remaining onions over herbs, then cover with remaining rice; pour reserved cooking liquid evenly over rice.

4. Cover saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes (if large amount of steam is escaping from pot, reduce heat to low). Run heatproof rubber spatula around inside rim of saucepan to loosen any affixed rice; using large serving spoon, spoon biryani into individual bowls, scooping from bottom of pot and serving 1 chicken thigh per person.

Here you'll see the par-cooked rice and the sauted chicken thighs, with the skin removed. Everything else is prepped and ready to go for the layering.

Here we've mixed the raisings and saffron into the par-cooked rice.

The first layer of rice, onions, chicken and herbs are down. The finish, you top with the remaining onion mixture and the last of the rice.

It's done. This is what it looks like after it's simmered on low for nearly 30 minutes. The rice has plumped up and the chicken is cooked through underneath.

Plated up!

Serve with a yummy yogurt sauce to cool the heat and bring it all together.

Yogurt Sauce

This recipe goes very well with Chicken Biryani. Double the ingredients if making Chicken Biryani for a Crowd.

Makes about 1 ¼ cups

1 cup whole milk or low-fat plain yogurt
1 medium clove garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 TB minced fresh cilantro leaves
2 TB minced fresh mint leaves
Table salt and ground black pepper

Combine first four ingredients in small bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand at least 30 minutes to blend flavors.

Chai Tea

I love Chai Tea. But I don't really enjoy paying $4 for a mug of it from our local coffee/tea shops.

So, I set out to make my own....!

Like a good curry or cookie or casserole, everyone has their perfect recipe, leaving a lot of recipes to wade through. I went with a recipe called "My Favorite Chai Recipe." Sounds promising.

It's super easy and pretty tasty.

Boil for 5 minutes, then steep for 10 minutes:
  • 1 TB fennel or anise seed
  • 6 Green Cardamom Pods
  • 12 Cloves
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 inch ginger root, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper corns
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 7 cups of water

Add, bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes:
  • 2 TB Darjeeling Tea

  • 6 TB Honey or Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Milk

Strain and serve!

I had one tasty mug and have the rest in the fridge for iced chai later!

Worth The Trip

A few months ago, J-lo mentioned that he and some co-workers went on a lunch adventure, not to far from my office. I was intrigued.

On Friday, when I was out enjoying the weather and looking for a place to grab a bite, my eye caught a tiny sign that directed me down an alley to a barely noticeable door, up a few steps, and through the rabbit hole to wonderland.

The Well Dressed Burrito is in fact tucked into a hidden door down on alley off of 19th Street.

I highly suggest a trip!!!

After walking cautiously through the alley, I stepped into the brightly lite, yet not bright restaurant space that was packed full of people.

You step up to the counter and order from a manageable menu, but still overwhelming for a newcomer. You have your burritos, fajitas, tacos, nachos, flautas, chimichangas and quesadillas. There are also some salads and a Burrito Burger, which is your burger, dressed with onions, tomatoes, salsa and bleu cheese, wrapped in a flour tortilla.

I ordered the “marinated beef” burrito. And a small bag of tortilla chips. This thing was huge! HUGE! And OMG delicious. And soooo not good for you. I requested my burrito with no beans, but left everything else in there….shredded marinated beef in a meat sauce with onions, rice, cheese, sour cream and tomatoes.

The beef was tender, moist and very flavorful, the sauce was great, but a ‘wee’ (a whole lot) oily….but again very good. The rice was rice. The tomatoes though. WOW, they were ripe and tasty. Normally I’m not a fan of tomatoes because they usually are not ripe, these were and very good.

I managed to find a space to sit in the restaurant…there are like four tables and 3 chairs. I would have liked to go outside, but since 95% of Washington DC was outside on Friday, the chance of finding a bench to sit at was slim to none…and this is a burrito you have to sit to eat.

When all was said and done, I got through about 2/3rds of the beast and about 100 napkins. YUM. There were some other very interesting items there, some burritos that looked more on the healthy side with shrimp and spinach and broccoli. I do plan on going back and try some more of their dishes. Don’t be afraid of the alley.

The Well Dressed Burrito
“somewhere in an alley”
1220 19th Street NW
Washington, DC

Oh, FYI…they WDB is owned and operated by the same folks who run CF FOLKS. They are the catering company I use 99% of the time for my catered lunches at work I organize. They provide great sandwiches, salad with amazing basil balsamic dressing, sliced fruit and baked treats for a pretty reasonable price that includes delivery…as we’re just around the corner. I’d recommend them.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Actually two:

1) How long can bread dough sit to rise before it has to be baked? If I mix/knead everything and then cover it and leave, will it be ok?

2) How long can whipped cream hold, before it starts to fall or return to liquid? Does it?

If anyone has answers or can direct me to a source, I'd appreciate it.

Hope to cook up something yummy more week and then I have my life back.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I'm sorry, I can't help it.

Hi, my name is Scott and I'm addicted to Risotto.

The latest issue of Fine Cooking arrived yesterday and had a great write up and recipe guidelines for risotto from Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. I love Lidia. She is the Italian American verison of Paula Deen.

In a nutshell, here's what the article says...

7 steps to a classic risotto:

1) Prepare your ingredients. Chop what needs to be chopped. If you are adding meats, pre-cook those. Measure everything. Tonight I browned 1/2 a pound of sweet Italian sausage. When it's done, remove and drain.

2) Sweat the aromatics. Since I precooked the sausage, I didn't need to add much extra olive oil. But to sweat the aromatics, heat olive oil in a nice sized kettle, add onions, shallots or leeks and lightly saute over medium heat until translucent. Tonight it was leeks.

3) Toast the rice and add the wine. Add two cups of Arborio rice, stirring constantly to coat each grain of rice with oil, about three minutes. Add one cup of white wine and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. I forgot the wine tonight.

4) Create the foundation of flavor. If you want, add in a main flavor backdrop. (Saffron, Tomatoes, Dried Mushrooms, Radicchio.) I skipped this step.

5) Add the liquid in increments. Next to the type of rice, this is the most important step. Keep a pot of hot liquid next to the pot with the risotto and add 1 ladleful of liquid at a time. Stir until absorbed, then add another ladle. Continue until the rice is nearly, but not fully al dente. Usually will need 6 cups, sometimes a little more or a little less. The quality of the liquid will lead directly to the quality of the final product. I have said and will say again, Swanson's Low Sodium Chicken Broth is a very good product to use. I personally don't have time to make homemade stock on a regular basis.

6) Add vegetables or meat. Right prior to the rice being done, add in your flavor highlights. Leeks, Zucchini, Asparagus, Butternut Squash, Shrimp, Scallops, Sausage, Bacon, Pancetta, Chicken, Beef or Pork....etc. etc. etc. etc.

7) Finish your risotto. Taste to see if the cooking is done, al dente and creamy. Do you need more salt or not? Then: choose one or more: Parsley, Basil, Mint, Scallions, Lemon Zest, Orange Zest, Balsamic Vinegar; Choose one, 2-3 TB: Butter, Extra Virgin Olive Oil; Choose one grated cheese, 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups: Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Pecorino romano.

Yum and Yum.

Tonight's was Sausage and Leek Risotto. I virtually followed the guidelines as above...but I messed up slightly....I cooked the sausage, rendering out the fat. I forgot to remove it and just tossed in the leeks....oops, but it was good.

Here's the risotto in the early stage, step 3. Before the wine I forgot to add.

1/2 lb sausage
1 1/2 leeks, trimmed and rinsed and sliced thinnly
1 TB olive oil
1 cup Arborio rice
1 tsp Fennel seeds
1 tsp Red pepper flakes
6 cups Swanson's Chicken Broth, low sodium
1 TB butter
3/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano

There you have it. I'm tired and need to go to bed....!

OH NO, what is Scott planning on doing!!?!??

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something's coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

What Are Those Things?

I picked up a big fat bag of these things today at Giant. I'm really looking forward to two recipes in which I will be using them. But for now...What Are They?

Cardamom is the name for a plant species and its seeds which is native to India and Southeast Asia. Cardamom belongs to the family Zingiberaceae. True cardamom is classified as Elettaria cardamomum. It grows to about 10 feet (3m) in height. Cardamom has large leaves and white flowers with blue stripes and yellow borders. The fruit is a small capsule with 8 to 16 brown seeds. The seeds are used as a spice and the plant itself is a perennial herb. It has a fleshy and thick rootstock with flowering stems that extend 6 to 12 feet (1.83 to 3.6m) high.

Cardamom is pungent and aromatic. It was first used in India and was probably imported into Europe around A.D. 1214. Today, it is cultivated in Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Central America, Thailand, Guatemala and Mexico.

Cardamom is typically sold in seed pods, or with the seeds removed from the pods (decorticated) or with the seeds ground to a powder, which is the most common form. Pods have the texture of tough paper and are available whole or split. It is best to buy the whole pod, otherwise it may quickly lose flavor.

Cardamom is a favorite herb in India, where it grows wild in the forests. Indian cardamom comes in two main varieties; Mysore cardamom and Malabar cardamom. The Mysore cardamom contains more limeonene and cineol, making it the most aromatic.

This ancient herb has traditionally had many uses. Ancient Egyptians are known to have chewed cardamom as a tooth cleaner; The Greeks and Romans used cardamom as a scent in perfume. The Vikings discovered it in Constantinople about a thousand years ago. They introduced cardamom to Scandinavia where it remains popular to this day.

Cardamom, like Saffron, in an expensive spice. As such, it is frequently adulterated. Many inferior substitutes for it exist, such as Nepal cardamom, Siam cardamom, winged Java cardamom and a variety called bastard cardamom.

Stolen from this site.

The photo is Green Cardamom.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

new sites

I've been looking for some new sites to visit on a daily basis...i.e...stalk.

There are some updates on the links page. If you get bored waiting for me to post something new, please go out and visit some of the millions of food bloggers. Each link I have yields a bajillion more. Have fun.

Been busy, sorry

It's been kinda krazy lately, so I haven't done much planning and shopping for major cooking efforts. Sorry.

I did make a big fat pot of soup the other night, well, it's a Rachel Ray recipe, so it's acutally a "stoup."

Italian Sub Stoup

It's really good and we've had it before. I took some pictures of it, but I'm not posting them. With the flash, it looks really unpleasant. It's meaty.

I've added some new comments to the original recipe if you want to know anymore about it. But it is good and worth making!

I hope in the next few weeks to be back to a more normal posting schedule.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Chicken & Dumplings

This was super and tasty and I can't wait to make it again.

I didn't have a recipe, so what I have here is the best I can remember. Hope it makes sense.

In a medium kettle, I bought 1 can of chicken broth and two cans worth of water to a boil, to which I added two boullion cubes, 'veggie' cubes. I didn't have much at home, but I did have onions and carrots and fresh thyme. the broth, I added an onion-chopped, carrots-chopped and some fresh thyme. I added some bay leaves and a few grinds of black pepper. Once this all was simmering, I added two boneless, skinless, chicken breasts.

Once this is going, you can leave it alone and walk away for a bit.

For more of the finished product, I took a second onion and chopped that into a medium dice, chopped a few handfuls of baby carrots into medium dice, and a shallot into a fine dice. Set these aside. Also set aside 4 TB of butter and approximately 1/2 cup of flour.

After ten minutes, this broth and your chicken are basically done, but they can go ten minutes long if you want. When it's done, pour it all out through a strainer, reserving the broth. Pick out the chicken breasts and discard the remaining bits and pieces.

Return your kettle back to the stove and over medium high heat, melt your butter. Add your onions and the shallots. Stir and lightly saute until they begin to turn translucent. Stirring the onions, add the flour until a paste forms and all the butter is absorbed. This is your roux! Gently stir and continue to stir for two to three minutes. This will cook out the floury, pastey taste. At this point, carefully and slowly add the broth back, stirring constantly. You might get some lumps at first, but they will dissolve quickly. In short order, you will have a rich, smooth, creamy broth.

Add the carrots. Dice the chicken breasts and add that into the pot. Let this all simmer over low heat while you prepare your dumplings. Oh, and add 1 TB of dry sherry if you have it!

In a medium bowl or your food processor add 1 cup flour, 1/2 stick of butter-COLD, 1/2 cup COLD water, 1 TB baking powder, 1/2 TB salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Give this a quick whirl until it looks like coarse corn meal, if in the food processor. If you are mixing in a bowl, mix with a pastry blender or your hands, mixing the butter and flour, making a quick dough. When it all pulls together, pull out onto the counter and give it a few quick kneads. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1 inch strips. Drop the dumplings into the pot and cover for ten minutes.

Serve big fat ladlefuls into the bowls and enjoy.

The instructions sound hard and indepth, but really it's not. It was easy and really comforting.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Butter for the soul

I've been sickly for the past few days. So, last night I made Chicken & Dumplin's. Delish! 1 full stick of butter for the recipe...feeding two people. I'll actually be posting the recipe and photo on Friday at some point.

But in the meantime, to satisfy your dirty, buttery urges, head over to Lost in Somewhereistan and read Brunette's recent, delicious post on Butter!

Enjoy and stay well.