30 March 2010

Buffy's Bacon Biscuits

Our dog, Buffy, is a wonderful little dog! She's a rat terrier mix and definitely has a lot of dachshund in her, considering her length and that cute little face. Buffy, like most other dogs, loves treats. She also has a fairly sensitive stomach, so I figured making some relatively healthy dog treats from scratch might be a good idea. This recipe has bacon and bacon fat (the less healthy part), as well as whole wheat flour, which is filling and somewhat nutritious, at least.

Buffy's Bacon Biscuits

5 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup milk
1 lb bacon
1/2 cup cold water

Start by heating the oven to 350 degrees F. In a cast iron pan (or other frying pan if you don't have one), cook the bacon in batches over medium low heat. Make sure you do not empty the pan - save those drippings! Crumble the bacon into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer if you have one. Add the flour and milk and mix well (use the paddle attachment if you're using the stand mixer). Switch to the dough hook and stir in the bacon drippings. While kneading, add as much cold water as needed to make a moist dough.

At this point, grease a cookie sheet. Roll the dough out until it's about 1/4 of an inch thick, in batches if necessary. Use cookie cutters or a knife to shape the biscuits. Place them about 1 inch apart on the cookie sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes in the middle of the oven.

Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container. Note that bacon fat goes rancid faster than other fats, so you may want to store these treats in the fridge.

So did she like them? I think so:

25 March 2010

Fish and Chips

I try to eat something healthy once in a while, and this is not it. Fish and chips is definitely one of my all-time favorite meals, and having a deep fryer (albeit a toaster-sized one) in the kitchen is great. Messing with a heavy-bottomed pot and thermometers and trying to keep the temperature constant on an electric range is not my idea of a good time. If you have a gas range, you may have more luck doing so, but this meal really calls for a proper deep fryer. I recommend using peanut oil to fry the food, but safflower will work fine as well. If you want to serve this the way it's done in fish and chips shops in Britain, you'll want to use a folded up newspaper. I prefer the plate because ink and food do not go too well together.

(I apologize for not posting this yesterday - I had it all written out and forgot to actually publish it!)

Fish and Chips

1 lb firm-fleshed white fish - cod is recommended
2 large baking potatoes
1.5 cups unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1 bottle (12 fluid ounces/355 ml) dark or amber beer, cold
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp paprika powder
peanut oil for frying
lemon wedges for serving
lettuce for service (optional)
tartar sauce (recipe below)

Begin by washing the potatoes and cutting them into uniform pieces. The thickness is up to you - I made mine about 1/2 inch thick and 3 inches long. Place in a bowl filled with cold water. Heat the oil to 325 degrees F. Pat the potatoes completely dry before frying to avoid splatter. Cook the potatoes in small batches for about 2 minutes, until pale and floppy. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with the other batches until all of the potatoes are done.

Turn the oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup of the flour, the baking powder, the salt, the pepper and the paprika. Add the beer and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate for at least ten minutes.

Increase the temperature of the oil to 375 degrees F. In small batches, fry the potatoes until cooked through and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove to a paper-lined plate, then transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while finishing the rest of the food. Repeat until all the potatoes are cooked.

Remove the batter from the fridge. Cut the fish into chunks, roughly 2 by 5 inches. Put the remaining half cup of flour on a plate. Dip the fish strips in the flour, then in the batter. Fry until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Make sure you do not overcrowd the oil. If you need to fry the fish in batches, transfer the cooked fish to the baking sheet in the oven, to keep warm.

Serve with lemon wedges, tartar sauce and some lettuce. If there are leftovers, you can reheat them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes (but this dish is definitely best eaten fresh out of the fryer).

Tartar sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp pickles
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp capers
1 tsp coarse-grained mustard
salt
black pepper

Start by cutting the pickles into small pieces. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the pickles are finely chopped and everything is mixed well. Keep in the fridge and use within a week.

24 March 2010

I Started Early




















This is me, a "few" years ago. As you can tell, I enjoyed cooking (or at least wearing hats) and drinking (or at least holding wine glasses) from a young age! I usually tell people that I grew up under my dad's stove (not literally, though) when they ask about my interest in cooking. Well, call this proof, or something. My sister found this picture in an old photo album and uploaded it to Facebook, which is why I'm posting it here in the first place.

Poll is finished! I'll be trying to get some dishes that match the top cuisine styles (Italian, Japanese and a tie for American and Mexican in third) in the next few posts. The lemon & almond biscotti is Italian, so let's count that as the first post for the winner. New poll coming up later today, as well as a new recipe - I made fish and chips!

18 March 2010

Lemon & Almond Biscotti



Ignoring the fact that I'm posting about something sweet twice in a row (man, those muffins were good), I really love biscotti and made some tonight, so I thought I might as well update the blog as well. Biscotti, or "biscuits" in Italian (it apparently also means "twice baked"), is a wonderful hard cookie/biscuit/cracker that goes great with a cup of strong espresso or even a glass of wine. You bake a sort of loaf of the "bread" first, then divide it into smaller pieces and bake those for some additional time to create the actual cookies. This recipe includes nuts, lemon zest, and a white chocolate shell. Heavenly - and simple to make.

The current leader in the most recent poll is Italian food, so here you go!

Lemon & Almond Biscotti


2 cups unbleached AP flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
zest of 3 medium lemons
3/4 cup almonds, blanched or roasted
12 oz white chocolate chips

Turn the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Mix together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a different large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar and eggs until very pale, about 2 minutes. Grate in the lemon zest and slowly add the flour mixture while beating. Stir in the almonds and let rest for at least 5 minutes.

Divide the dough in half and make two 3x9 inch "loaves" on the baking sheet. If too sticky, use wet hands. Make sure the dough has a little room to grow; don't place the loaves too close together. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes.

Once finished, remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Next, using a serrated knife, cut the loaves into roughly 1-inch-thick slices and return to the baking sheet, cut side up. Bake an additional 25 minutes, or until golden.

Let the biscotti cool completely. Create a double boiler by barely simmering water in a pot and placing a heatproof (metal or glass) bowl over the pot - just make sure the bowl does not touch the water. Add the chocolate chips and stir until completely melted. Remove from the heat, and dip one end of each biscotti in the chocolate. Place on a cooling rack until chocolate has hardened.

These cookies will last you at least a week in an airtight container.

09 March 2010

Raspberry Muffins

I really can't believe I haven't posted a decent muffin recipe yet! I love muffins, and maybe it's just that I eat them so quickly that there's no time to post pictures or recipes! Either way, here's one of my favorites: raspberry muffins. The muffins themselves are very simple to make but do require a special tool: the muffin pan. I have a cheap version bought at Target, and this is definitely a case where you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars (or Euros, or...I guess thousands of crowns or pesetas, or whatever you use) on a piece of kitchen equipment.

Raspberry Muffins

2 cups AP flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
2/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
Sugar for sprinkling

Turn your oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 12-slot muffin pan with either melted butter or vegetable oil. Cut the raspberries in half. Mix your flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then add the milk, sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Using quick and light strokes, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Make sure you do not overmix, just wet the flour mix through. It's perfectly all right that the batter is lumpy at this point.

Fold in the raspberries. Divide equally into the cups in the muffin pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. If desired, remove the muffins from the oven after about 10 minutes and sprinkle with sugar, then let bake the remaining 8-10 minutes.

Let the muffins cool for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack. They are best served within a few hours of cooking, but if not eating immediately, let cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to three days.

06 March 2010

Poll 1: Results

The first poll has closed, and the results are in!

More advanced food recipes
4 (20%)
More basic food recipes
7 (35%)
Instructional videos
8 (40%)
Kitchen gadget reviews
0 (0%)
General musings about food
1 (5%)
Something else (comment on a random blog post!)
0 (0%)

I guess nobody cares about kitchen gadgets and only one person is interested in general musings about food (although I do talk about food in general in pretty much all posts). The winner, by one vote, is videos. Thanks, guys, gee, now I have to pull out the video camera and make an ass of myself on the internet. Great!

Just kidding, I've been planning to make some videos for a while, and it's not a bad idea at all. Easier to show than to type out what you need to do in order to succeed, right?

Basic food recipes is the runner-up, so maybe I'll combine those two...we'll see. Expect the poll results to affect the blog in the coming weeks. And don't worry, people who wanted to see more advanced recipes, I'm not tied to the poll results like a boat to a dock (for lack of a better analogy), I'll be posting some more advanced stuff too for sure!

New poll posted. What's your favorite cuisine (out of those posted)?

04 March 2010

Tiramis├╣



Tiramisu is one of those classic desserts that you can find in pretty much any Italian restaurant. It's delicious, it's decadent, and it's definitely not for people who are trying to lose a lot of weight...but it's absolutely wonderful and even if it tastes like it's very hard to make, it's actually not that difficult. I made some recently, and even if we had a piece each pretty much every night, Jacquie asked me to make more as soon as we ran out. So, I made some more tonight. As a matter of fact, I'm having some right now. Jealous? Well, go make your own!

Tiramis├╣

30 ladyfinger cookies
5 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup sweet Marsala wine
1 tbsp water
12 oz mascarpone
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup espresso or strong black coffee, cooled
2 tbsp rum
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate

Turn the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange all the ladyfingers on a cookie sheet. Once the oven is hot enough, bake the ladyfingers for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. In the meantime, beat the egg yolks and 1/3 cup of sugar in a heatproof bowl with an electric mixer until very pale and creamy. Add the Marsala wine and water, then set the bowl in a skillet over about 1 inch of barely simmering water and beat constantly until roughly doubled in volume and the temperature reaches 160 degrees F.

Whip the (softened) mascarpone together with the cream and vanilla until soft peaks form. Let the egg/sugar mixture cool completely, then fold it in with the mascarpone mixture. Mix together the coffee, the rum and the other 1/3 cup of sugar. Dip half the ladyfingers, one by one, in the coffee mixture and place in a single layer in the bottom of a dish (large enough to hold two layers of ladyfingers plus the filling). Spread half the mascarpone mixture on top of the ladyfingers. Next, add the semi-sweet chocolate. You can either grate it finely or just put it in a blender or food processor and run it on high for about 5-7 seconds. Sprinkle about half the chocolate on top of the mascarpone mixture. Repeat with the second layer of ladyfingers, mascarpone mixture and chocolate.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before consuming (it gets better after 2 hours, and I recommend eating within 4 hours for the best results). Will keep for at least three days in the fridge, covered, but if you manage to keep it for that long, you're a better man than I.