Sunday, February 27, 2011

Honey Chipotle Glazed Pork Loin with Apple, Bacon & Sweet Onion Relish

My last post wasn’t all that great, so I had promised a better one for this time.  I’m not sure if this counts, but today I’ll unveil my attempt at coming up with some recipes of my own. 

My base for this recipe was a plain 1 ¾ lb pork loin filet that I’d picked up last time we went grocery shopping.  Pork loins are nice because there are a wide variety of marinades that can be used for them.  Most of these marinades are also pretty simple.

I finally decided I’d like to go with a honey chipotle type of sauce.  I had made a steak recipe awhile ago that involved letting the steak sit in an apple cider vinegar and pepper mix for the seasoning. Using these ideas, I came with the following:

Pork Loin in a Honey Chipotle Glaze
By: Kammie Cooks

·         1 pork loin filet (1 ½ - 1 ¾ lbs)
·         ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
·         1 tsp brown sugar
·         ½ tsp smoked paprika
·         2 dashes soy sauce
·         1 dash garlic powder
·         generous amount of ground black pepper
·         ¼ cup honey
·         3 chipotles in adobo sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, smoked paprika, soy sauce, garlic powder, and black pepper.  Place the pork loin in a glass pan and begin brushing the mixture over the meat.  Continue to apply all of the mixture, coating all sides of the meat.  Place plastic wrap over the pan, and leave in fridge to marinate for up to an hour.

In the meantime, finely chop 3 chipotles.  Mix the chopped chipotles and the honey in a small container.   This will only be applied toward the end of cooking.  The amount of chipotles used can be up to your individual taste.  Three may turn out to be a bit too much heat for some, but I have a husband who buys the type of hot sauce that has skulls or biohazard warning signs on the bottle. 
Cook the pork loin at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.  Pull the pork loin out of the oven and brush the honey chipotle mixture on all sides.  Cook for another 10 minutes.

Although I’m guessing the pork loin would be fine on its own at this point, I also decided to add a little something to this recipe.  Awhile back, I ran into Not Quite Nigella’s amazing looking Bacon Jam recipe.  This got me thinking about jams, relishes, etc, so I thought I’d come up with something to top the pork loin. 

Apple, Bacon, & Sweet Onion Relish
By: Kammie Cooks

4 slices bacon
2 apples
1 sweet yellow onion
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar

Cook the bacon slices in a skillet and remove when cooked.  Reduce heat to low.  Cook the diced onion in the bacon grease for about 15-20 minutes.  Peel and dice the apple. (I used one Honey Crisp and one Granny Smith.)  Add the apples and cook another 15 minutes until soft.  Crumble the bacon and add it back in the mixture.  Add the apple cider vinegar and brown sugar.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring fairly frequently so the brown sugar doesn’t burn.  The mixture will start to thicken and caramelize.  Place on top of sliced pieces of pork loin.

As for a side dish, the smoky chipotle flavor brought to mind mashed sweet potatoes. I was wanting a little something to add a bit of bite to the potatoes, and finally decided a little balsamic drizzle would do the trick.  For that, I combined about 1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar with a teaspoon of sugar.  Heat while stirring constantly until the sauce thickens enough to get a little syrupy.  Drizzle just a little bit of balsamic glaze on each helping of potatoes.

We’re still dealing with some cold, snowy weather in my neck of the woods, so my Helpers were more concerned with finding somewhere warm and cozy to sleep than with helping me cook.
Yes, that is a heating vent that is barely visible under one of the cats.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gingered Stir-Fry with Shrimp & Snow Peas

I apologize ahead of time for the lack of substance in this post.  This is more of a quick review of a recipe.  I promise something better next time. 

My newest issue of Food & Wine arrived the other day.  This included a fairly simple looking recipe for Gingered Stir-Fry with Shrimp and Snow Peas.  I like to cook anything with snow peas.  Not only are they delicious and crisp, but they add so much color to any dish. I was a little concerned about the sauce in this recipe, which was a mixture of chicken stock, chile garlic sauce, and soy sauce.   I usually prefer a thicker sauce on stir-fry.

The ginger had a fantastic smell while cooking, but was unfortunately pretty overwhelming as far as taste.  If I made this recipe again, I would cut back on the ginger. The sauce turned out to have a decent flavor, but was a little too watery.  It could possibly help to cut back on the chicken stock and use a little more soy sauce in its place. 

I suppose this wasn’t bad for a quick dinner.  If I made it again, I’d probably mess with the recipe quite a bit.  My husband enjoyed it more than I did, but even he admitted the ginger was too strong. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lasagna Roll-Ups

I decided to make something pretty simple and quick tonight.  I hadn’t made lasagna roll-ups in awhile, so I decided it sounded like a good Monday night dinner. I’m sure there are plenty of lasagna roll-up recipes out there, but I don’t really follow a set recipe. I’ve made enough lasagna and manicotti before to have a pretty good handle on what goes into the filling.  Here’s what I ended up with: 

Cook 10 lasagna noodles according to package.  In the meantime, mix the following:

15 oz container of low fat ricotta
1 cup shredded mozzarella (part skim)
1 cup shredded parmesan
3 cloves minced garlic
1 egg
salt & pepper to taste

When the noodles are finished, spread them out on a piece of foil.  Place some spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture on the noodles and spread down each noodle.  It doesn’t have to be precise, as evidenced by the picture below:
Coat the bottom of an 8x8 pan with a little of your favorite spaghetti sauce.  Starting at the end of the noodle, roll each noodle up. 

Arrange in the pan.  Cover with the spaghetti sauce.  Cover the pan with foil and bake at 375 for 30 minutes.  At the end of the 30 minutes, remove foil.  Sprinkle some mozzarella on top and back for another 5-10 minutes. 

If you are cooking for someone who seems to think every meal should contain meat (like my husband), you can sprinkle some cooked ground hamburger or sausage on the noodles before rolling them up.  I cooked about half the roll-ups tonight with a little bit of hamburger. 

You may notice that I used low fat mozzarella and ricotta.  I’ve started a habit of doing this with any recipe that calls for the two.   Maybe I’m just used to it, but I don’t think it sacrifices quality.  It also makes the dish a little healthier.  (For those of you keeping track, the purchase of mozzarella for this recipe brings the total number of cheese types in my fridge up to 18.)

My secret ingredient this time was the spaghetti sauce.  I used some Garozzo’s Sugo sauce.  If any of you are ever in the Kansas City area, you have to stop and eat at Garozzo’s.  I was more than pleased to find out that they bottle and sell their signature Sugo sauce. 

We decided to pair our lasagna roll-ups with a starter salad of baby greens, blue cheese crumbles, and balsamic vinaigrette. 

We weren’t the only ones who enjoyed supper.  My “helpers” are always excited when I cook something involving shredded cheese.  I’m a pretty messy cook, so there’s about a 90% chance some of the shredded cheese will end up raining down on them.  They spend a good part of the prep time at my feet, staring up at me and licking their chops. 

I have to admit they’re pretty handy with the clean up. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dark Chocolate Souffle

I suppose that this will count as a belated Valentine’s Day post.  I think most people think about chocolate around Valentine’s Day (or any other day, for that matter), so I decided to make my husband a nice Valentine’s Day dessert.  

Chocolate soufflé is one of those desserts that just sounds like it should be eaten on Valentine’s Day.  I appreciate chocolate soufflé because it is one of those foods that is all about textures.  To me, texture and color can be just as important as taste when it comes to food.  I have heard that a good soufflé is supposed to be like biting into a cloud.  When baked, the inside should have a melting, yet airy texture.  The final product isn’t the only important texture.  There’s the silkiness of the chocolate mixture, the consistency of the stiffly beaten egg mixture, and the care needed in folding the two together delicately enough to keep the airiness of the batter.  (Hungry yet?)

I found this recipe for soufflé.  It appealed to be because it was written for two small ramekins of soufflé, which was the perfect amount.  I also appreciated the fact it was actually dark chocolate soufflé.  When dealing with chocolate, why wouldn’t one want it to be dark chocolate? 

You might notice that my batter was lighter in color than the recipe.  I didn’t find that it affected the taste at all.  I did use 60% cocoa Ghirardelli chocolate, which was probably not quite dark enough. Possibly a better quality chocolate with a higher cocoa content would have made the color darker.   I’m guessing the 70% the recipe called for would be preferable, but I was limited by what the grocery store had in stock. 

The consistency of the baked soufflé turned out well.  It did have the texture of the melting, yet airy chocolate, so I suppose it turned out as it should.  Soufflé should be eaten immediately, so the tops had deflated a little by the time I took these pictures.  As far as the taste, both my husband and I were pleased.

We paired the chocolate soufflé with a bottle of Two Hands Brilliant Disguise Moscato from Australia.   You can’t beat a fantastic moscato paired with a delicious dessert. 

Why I Need a Cheese Fridge

I would like a cheese fridge.  It is acceptable to own a wine fridge, so why not one exclusively for cheese? You may wonder why I think I need such a thing.  It would be because my cheese collection has long since outgrown the cheese drawer of my regular fridge. 

Last weekend, my husband and I went to The Better Cheddar in Kansas City.  I could spend far too much time (and money) wandering around sampling all the different cheeses. On my last visit, I brought home eight different types:  Norwegian Gjetost, Piave Vecchio, English Cheddar with Caramelized Onion, Italian Truffle, Prairie Breeze Iowa Cheddar, Smoked Vermont Maple Cheddar, Dutch Double Cream Gouda, and Honeyed Goat Cheese.  Yes, this was after I had narrowed my selections.  I believe my record as far as buying different types of cheese at one visit sits at eleven. 

I got home and proceeded to find a spot to fit these in my fridge.  This was a problem due to the fact my fridge already contained the following:  Balsamic Soaked Parmesan, regular Parmesan, Blue, Vermont Extra Sharp White Cheddar, Smoked Gruyere, Roasted Garlic, English Cheddar, Chipotle Cheddar, and regular sharp Cheddar. 

So, there you have it-  seventeen types of cheese overflowing from the tiny drawer that fridge manufacturers provide you to store cheese.  I’m not even counting my string cheese (three types) that I have.  I also don’t think the American singles that my husband keeps around for sandwiches and hamburgers qualify as actual cheese.

There are a couple reasons I enjoy cheese.   For starters, it is obviously delicious.  The other reason is that, just like wine, cheese comes in so many distinct types and flavors, all of which have an interesting history and geographic background. Just like wine, high quality cheese can have a layer of flavors to every taste.  I believe something that complex requires some admiration. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Quick Beef Bourguignon

One of my favorite lines ever delivered on the show the Gilmore Girls happened when the grandfather, Richard Gilmore, announces at dinner that neither soup nor salad is a meal, but rather a precursor or a finale.  I have always wholeheartedly agreed with this theory, but lately I had been craving a stew made with red wine. 

The actual recipe I used was called Quick Beef Bourguignon.  I find it hard to believe there is a quick version for beef bourguignon.  I did like the idea, so I went about fixing it with a few changes.

I first had to pick out a wine.  True Beef Bourguignon is typically made with a red Burgundy wine, but I was looking for a cheaper alternative.  I found out that Burgundy is made with Pinot Noir grapes in the Burgundy region of France, so Pinot Noir seemed like a good option.  I found some other information that suggested a California or Oregon Pinot was a good substitute for Burgundy, although other sites suggested some Pinots may be too fruit forward.   I ended up buying a Castle Rock Pinot from California. 

I first varied from the recipe by patting my stew meat dry and dredging it with a little flour.  After I removed the cooked meat from the pan, I noticed the recipe mentioned cooking the vegetables in the remaining liquid, which I did not have because of my earlier changes.  I added a little more olive oil to the pan to compensate.  One other change I made was using strips of onion instead of pearl onions.  It seems like pearl onions are something I always see when I don’t need them, but couldn’t find today when I was actually looking for them.  I also added peas, which I realize differs from any type of traditional beef bourguignon recipe. Not only did these sound good, but I thought the color would be nice. 

I was a little skeptical about this quick recipe, but I will admit the end result was pretty good.  The broth was rich and smooth, but I think the Pinot I picked did have too strong of a fruit flavor.  Both my husband and I thought it needed quite a bit of pepper to make certain flavors pop.  I am glad I added the peas because they gave it one strong taste that wasn’t overcome by the sauce. 

Overall, it made for a decent supper, but I’m not sure if I’ll really keep the recipe close by.  Maybe I wasn’t a big fan of the wine.  Maybe my appetite wasn’t triggered because I didn’t get to smell it simmering for hours.  More than likely, maybe I just agree too much with Richard Gilmore’s assessment to let this be a real supper contender. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Croissant Bread Pudding with Vanilla Bean Sauce

Since it is my birthday, I decided to treat myself.  One of the first things that came to mind was my new version of bread pudding, which I had first concocted around Christmas time for a family gathering.   A Topeka restaurant, which sadly no longer exists, used to serve croissant bread pudding with a vanilla sauce.  I had always been tempted to try and replicate it.  The one thing I didn’t care for in the restaurant’s version was the golden raisins.  Croissants alone sounded a little boring, so I wanted to add something.  What could be a better substitute for raisins?  The answer hit me.  It’s not only the answer to this recipe, but probably an answer for a lot of life’s questions.  I’m talking, of course, about CHOCOLATE. (Maybe I should restate my bacon theory from a couple days ago.  My new theory is that if there is anything that bacon wouldn’t improve, you could probably use chocolate instead.) 

I began looking for recipes.  I was finding lots for chocolate bread pudding, but I wasn’t sure I wanted complete chocolate.  Imagine my excitement when I finally landed on this recipe.   I followed the recipe, but added just a bit of cinnamon.  For the chocolate, I just used Nestle’s chocolate chunks.  The first time I made this recipe, I was having trouble getting it to seem fully cooked all the way through.  This time, I tried the custard method of filling a larger pan with a little water and placing this pan inside the larger pan while it baked.  This seemed to work a little better, but I still cooked mine longer than the recipe called for. 

Now that I had my bread pudding recipe, I needed to deal with the issue of finding a delicious vanilla sauce.  I automatically excluded any recipes dealing with vanilla extract.  I like any excuse to cook with vanilla beans.  You absolutely cannot beat the smell and flavor when using the actual vanilla beans.  I used to avoid some recipes with vanilla bean just because I wasn’t sure exactly how to use it.  I was happy to find out that it’s really not that hard.  Here’s a good example I’ve found that includes photos.    

Vanilla beans can add some cost to a recipe.  Depending on how small your grocery store is, they also may not always be available.  Even though I prefer the rich flavor I get with vanilla beans, I’m sure vanilla extract can be substituted. 

For the sauce, I couldn’t find one recipe that I felt like using, so I came up with my own by combining some of the ones I’d found.  This is what I ended up with:

Combine 1 cup milk, 1 cup heavy cream, and half a vanilla bean split lengthwise.  I scrape the seeds into the liquid, but also add the entire pod to catch as much flavor as possible.  Heat until it begins to boil.  In a separate bowl, combine 3 egg yolks and ½ cup of sugar.  Strain the vanilla bean mixture into another bowl.   Slowly pour it into the egg mixture, while stirring the whole time.  (I do this to avoid scrambling the eggs with the hot mixture.  I found an electric stand mixer is great help.) Return that to the stove and heat at a lower temperature until the sauce thickens. 

This recipe is still a work in progress because it doesn’t get quite as thick as I’d like.  I have tried placing the pan into an ice water bath after removing it from the stove.  This time I also stuck it in the fridge for a bit first. 

Since this recipe takes 9 eggs total, I would recommend having a couple extra around.  Of course, one of my "helpers" was more than willing to assist with the mess.  This means getting in the way of the clean up and sticking their paw on the bread pudding pictured above only seconds after I'd taken the picture.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Filet Mignon with Balsamic Mushroom Sauce

On Sunday night, I knew I wanted to make steaks.  My husband & I had a bottle of Guinoc Petit Sirah that we had wanted to try, so a good filet was the logical choice.  For some reason, good red wine also brought to mind mushrooms.  I started looking around for a good mushroom sauce recipe and landed on this, a balsamic sauce with mushroom and shallots.  Instead of a cheaper cut of steak, I used filets.  I figured this was a no- brainer, since “balsamic” and “filet” are two words I always appreciate seeing together on a menu. 

I began with two big 8 oz filets.  Had it been summer, the grill would have been the easy choice, but my options were limited since it is February.  I remembered hearing that you can still cook a good steak by searing each side in a skillet to lock in the juices, then baking it at about 425.  I went with this option so I could deglaze the skillet later and get all those good seared bits for flavor in my mushroom sauce.  The searing worked well, but the baking not so much.  After taking what seemed like way too much time (for me anyway, since I don’t like my steak bloody), I cranked on my oven’s broiler and finished them off.  Although the steaks were missing that flavor you can only get with a grill, they were still very tender. 

I followed this recipe for my mushroom sauce, using cremini mushrooms and shallots.  I did resist the urge to pour some of the Guinoc in instead of some of the beef broth, although I’m sure that would be worth trying sometime.  (Since it was an excellent wine, I’m glad we saved if for drinking.) After I pulled my steaks out of the oven, I dumped the balsamic mushroom sauce over the top so they could soak it all up. 

As for the side, I thought green beans sounded good.  I figured I’d throw in some bacon because those usually go well together.  Besides, is there anything bacon doesn’t improve?*  My husband had requested crispier green beans, so I searched around and found this recipe that involved sautéing before steaming them.  I used my leftover shallots in these instead of onion.  I probably went too heavy on the bacon, but there were few complaints. 

I was pretty impressed with these recipes overall.  The Guinoc, which has a slight peppery finish, went fantastic with the steak.  My husband and I are pretty new to petit sirahs, but are now excited to try some others.  The green bean recipe is definitely a keeper.  I will use the balsamic mushroom sauce recipe again, but perhaps with ½ as much soy sauce.  I thought that made it a little salty.  Next time I try it, how about incorporating some type of gorgonzola cream sauce?  

*I have tried a square of chocolate with crumbled bacon in it.  This was a lesson to me on how just because two of my favorite foods are both in something, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will turn out well.  Still, I can’t promise that will stop me from ever trying this recipe in the future.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Blog

So, I‘ve decided to try a cooking blog.  As you can tell by my super creative blog name and witty opening line, I haven’t put a lot of thought into this process so far.  Two things have caused me to start this blog: 1) I like to cook, and 2) I like to write.  Following that logic, I thought I’d give this cooking blog a try, even if my mother and mother-in-law are the only people who read it.  (That may be presumptuous of me.  There’s always the chance that they will just tell me they’ve read it, even if they don’t. )

I should probably start by explaining a little about my cooking process.  I typically collect a ton of recipes, but I usually only have time to get to a few.  I often have some idea of what I want to make, so I will get online and start searching until I find a recipe that works or that I can tweak in order to get what I’m looking for.  Be forewarned that there’s a good chance this blog could be nothing more than a glorified links page to other recipes I’ve found online. I do have a habit of constantly manipulating recipes.  If I do add my own changes to a recipe, I’ll use this blog to explain what I did, my reasoning, and whether the outcome was successful or a complete failure.  I’ve had plenty of both in the past.

Now, on to the cooking.  Hopefully I don’t bore anyone too much.